August 20, 2020

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Report of EUROoCS 2020 Conference Online

Beyond expectations
The 2nd edition of the Annual EUROoCS (European Organ-on-Chip Society) Conference was very different from the one held before. Instead of sunny summer days in Uppsala, Sweden, COVID-19 put EUROoCS 2020 into our own offices and homes. EUROoCS 2020 went virtual and in a remarkably short space of time.

The organizing committee transformed the conference that was held on 8th and 9th of July 2020 into the most well attended ever. Twice as many people, all EUROoCS members, attended compared to the year before: in total 402 participants from 28 different countries, including almost all European countries, but also Australia, Canada, China, India, Iran, Israel, Japan and US. The latest results on Organ-on-Chip research were presented in 6 keynote lectures, 32 abstract selected talks and 129 posters.

Posters at a virtual meeting? These were presented in a virtual ‘poster gallery’ and discussed in a virtual room during interactive poster sessions. Thanks to the support and great deal of time and work of many people, the online conference was a great success and clearly demonstrated the increasing interest in Organ-on-Chip technology and the growing European research community.

Distribution of the participants by country (kindly provided by Berend van Meer, UTwente, the Netherlands)

Welcome

Christine Mummery, chair of EUROoCS and of the EUROoCS 2020 conference, welcomed the online participants on behalf of the EUROoCS 2020 Scientific Program Committee. She expressed her gratitude for the technical and financial support from the University of Twente (Organ-on-Chip Center Twente), and from the industry partners who were vital to the feasibility of the last minute format change and the presenter prizes: Gold (Boehringer Ingelheim, InSphero, UPM Biomedicals, Ushio); Silver (Fluigent, Transgene) and Bronze (CSEM, Dynamic42, Pyroscience, Tissuse).

 

Keynotes

Six keynote speakers from academia, regulatory network and industry presented the latest perspectives and results on different topics, ranging from Organ-on-Chip models for research on blood vessels, brain function, COVID-19 and pancreatic tumors, to the role of Body-on-Chip in the prediction of drug toxicity and efficacy, and the utility and application of Organ-on-Chip for regulatory purposes.

Andries van der Meer (University of Twente, the Netherlands) kicked off with a lecture on personalized engineered blood vessels in Organs-on-Chips, and the importance of the use of open technology platforms. Susanna Narkilahti (University of Tampere, Finland) presented different human pluripotent stem cell-based neuronal models, mimicking brain trauma and nerve innervation. Josef Penninger (University of British Columbia, Canada and Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria) gave a remarkable talk about the use of organoid models for the discovery of a soluble form of the ACE2 receptor as a potential treatment for Sars-CoV-2 infections. Most notably, he pointed out that he discovered ACE2, the cell receptor for the spike protein of Sars-CoV-2 in the fruit fly in 1994, and without this very basic research all those years ago, he would never have been able to use ACE2 as a ‘decoy’ for the virus and introduce it into clinical trials which are now in phase IIb of testing. An illustration of the importance of funding for basic research.

Andries van der Meer, Susanna Narkilahti and Josef Penninger

Maurice Whelan (European Commission, Joint Research Centre Ispra, Italy) focused on the challenges to establishing the scientific acceptability of Organs-on-Chips as models that can form part of regulatory decision-making. Milica Radisic (University of Toronto, Canada) highlighted the importance of intercellular interactions and presented a perfusable vascular network that she used for recapitulating the microenvironment of pancreatic tumors. Michael Shuler (Cornell University and Hesperos Inc., USA) addressed the potential of a ‘13 Organ-on-Chip’ model for accurate preclinical assessment of the efficacy or side-effects of drugs.

Maurice Whelan, Milica Radisic and Michael Shuler

 

Exciting sessions

On each day of the conference, two parallel sessions were held, some of which started with a selected abstract talk, followed by shorter presentations. In total there were 8 sessions addressing the following topics: Biomechanics; Microbiome; Organoids and Spheroids; Disease Models; (Bio)materials and Technology (2 sessions); Barrier and Vasculature; Reproductive and Metabolic Systems. Both senior and young talents from academia and industry gave interesting, high quality presentations about their research. Via online Questions & Answers there were opportunities for discussion afterwards, guided by the session chair. During the breaks, short movies from the sponsors were shown.

The posters were exhibited during the first day of the conference in the poster gallery. In the afternoon, the poster presenters received ‘visitors’ in their virtual room, which resulted in lively discussions. During the 3 subsequent interactive poster sessions, the participants could practice and experience scientific exchange at a distance, with a virtual toast on the new collaboration.

