1.5 million euro funding to make human residual tissue available for research
Research project VitalTissue has been awarded €1.5 million to establish a new infrastructure that will make vital human residual tissue available and usable for health research in the Netherlands. This will allow researchers to use residual tissue that would otherwise be discarded after surgery for their research. In doing so, VitalTissue contributes to results that are more translatable to humans and to the transition to animal-free innovations.
VitalTissue is an initiative led by HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (HU), TNO and Logiqol. It received the ZonMw Pearl earlier this year. The project investigates the possibilities of making human residual tissues available for (bio)medical research, with patient approval. With this new funding, the infrastructure can be set up so that as many researchers as possible in the Netherlands can make use of fresh residual tissue.
Together with all stakeholders, the independent Dutch tissue bank ETB-BISLIFE will implement VitalTissue in its organisation and will be responsible for the entire process, including safety, quality and care, such as patient consent and data privacy. In a period of three to five years, VitalTissue aims to stand on its own feet and, as an independent and sustainably organised department within ETB-BISLIFE, provide residual tissue for research into human disease and health. Its independence and the fact that it is a non-profit organisation is essential to gain the trust of hospitals, doctors, researchers and patients.
Cyrille Krul, professor in Innovative Testing for Life Sciences & Chemistry, and Evita van de Steeg (TNO), co-initiators of VitalTissue: "This is an important milestone and a huge boost for the transition to animal-free innovation within the Netherlands, because good access to vital human tissue is an important prerequisite for the development and application of existing and new research models on disease and drug safety. With this grant, with all stakeholders, we can really put our ideas into practice!"
Animal-free and better translatable to humans
In the Netherlands (and globally), many animals are still used for research on effective and safe medicines, food products, and chemical substances (e.g., for household products). This also applies to research on the causes of certain diseases such as asthma or cancer. This is partly because currently only limited or no non-animal research methods are available. Initiator Cyrille Krul: "As a health researcher, you would prefer to conduct experiments that are as similar as possible to human conditions. We expect that research with fresh human tissue can be more effectively translated to humans, potentially leading to faster development of new treatments." VitalTissue is thus contributing to the transition to animal-free research.
Funding and feasibility
This project is a follow-up to the feasibility study co-funded by ZonMw from the More Knowledge with Fewer Animals programme. That study looked at the technical, logistical, ethical and economic feasibility of this initiative. The main recommendation from the feasibility study was to set up an independent and transparent infrastructure in the Netherlands for obtaining and providing human waste tissue for health research. Over the next few years, ZonMw, together with the ministries of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Public Health, Welfare and Sport, Education, Culture and Science, Stichting Proefdiervrij and ETB-BISLIFE, will fund this new VitalTissue infrastructure. In addition, researchers will have to start paying an expense allowance for the residual tissues they use.