Day 1: New Frontiers Symposium

Day 1 NF

001-bob LangerIn front of an audience of more than 350 scientists - nearly half from outside Nijmegen, Prof. Paul Smits, Dean / vice-chairman Radboud University Medical Center, opened the symposium. The first speaker, Prof. Bob Langer, needed little introduction. By many regarded as the founding father of regenerative medicine with a CV that may sound a little like science fiction! With more than 1100 articles, 90,000 citations and 700 patents to his name, as well as being the only person to be elected to all four U.S. national academies, it was an incredible honour to host him in Nijmegen. Perhaps more a lesson in how to generate patents than hard-core science, the message was clear. Use your first publication draft as a basis for your patent application. Prof. Langer spoke about his many successes in launching new products from tumor-zapping nanoparticles to biosensors and blood tests, synthetic spinal cords, even anti-frizz hair products.

The first session, emerging biomaterials, focused essentially on nanotechnology. Samuel Stupp (Northwestern University, USA) discussed his latest research strategies that utilize supramolecular self-assembly to create bioactive and biomimetic nanostructures that emulate components of the extracellular matrix. In particular, for controlling the differentiation of neural stem cells, targeting of therapies in the cardiovascular system, and the regeneration of connective tissues. Achim Goepferich (University of Regensburg, Germany) discussed the challenges of nanoparticle design and development for retinal therapy. Whilst Ali Khademhosseini (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) and Phillip B. Messersmith (Northwestern University, Illinois, USA) discussed the use of hydrogels for modifying cell behavior and ultimately for tissue regeneration/wound healing.

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The second session focused on tissue engineering. Clemens van Blitterswijk (Maastricht University, NL) started with high-throughput engineering. How doe cell form influence cell function and regenerative capacity (e.g. adherence, proliferation, differentiation and morphogenesis)? His lab has developed multiple technology platforms allowing researchers to expose cells and multicellular aggregates to different shapes and environmental conditions. In single assays, thousands of iterations can be run in parallel. James Kirkpatrick (Johannes Gutenberg University, DE) continued on human cells co-culture systems to target the vasculature, in particular to aid nanoparticle delivery to and transport across the air-blood and blood-brain barriers.
How to you go from a cell-based product to clinical production and application? Simply said, not straightforward. Frank Luyten (KU Leuven, BE) discussed his work in setting-up a regulatory framework in both Europe and the USA, whereby tissue engineered products can prove their safety and effectiveness. For these types of "Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Products", to live up to the standards of drug development, challenges arise towards practical implementation but also to legislation and ethics. Jeffrey Hubbell (Institute for Bioengineering, Switzerland & University of Chicago, USA) rounded the session off with his latest finding on engineering growth factors to be immobilized to the extracellular matrix.

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The first day closed with a great party at Landmark Wijnfort Lent with a live jazz band "De Compaenen".

See the photos of the first day of this symposium here.


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