 

EUROoCS Awards

During the closing ceremony of the EUROoCS 2020 conference five prizes were awarded:

-Two Best Presentation Young Investigator Awards (selected from 19 of 32 presentations in total)
-Best Presentation Senior Investigator Award
-Two Best Poster Awards (129 posters in total)

The presentation awards were elected by a jury of ten experts chaired by Alexander Mosig from Jena University Hospital, Germany. The poster awards were chosen by a jury of ten experts chaired by Nathalie Picollet-D’hahan from CEA, France.

Congratulations to the following awardees:

Best Presentation Young Investigator Awards
Award 1:
The Best Presentation Young Investigator Award (€ 500), sponsored by Ushio (Japan) was awarded to Joram Mooiweer (University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands) for his talk ‘Celiac disease-on-chip: modeling a multifactorial disease in vitro’. The Celiac disease model will enable studies on the underlying disease mechanism and will provide opportunities for precision medicine approaches to treat this complex disease. The presentation was prepared in collaboration with his colleague Renée Moerkens, also at the University Medical Center Groningen.

Joram Mooiweer: Generation of the Celiac disease-on-chip model

Award 2:
The other Best Presentation Young Investigator Award (€500) went to Oliver Schneider (Fraunhofer IGB/University of Tübingen, Germany) for his talk ‘Electrical pacing of hiPSC-derived cardiac µ-tissues in a centrifugal Heart-on-Chip platform’. By implementing electrical pacing capabilities of this new design, Oliver demonstrated that the Heart-on-Chip platform has become a valuable tool for investigating advanced tissue maturation via electrical stimulation.

Olivier Schneider: Chip composition, showing electrode insertion into the media module

Best Presentation Senior Investigator Award
Lisa Hoelting from InSphero AG (Switzerland) received the Best Presentation Senior Investigator Award (€500) for her talk ‘Applying a microphysiological 3D human liver-islet microtissue platform to study drug-drug interaction in metabolic diseases’. The liver – islet MPS platform will be used for studies on metabolic disease progression, drug efficacy and toxicity testing, drug – drug interaction and drug clearance assays.

Lisa Hoelting: Drug-drug interactions in the liver-islet MPS platform

Best Poster Awards
Award 1:
The Best Poster Award (€250), sponsored by UPM Biomedicals is granted to Marc Vila Cuenca (Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands) for his poster entitled ‘Generating CADASIL patient-derived Vessels-on-Chip to model hereditary cerebral small vessel disease’. The hiPSC-based 3D Vessels-on-Chip network that has been developed in the group of Valeria Orlova will be used to recapitulate CADASIL pathogenesis by including patient-derived vascular smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells.

Marc Vila Cuenca: hiPSC-derived Blood Vessel-on-Chip

Award 2:
Bilge Sen Elci (EPFL, Switzerland) also received a Best Poster Award (€250) for her poster entitled ‘A Bile Duct-on-a-Chip’. The microfluidic chip-based approach to steer hepatobiliary organoid development into tubular tissues within microfabricated extracellular matrices (ECM) resulted in a Bile Duct-on-a-Chip with significant potential for the study of cholangiopathies.

Bilge Sen Elci: Bile Duct Tube Formation-on-Chip from mouse liver ductal organoid derived sible cells

Honourable mentions:
The poster jury has also decided that the following scientists deserve an honourable mention because of their excellent posters:

Merve Bulut (Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands): Engineered 3D vessels-on-chip to model inflammatory responses using hiPSC-derived endothelial cells

Julia Rogal (Fraunhofer IGB / University of Tübingen, Germany): WAT’s up: a human immuno-competent and patient-specific white adipose tissue-on-a-chip

Ann-Kristin Muhsmann (Technical University Berlin, Germany): Fully automated multiorgan-chip assay execution and analysis

Katharina Schlünder (Fraunhofer IGB / University of Tübingen, Germany): PDMS-free microphysiological Pancreas-on-Chip platform to model endocrine function and metabolism

Peter Ertl (Vienna University of Technology, Austria): Microfluidic Multi-sized Brain Organoid Microarray for BBB transport screening

Nuria Roldan (AlveoliX, Switzerland): A smart breathing alveolus on chip model: concept and applications

 

EUROoCS News

During the second conference day Christine Mummery, chair of EUROoCS, informed the members on new developments within the society.

Welcome to four additional EUROoCS Board Members
The results of the voting by the EUROoCS members for four additional EUROoCS Board members in June 2020 were announced. This will expand the current Board from four to eight representatives and are appointed from 10th of July 2020 for a period of six years. Christine Mummery welcomed the elected members and expressed confidence in their added value to the Board and looks forward to their contribution to further professionalization of EUROoCS in the coming years.

