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LCSB wins 8 research and innovation prizes in one week

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Veröffentlicht am Dienstag, den 07. Juli 2015

Entrepreneurs and scientist presented a plethora of innovative ideas in Luxembourg’s latest idea and business plan competitions “Mind & Market” and “Falling Walls” earlier this week.

Amongst the winners were “HuMiX” invented by Associate Prof. Dr. Paul Wilmes and Dr. Pranjul Shah, the “Braingineering Technologies” team around Dr. Silvia Bolognin and Prof. Dr. Jens Schwamborn as well as Marouen Ben Guebila and Dr. Johan Thunberg for their “Parkinson’s wearables”. Internationally, the LCSB researchers Dr. Wei Gu, Dr. Venkata Satagopam and Vasco Verissimo won 3 prizes at the tranSMART Datathon in Boston, US. Dr. Satoshi Okawa and Associate Prof. Antonio del Sol were awarded a poster price at the 11th Swiss Stem Cell Annual Meeting.

HuMiX

Bacteria living in and on the human body, widely known as the microbiome, are important for human health and disease. Yet, scientists around the world are struggling to understand how altered microbiomes can cause diseases like Parkinson’s disease or diabetes. The Eco-Systems Biology group, led by Associate Prof. Paul Wilmes, aims to shed light on this with their recent invention “HuMiX”. “There is currently no technology on the market, which allows to conduct specific disease related studies on the human microbiome. This is why we developed the HuMiX model “, explains Dr. Pranjul Shah, business developer and co-inventor who joined the competition with his colleague Sivakumar Bactavatchalou. The device will soon enter the Pharma, Foods & Nutrition markets to enable companies to better understand the impact of their products on the microbiome and therewith human health. This concept has convinced the jury of both Mind & Market and Falling Walls and will now enter the international competition at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin on 8/9 November 2015.

Braingineering Technologies

Another "Mind & Market" prize was awarded by “Wildgen, Partners in Law” to “Braingineering Technologies” developed by Dr. Silvia Bolognin and Prof. Jens Schwamborn at the LCSB. Their 3D microfluidic cell culture system enables drug screening on nerve cell organoids made from patient-derived skin cells. “Our system will not only provide a more realistic, but also a cheaper and smaller solution for the development of novel medications against neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease”, says Bolognin. In the months to come, the team will further develop the technology and seek funding for a spin-off company.

Parkinson's wearables

The youngest winner of the competition was Marouen Ben Guebila, who only recently completed the first year of his doctoral training at the LCSB. Together with his colleague, Dr. Johan Thunberg, he was awarded the 3rd prize of the Falling Walls competition for their idea on how to improve the quality of life of Parkinson’s patients through a new drug application system. Many patients currently suffer from fluctuations in symptoms throughout the day because medication often has a delayed effect. “We want to improve a pump system that delivers the medication directly and continuously, such that it also adapts to the activities the patient is currently doing”, explains Marouen Ben Guebila. “Therefore, the pump will have additional soft body wearable sensors that measure the drug level, tremor of patients, and his brain activity.” This information will then be incorporated to automatically give the right amount of mediation to the patients and prevent fluctuations.

Datathon

Also internationally, the LCSB has been extremely successful last week. Scientists from academia and industry took on the challenge of finding new biomarkers for neurodegenerative disease during the Datathon organized by the tranSMART and Michael J. Fox foundation. Participants were given several publicly available data sets from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease patient cohorts to unravel similarities and differences across different neurodegenerative diseases using data science approaches. “There is a lot of information in publicly available disease data sets whose potential is yet to be uncovered. It was a fantastic experience to combine various expertises in the team to shed light on the pathways neurodegenerative diseases have in common”, says Dr. Venkata Satagopam, bioinformatics researcher at the LCSB. At the end of three days of intense computing, the LCSB researchers Dr. Wei Gu, Dr. Venkata Satagopam and Vasco Verissimo with their teams won the awards for “Best Biomarker", “Best presentation” and “Best innovative approach” respectively.

Computational stem cell research

Last but not least, the computational biologists Dr. Satoshi Okawa and Associate Prof. Antonio del Sol received the 3rd prize in the poster competition at the 11th Swiss Stem Cell Annual Meeting in Basel. The researchers have developed a computational method to identify candidate genes, whose perturbations determine cell fate during cellular differentiation based on transcriptomic data.  “For the first time in the 11 year history of the meeting, a prize has been awarded to a computational group. We are proud we could convince the jury of the power of designing experimental strategies in the stem cell biology with the help of the computer”, enthuses Del Sol, who leads the Computational Biology group at the LCSB. Additionally, their research on cell fate determination was featured in the conference’s “scientific highlights” sessions.

“This has been an important week for the LCSB and its scientists. Not only does it confirm the excellent scientific quality on an international level, but the interest from businesses and investors shows us that the LCSB is on the right track to create value in Luxembourg through innovation”, concludes Dr. Erica Monfardini, Director of Operations who established the innovation strategy at LCSB.