December '20 News Update

The year is coming to and end, and as we prepare for winter and  the Christmas holidays it is time to look back at the things that the year 2020 has brought us. 

In fact, a lot has happened during this year and therefore we have a longer newsletter edition than usual to fill you in!

In this edition we will update you on improvements to our platforms and services, support in clinical trainig activities, improvements to our organizations, share that we were in the news and on Twitter. Enjoy reading!

Improving our platforms and services

The travel restrictions resulting from COVID-19 have put an almost complete stop to international travel, especially in the middle of the year. This has had serious implications to contract R&D assignments with international groups that are quite commonly taking place in our laboratory facilities. But this has not caused us to sit still and wait until COVID-19 is over! Our team has dedicated itself to be inventive, by improving on our current research and training platforms and services. Also, we have been able to give our internal R&D projects more attention during this period than was originally scheduled. This should provide you with new possibilities for your studies. Some updates follow below.

Virtual presence in our lab

One of the first improvements we made to our lab facilities was to install a camera system. The idea was that if you cannot come to our lab, we could virtually bring our lab to our you! Our team has been working with ex-vivo platforms for 15 years now, and during that time we have been involved in a large number of early R&D studies and feasibility studies on prototype devices. We can therefore say that we are quite experienced in handling new concept devices and their delivery or implantation in perfused organ systems, and under remote guidance from you - the developers of these prototypes - we are capable of implanting these devices. Our remote camera system can port any screen or display to an online meeting environment, as if your team would be present in our lab. Communication is further enhanced as both sides can draw and annotate on the live video streams, so it is easy to point to or highlight specific locations in the video stream. In this way, we have conducted several 'online assignments' with great satisfaction from both teams involved! In fact, this technology is so helpful that it's here to stay!

More realistic cardiac models

On the cardiac platform front, improving realism has been a major topic we've been working on! In our PhysioHeart™ and Cardiac BioSimulator platforms we are using real hearts that are harvested from slaughterhouse animals, so we can provide a good alternative to some of the animal research experiments. Our platforms do not have a body around these hearts anymore, and therefore the pathways into the hearts are missing as well. In order to provide more realistic delivery procedures into the heart, our engineers have been focusing on recreating anatomical features - either in porcine layout or in humanized configurations. An example of these activities was to improve in imaging realism, so that an ultrasound image can tell a clinical user how to navigate delivery systems as in a patient. A second topic was the anatomy of the atrium: the porcine atrium is smaller than a human atrium, and we explored the use of 3D printed human atrium models on porcine hearts (see picture) to improve navigation of devices inside the atrium. Another project was to provide more realistic transseptal approaches into the left heart, resulting in an add-on module to provide an entry to the heart from either of the vena cavae and a 'humanized' location for the transatrial septal wall. And last but not least, we have been exploring to perfuse the lungs to keep the inflow to the left atrium intact, which is interesting for example in ablation therapies.

As you can see, where our cardiac platforms were already providing a bridge to animal trials, we're now also working to make them useful as a bridge to human intervention.

Computational modeling

Besides physical experimenting in our lab, in some cases also computational modeling can provide a whealth of information. Specifically, we believe that the combination of physical experiments and computational simulations can provide real strong evidence. Especially the capability to study the effect of relatively small variations in device design on performance, can be very helpful prior to building new prototypes. In this context, LifeTec Group has been involved in developing AngioSupport - a tool to predict coronary interventions - as well as 3D flow simulations on coronary bypasses. AngioSupport has meanwhile received an initial financial support from the Dutch Government in a TAKE-OFF grant. We expect to continue our efforts, collaborating with the CardioVascular Biomechanics Group at the Eindhoven University of Technology, to build more expertise in computational modeling in the near future. If you're interested in using computational analyses for your project, feel free to get in touch!

New H2020 project

Sinergia

This year also marked the start of a new Marie Sklodowska-Curie project for us: Sinergia! This project, sponsored by the European Commission, enables us to continue our work on the BioLiver platform. In the BioLiver platform we aim to keep a porcine liver harvested from the slaughterhouse alive in a perfusion setup, with the purpose of using this platform for R&D projects on liver treatments. Within the Sinergia project, the goal is to provide breakthrough strategies for the implementation of new in vitro preclinical platforms in terms of innovative technologies, biological models and drug screening approaches in the effort of bridging the gap between current, simplistic in vitro cultures and faithful and effective future physiological models. The BioLiver platform fits perfectly in that strategy, and we have welcomed Alicia into our team to work on prolonged culturing of the liver in our lab and subsequently to investigate tissue response to drug exposure. The Sinergia project is an example of prolonging organ-based experiments. If you're in need of ways to study tissue response to your intervention but not yet ready for animal trials, we can support you.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement No 860715.

Colofon
SINERGIA

Clinical Training

Although travel was restricted, it was still possible to invite people to our labs and we were able to support some teams in training or clinical experimentation. Very nice collaborations have happened, for example with the cardiac surgery team of the Leiden University Medical Center on aortic root dilatation in valve surgery. We have also enjoyed working with a team from BioVentrix on a training program for their "Live" therapy.

Despite the COVID situation, our lab is still a safe environment to work in and as such we've been able to successfully support several other organizations throughout the year. It is always a great pleasure to see our team engage with our partners on clinical training, and how bringing new treatment concepts together with our realistic platforms usually creates possibilities that were not thought feasible beforehand. Are you thinking of how to teach your future users on the use of your new device technologies in a realistic hands-on setting? Let us know if we can support!

