Drug discovery tool for epilepsy and Real-time Assessment of Organ Transplant – 5 million DKK from Novo Nordisk

Susanna Narkilahti, Jari Hyttinen and Jarno Tanskanen Two photos on the left by Jonne Renvall.

Novo Nordisk Foundation (NNF) granted 5 million DKK (670 000 €) to two commercialization projects lead by two CoEBoC group leaders Prof. Jari Hyttinen and Adj. Prof. Susanna Narkilahti. Both teams are completing Research to Business projects funded by the Business Finland. Novo Nordisk funding provides the timely next step toward getting the innovations to the markets.

ReOrgan – Real-time Assessment of Organ Transplant Degradation Post-procurement

ReOrgan project aims at commercialization readiness of human organ transplant quality assessment. The project is the next step for the team after the Business Finland funded Research to Business project OrganAnalytics led by Jarno Tanskanen in collaboration with Jari Hyttinen and his team.

There is global urgent demand for transplant organs. For example, for Eurotransplant operating in eight European countries, 10099 new patients entered waiting lists during 2023. In the US, doctors may turn down several life-saving organs instead of taking the risk of using an organ of a borderline quality.

ReOrgan aims to be a part of that transition and develop a safe real-time method to assess the condition of the donated organs and provide clinicians more tools and accurate information on the condition of the transplant. The US has set a goal to decrease the amount of donated but unused kidneys from 25% to 5%.

“Our endeavor ultimately aims at an FDA approved and CE marked clinical device. ReOrgan allow us to strengthen the science base and produce a prototype of the intended transplant assessment device during the project,” the project leader Prof. Hyttinen sums up. “A crucial part of the work is preparing commercialization. For this task, we are lucky to have an experienced Business Developer Donna Kivirauma in the team,” he continues.

The Distinguished Innovator Grant awarded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation was received at the perfect time for keeping the momentum in bringing the device to market.

“Furthermore, the Novo Nordisk Foundation Distinguished Innovator awardee network with yearly on-site meetings at the Novo Nordisk campus provides excellent platform for Nordic networking,” Hyttinen comments.

ReOrgan concept summarized. Baseline assessment of a donated organ is made right after the organ has been procured. Organ condition is continuously monitored during transport. To make the decision, the transplanting doctor can view all the organ condition data from the procurement to the operating room and take an on-the-spot quality measurement immediately before implanting the organ.

Brain circuitry-on-chip platform as novel drug discovery tool for pediatric epilepsy – MEMO

Modular platform for Epilepsy Modelling (MEMO) developed by Susanna Narkilahti’s team aims to translate epilepsy research and drug discovery into organ-on-chip world. MEMO platform combines human neuronal cells with advanced microfluidic device connected to microelectrode array and gas supply chamber. This allows monitoring electrophysiological signals, seizure-like activity and drug response of the neuronal cells in brain circuitry mimicking concept.

Epilepsy is a complex neurological disorder affecting over 65 million people worldwide. A third of the patients suffer from drug-resistant epilepsy and there is a great need for novel therapeutical solutions.

Originally, MEMO project is a Research to Business project fund aiming to commercialize the platform with a collaborative effort from Susanna Narkilahti’s NeuroGroup, Pasi Kallio’s Micro-and Nanosystems Research Group and Business Finland.

“We are really excited to receive this funding as it will boost our commercialization process a great deal”, Narkilahti sums up.

MEMO concept summarized. Functional neuronal network on a chip allows studying the seizure-like activity and drug responses. For more information, please visit MEMO project’s webpages. Image modified from https://www.seizuresonchip.com/

Funded projects:

Prof. Jari Hyttinen – “Real-time Assessment of Organ Transplant Degradation Post-procurement (ReOrgan)” – 4 million DKK (~536 000 €), Distinguished Innovator Grant. Lead by Computational Biophysics and Imaging Group.

Adj. Prof. Susanna Narkilahti: – “Brain circuitry-on-chip platform as novel drug discovery tool for pediatric epilepsy” – 1 million DKK (~134 150 €), Pioneer Innovator Grant. Susanna Narkilahti’s research and MEMO project: Neuro Group ja Seizures-on-Chip (MEMO)

Innovator Grants by Novo Nordisk Foundation – What are they?

The purpose of the Distinguished Innovator Grant and the Pioneer Innovator Grant is to accelerate commercialization of research findings and the development of novel technologies within the health sciences. Novo Nordisk Foundation support science-based discoveries with commercial potential and encourage experimentation leading to proof-of-concept and beyond.

To be qualified, projects must demonstrate scalability and commercialization potential as well as be directly aimed to improve the lives of patients and health of people. The technologies in both projects are closely linked to research of the CoEBoC. The Grants from Novo Nordisk Foundation are crucial for bringing the research results to market for the benefit of patients. Novo Nordisk Foundation is the majority vote holder of the large pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk A/S.

Interested? Read more about the Novo Nordisk Pioneer Innovator Grant here.