Experiences of an SME on the Top Sector’s funding opportunities
Do you have a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) in the life sciences and health sector? Are you working together with an academic partner and searching for R&D funding opportunities? The PPP Allowance might be the way to go! We asked Pieter André de la Porte, CEO of Zorg Innovaties Nederland BV (ZIN), how the PPP Allowance has contributed to opportunities for his company ZIN.
ZIN is an SME with nine employees and focuses on innovations that help healthcare to become better, more efficient and affordable. Additionally, André de la Porte is involved in a centre of expertise that offers assistance and advice in the area of legal-medical questions from courts, lawyers and insurance doctors. The revenues of this work are invested in new healthcare initiatives.
In 2013, André de la Porte applied for PPP Allowance when he was searching for funding opportunities for a research project together with the University of Groningen. The project focused on antibacterial coating of catheters and other applications and was granted by the Board of the Executive Office of the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (LSH; see our project page for more information). The project was successfully completed and lead to a positive subsequent application for a PPP Allowance in 2015. This project was recently finished, and the innovation is now ready for the next step: the industrial phase of product development. For an SME like ZIN, with minimal research budgets, the PPP Allowance offers a chance to make serious steps in the development of a commercially viable product. It gave ZIN the opportunity to extend their research time substantially.
Pieter André de la Porte: “Set a spot on the horizon, but be flexible in achieving your goal”
For further development of the antibacterial coating, André de la Porte is now searching for new, (foreign) industrial partners. Nevertheless, co-funding can be very helpful in the industrial phase of product development. However, many funding possibilities are not feasible for ZIN due to the strict application deadlines and frequently complex eligibility criteria. André de la Porte emphasises that you should not write your proposal too perfectly fit within specific funding conditions. Negotiations with foreign partners take time. For this phase, the Top Sector has a good funding opportunity: the HHINT Kickstarter for PPP. This call includes submission on a continuous basis, according to the principle of ‘first come, first served’. Obviously, this is an advantage for ZIN. And development opportunities continue; besides the upcoming project with a foreign industrial partner, they have received interest in their future product from a foreign MedTech company.
So, the Top Sector funding opportunities seem to fit a company like ZIN. However, André de la Porte advises all funding agencies to make the regulation and application conditions very clear and flexible if they are aiming for an SME involvement. In addition, for his PPP Allowance application André de la Porte consulted a funding advisor, which he experienced as very effective and he advises other SMEs to do the same.
If you are an SME in search for funding or need help in the application process then do not hesitate to contact Health~Holland.
- For more examples on public-private partnerships visit the project page on the Health~Holland website.
- Currently Health~Holland is developing an attractive competition for ten SMEs that have a innovative project proposal together with a knowledge institution and need a 100,000 euro Grant to get started! Follow the upcoming Updates or de Health~Holland website for more information.
Development of next-generation Vero cells to improve vaccine production
Deciphering cellular proteins and pathways involved in virus replication and in suspension growth of Vero cells
Despite the critical role for vaccines in public health, there are issues with costs and manufacturing that prevent a significant portion of the world’s population from accessing vaccines.
The aim of this project is to make the production of viral vaccines less expensive. To achieve this, Intravacc aims at the identification of cellular pathways that are important in virus replication and suspension growth in Vero cells. By permanent modification of the identified host factors, Vero cell lines can be constructed that are better suited for the production of viral vaccines. The industrial partner, Applikon, is aiming at developing disposable, single use bioreactors, which offer flexibility and require less investment in infrastructure compared to conventional bioreactors. Combining these strategies in this partnership will ultimately result in the development of vaccines in less time at lower costs.
This innovative project will lead to more fundamental knowledge on proteins and intracellular pathways important for viral replication by doing siRNA screens. This knowledge will be used to develop new Vero cell lines with modulated host genes using CRISPR-CAS9 that can significantly enhance virus production at reduced costs, thereby promoting global introduction of affordable vaccines. Also, we aim to use the knowledge obtained from the screens to design Vero cells that are capable of growing in suspension, which is a great advantage for easier scale-up and less expensive production of vaccines. The last aim is to develop single-use, disposable bioreactors, that will eliminate the costs in the vaccine production process associated with disassembly, cleaning and reassembly of conventional bioreactors. This offers flexibility in vaccine development, and in change-over from one vaccine manufacturing process to another. In the last phase of this project, the modified Vero cells will be cultured at lab-scale in the disposable bioreactors developed by Applikon.
'Sticky' peptides to fight antimicrobial resistance
PharmAMPs: Pharmaceutical development of antimicrobial peptides for the prevention and treatment of infections against (multi)-drug resistant bacteria.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are inspired by naturally occurring antimicrobial proteins and peptides, that are produced by all living organisms and can combat bacterial infections, including resistant infections. AMPs are typically small, cationic peptides (“sticky peptides”) that exhibit a broad range of antimicrobial activities, and often also possess immunomodulatory properties. Moreover, intrinsically, they are also more robust towards resistance development than traditional antibiotics. In the recent O’Niell report on solutions to fight AMR, AMPs and their derivatives are ranked amongst the most promising alternatives to traditional antibiotics.
The concept of using AMPs for therapeutic purposes has been around for some time. Unfortunately, the 1st generation AMPs had limitations that prevented further development, especially with regard to their (limited) potency and high cost of goods, resulting in poor commercial perspectives. Several peptides have been tested in clinical studies against a range of topical infections, but their development was halted for these reasons.
A new public private partnership was formed between the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) and Madam Therapeutics with the intent to work on 2nd generation peptides with improved characteristics. Madam Therapeutics, is a near clinical stage biotech company that is developing a new generation of AMPs specifically to combat resistant bacterial infections and to prevent and treat infections that are currently left untreated due to the risk of resistance development with current antibiotics. The new peptides are based on technology from LUMC with whom Madam Therapeutics has been working closely over the recent years to develop the most optimal peptides, which we are now converting into powerful antibacterial products.
Within this PPP, we have established that the lead peptide (SAAP-148) indeed has significant advantages over traditional antibiotics. SAAP-148 was found to be a very effective, broad-spectrum anti-microbial peptide which possesses very rapid bactericidal activity. SAAP-148 has shown in this project to be very effective against bacteria residing in biofilms whereas traditional antibiotics are not. SAAP-148 is also very effective in the killing of (multi-) resistant bacteria and is very robust against resistance formation itself. Finally, we established that SAAP-148 has also shown significantly more potency than 1st generation AMPs in in-vitro comparison studies; in fact we demonstrated that SAAP-148 is one of the first in its class to be active at a sub-micromolar range.
As a follow-up to this project, Madam Therapeutics and LUMC are now preparing the first clinical proof of concept studies with the lead product SAAP-148 formulated as a gel for topical treatment of bacterial infections in chronic wounds, burns and in a nose gel to treat nasal MRSA carriers. In addition, we are also investing possible novel PPPs for collaborative (academic) research efforts and continuous pre-clinical development of other AMP-based products for other indications and other formulations.