The CONNECT project aims to develop a novel organoid-chip connecting the blood vasculature to the brain to mimic the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This complex 3D-model can be used to mimic aspects of drug delivery into the human brain, a key process that is often not investigated in depth in current drug development studies. The CONNECT device represents an innovative model which is closer to the patient than the current mouse and in vitro cell models. This method supports InnoSer’s mission to accelerate preclinical research in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.

The BBB vasculature tightly controls the transport of compounds between the blood and the brain. Effective delivery into the brain is key for the successful implementation of a therapeutic compound targeting neurological disease into the clinic.

There is a high unmet need for breakthroughs in treatments for neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. However, it is often difficult to predict whether (potentially effective) therapeutic compounds can cross the BBB. This hurdle hinders the development of effective treatments for neurological disorders. The search for novel drugs is further limited by poor translatability of results from preclinical animal models to the clinical setting.

We are delighted to announce that we will collaborate with internationally leading research groups in the CONNECT consortium, which aims to develop a novel 3D-model connecting the brain and the BBB. The CONNECT model is based on connecting iPSC-derived BBB blood vessels to a cerebral organoid to ultimately generate a functional BBB in a unique chip-device. This technology will allow selection and screening of existing and newly developed compounds for their ability to cross the BBB into brain organoids and to subsequently exert their effects. The novel 3D model could also be used for drug toxicity studies.

Ultimately, this potential breakthrough technology could mimic disease-related mechanisms and function as a prediction tool for the delivery (and efficacy) of potential compounds into the brain. The development and validation of this highly relevant technology will also contribute to a reduction in animal use in health research, especially in compound testing and mechanistic research. This project, funded by the NWO, combines the insights of Prof. Dr. Elga de Vries (VUmc) in translational neurovascular research and the expertise of Prof. Dr. Elly Hol in cerebral organoids. Being an expert in implementing preclinical research models within a drug development pipeline, InnoSer will contribute to the consortium by providing an extensive feasibility analysis. This analysis will assess key aspects of implementing the in vitro CONNECT model within a commercial service offering for drug development. In doing so, InnoSer will collaborate closely with to provide insights into the intellectual property, and thereby, the freedom to operate these models. InnoSer is dedicated to the development of novel in vitro model systems that provide viable alternatives to provide animal-free drug testing solutions.