The new EUROoCS Board members are:

Erika Györvary
Technology Coordinator & BD Life Sciences
CSEM, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Torsten Mayr
Leader Workgroup Applied Sensors
Institute of Analytical Chemistry and Food Chemistry (ACFC)
Graz University of Technology
Graz, Austria

Andries van der Meer
Associate Professor/director Organ-on-Chip Center Twente
Faculty of Science and Technology
University of Twente
Enschede, the Netherlands

Marco Rasponi
Co-founder and President of Biomimx Srl
Assistant Professor Politecnico di Milano
Milan, Italy

 

Welcome to the EUROoCS Industrial Advisory Board
Since June 1st 2020 EUROoCS has implemented an Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), consisting of six members from important industrial stakeholders and chaired by Thomas Singer from Roche.

The IAB advises the EUROoCS Board on translational aspects and industrial adoption of the technology. Among other tasks, the IAB will scout for new relationships for EUROoCS among companies in order to catalyse greater industry involvement and collaboration in research activities.
The IAB will support the EUROoCS community in strengthening science and technology and promoting the acceptance of Organ-on-Chip technology by the health authorities. Members are appointed for three years and are eligible for re-appointment for another three years.

During the EUROoCS 2020 conference, Christine Mummery introduced the members and mentioned that their input and advice in promoting the visibility and utility of Organ-on-Chip, in many facets of the life sciences and engineering, is highly appreciated.

The members of the IAB are:

Thomas Singer (Chair)
Global Head of Pharmaceutical Sciences/ Senior Vice President
Roche Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development
Roche Innovation Center Basel, Basel Switzerland

Lisa Benincosa
Global Head of Translational Medicine
Merck KGaA
Darmstadt, Germany

Eckhard von Keutz
Senior Vice President and Head of Translational Sciences
Bayer AG
Research & Development, Pharmaceuticals
Translational Sciences
Wuppertal, Germany

Jochen Kühnl
Lab Manager
Representative Cosmetics Europe
Beiersdorf, Hamburg, Germany

Bennard Ravenzwaay
Senior Vice President
BASF SE, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany

Armin Wolf
Chief Scientific Officer InSphero AG, Schlieren, Switzerland
Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Department of
Chemistry, Kaiserslautern, Germany

 

Regulatory Advisory Board in preparation
In addition to the Industrial Advisory Board, a Regulatory Advisory Board (RAB) is currently in preparation. Maurice Whelan (JRC Ispra, Italy) will chair the Board. The RAB will give advice on regulatory aspects, and will stimulate and facilitate engagement between different regulatory and Organ-on-Chip R&D communities including end users, to advance the uptake and use of Organ-on-Chip for regulatory purposes. The RAB will officially be installed later this year.

Towards an Organ-on-Chip Journal
EUROoCS is proud to announce that, in partnership with ISSCR (The International Society on Stem Cell Research), a subsection of Stem Cell Reports (published by Cell Press; IF June 2020 6.0) will be dedicated to Organ-on-Chip.

The scope is Organ-on-Chip models combined with stem cells and derivatives. Currently the editorial Board is being formed, and guidelines for authors and call for papers are in preparation. There will be a discounted publication fee for EUROoCS members, and shared revenue for each article published. A trial period of 3-5 years has been agreed.

EUROoCS for and by members
EUROoCS is approaching 500 members. Many members experience the benefits of the EUROoCS membership and becoming part of an expanding network of experts in the field of Organ-on-Chip. Members enjoy discounted registration fee for the Annual Conference and discounted publication fee for the upcoming journal. Exclusive access to the members part of the EUROoCS website enables members to find information and connect to collaborators via the Forum. All members can update their profile and present their research results, projects, jobs and publications on the website. The Organ-on-Chip community is by you and for you!

 

EUROoCS Conferences 2021 and 2022

EUROoCS 2021:
Next year the EUROoCS conference will take place in Uppsala in Sweden on 1st and 2nd of July 2021. Conference chair is Maria Tenje from Uppsala University. Let’s hope that by that time the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

EUROoCS 2022:
In 2022 the Annual EUROoCS Conference will be held in Grenoble in France on 4 and 5 July. Nathalie Picollet-D’hahan from CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) in Grenoble will be the Conference Chair and is looking forward to welcome you.

Please save the dates – Everyone is welcome to join!

Many thanks

In spite of the COVID-19 problems EUROoCS 2020 was an excellent and memorable experience, thanks to the help of many people, including the Scientific Program Committee, the EUROoCS administrative support and in particular the fantastic technical team of Organ-on-Chip Center Twente at Twente University, led by Berend van Meer. Christine Mummery also thanked all sponsors, jury members, speakers, poster presenters, in fact all participants for the inspiring event, for their contribution to the success of this conference. Let’s continue this good spirit as an Organ-on-Chip Community in the future.

Christine Mummery

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