Improving our Organisation

During the year 2020 we have been hard at work to improve our organisation! As part of our quality procedures, we had a great audit for our ISO-9001 certification in which we had not a single issue raised. But also on the people side, we rearranged some teams and revised our processes and procedures to run our company even smoother.

Improving access to our team

One of the departments where we've been able to improve is in client management. We have evaluated our existing processes and improved them, which has resulted in a central person in charge of all client relationships: Sheila Owen. As has been indicated in all of our latest news items, Sheila is your central connection to LifeTec Group. She will assist you in a smooth experience with our team, involving the right colleagues for your specific request and making sure that required steps are taken so that your project can get started as soon as possible.

When you have questions on how LifeTec Group could support you, Sheila will assist you in a smooth experience with our team.

Improving our communications (team)

Another department in which significant changes have been made is our marketing communications. We feel that the best inside information can be shared when our news messages are coming from within the core of our team, and therefore we have created a team of enthusiastic colleagues that like to share who we are and what we do. In this way we can share hands-on information on successes in our lab, both in the pioneering ways we help our clients as well as the team-like effort in which we try to collaborate. Everyone at LifeTec Group contributes content to our communications, and our new communications team ensures that our messages are shared with the outside world. Starting in Q2 of this uear, our first focus has been on generating news items on our website and LinkedIn pages. Around the middle of the year, we have also expanded this to a Twitter account. And now, at the end of the year, we restarted the sending newsletters to our followers and subscribers.

This way we hope to provide you with interesting news of our activities, and maybe trigger ideas for new collaborations! We hope you all enjoy our bits of news, and are more than happy to hear your comments!

LifeTec Group in the News!

Speaking of our marketing communcitions team, we have had some nice exposure in the media this year! Aligned to different projects that we're involved in, we have featured on 2 science-related tv-shows, we've been in the newspapers, and we have contributed to scientific publications.

Newspaper article on regenerating donor hearts

Newspaper: "Awesome!"

How often do you open the newspaper in the morning, and see your own project under the headline "How cool! Awesome!"? It happened to us this year!

Within the RegMed XB framework, LifeTec Group is conducting research on the so-called Cardiovascular Moonshot. The ultimate goal of this moonshot is to regenerate diseased human hearts, so that patients that currently need a heart transplant can have their own heart repaired rather than a donor heart. LifeTec Group is applying the PhysioHeart platform to study preservation fluids and protocols as well as protocols for beating heart therapies in a later stage.

This could happen for your project as well: if you wish to generate public awareness for your project and how patient groups may benefit from your solution in the future, be sure to let us know if we can help to create exposure.

PhysioHeart on TV show "De Kennis van Nu"

In the same context, the work that we do in the RegMedXB project had also attracted the attention of a Dutch science show called "De Kennis van Nu" - which translates as The Knowledge of Now. In this show, the topic was on making more donor organs available and improving their quality by conditioning them. A camera team visited our lab for live-recordings of one of our PhysioHeart experiments and we were very proud that we could contribute to this research as well as to the tv program. The visit provided great videos - courtesy of Chris Blokhuis - that show the reviving of a heart outside of the body.  The entire episode can be seen on the show's website which you can find here: [link]

Dokters van Morgen

Next, the PhysioHeart was also targeted for an appearance in the TV program "Dokters van Morgen" (Doctors of Tomorrow) which reports on medical innovation. In this case, the focus was on the use of cooling as a medical therapy. One of the topics was on cardiac cooling, on which LifeTec Group has been working in the past in collaboration with the Catharina Hospital and the Eindhoven University of Technology. The aim of that project was to develop a way to locally cool the heart prior to revascularization with the aim to reduce tissue damage after the treatment, and the PhysioHeart platform was used to investigate the effectiveness of the cooling in a real heart as well as protocols that allows the therapy to be provided to patients in a safe manner. At this moment, clinical trials on this technique are ongoing and the early results look promising. The entire episode of Dokters van Morgen on cooling therapies can be viewed on the program's website, which you can find here: [link]

We're on Twitter!

Besides providing updates on our activities in the news section of our website and on our LinkedIn account, our communications team has also activated its Twitter account recently. Although the account had been in existence in recent years, we were not using it in the past. Since this summer you can also follow us and interact with us on Twitter. We hope that this offers new possibilties to connect and stay in touch with you in the near future!

That's all for this year!

We hope that we have made nice contributions to bring new therapies to the clinics, to the patients that will need them in the future! We are happy with the many friendly connections in all the teams that we have worked with, both partners and clients. The year 2020 has been an incredibly tough one, but we hope that 2021 will be the return to better times ahead. Stay safe and healthy, so that we may meet again in the future!

Head of MedTech Innovation

Marco Stijnen

Head of Research & Training

Linda Kock

Medical Director

Bas de Mol

R&D Engineer

Marcel Wijlaars

Senior Research Engineer

Sjoerd van Tuijl

Office Manager

Janneke Cuijpers

R&D engineer

Elke van Soest

CEO

Jurgen de Hart

R&D engineer

Dave Wanders

R&D Engineer

Bart Smeets

R&D Engineer

Alicia Ruppelt

Partner Relations Manager

Sheila Owen

R&D Engineer

Mattia D'Alessi

Project Manager and Engineer

Anke Waterschoot

R&D Engineer

Bertus van de Wetering

Get in touch!

Partner Relations Manager
Sheila Owen
Call at +31 6 48118219 or e-mail us

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