Four PRODUCTE (AGAUR) projects for the valorization of research results
Our ICMAB reserachers have been granted with 4 PRODUCTE projects to advance in the treatment of corneal pathologies, ice-making industry, analysis of water contaminants and cancer therapy.
The "Knowledge Industry Grants, Modality B: PRODUCTE" projects are intended for obtaining prototypes and for the valorization and transfer of research results generated by research teams in Catalonia. They are awarded by the Department of Research and Universities (Generalitat de Catalunya) - Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR).
The PRODUCTE projects are for 18 months of research and granted with 100,000 €. The idea is to increase the TRL of the research performed by the Institute in the fields of energy, electronics and health. Three of the awarded projects are in collaboration with a hospital research institute (Vall d'Hebron), another research center (IMB-CNM, CSIC), and with an ophtalmology center (Barraquer).
The 4 PRODUCTE projects awarded to ICMAB researchers are:
- Natural polymer reservoirs for the treatment of corneal pathologies (HEALTHY CORNEA)
by Anna Roig, from the Nanoparticles and Nanocomposites (NN) group (ICMAB, CSIC) and Justin Christopher D'Antin from the Opthalmology Center Barraquer
- Application of new materials designed for energy saving in the ice-making industry
by Albert Verdaguer, from the Physical Surfaces and Interfaces group (ICMAB, CSIC)
- Compact ready-to-use electrochemical sensor devices for cost-effective on-site analysis of water contaminants (CONTASENS)
by Martí Gich, from the Nanoparticles and Nanocomposites (NN) group (ICMAB, CSIC) and César Fernández from the IMB-CNM, CSIC.
- RNA-based nanomedicine for cancer therapy (SMARTY 2.0)
by Nora Ventosa, from the Nanomol-Bio group (ICMAB, CSIC) and Miquel F. Segura from the Vall d'Hebron Institut de Recerca (VHIR).
Natural polymers for the treatment of corneal pathologies (HEALTHY CORNEA)
Application of new materials designed for energy saving in the ice-making industry (MatICE)
Albert Verdaguer, from the Physical Surfaces and Interfaces group (ICMAB, CSIC)
Scheme of the MatICE project | Albert Verdaguer. Credit: https://soliddesignforscience.com/
Compact ready-to-use electrochemical sensor devices for cost-effective on-site analysis of water contaminants (CONTASENS)
Martí Gich, from the Nanoparticles and Nanocomposites (NN) group (ICMAB, CSIC) and César Fernández from the IMB-CNM, CSIC
"We want to bring to the market new product that will make water monitoring cheaper, faster and simpler: a read-to-use low-cost sensor for the in-situ determination of Chemical Oxygen Demad. The aim of CONTASENS is accelerating the transfer of our patented technology by increasing its TRL from 4-5 (we already validated it in the lab and in the field) to about TRL 7 (System prototype demonstration in operational environment)" says Martí Gich. "One of the challenges to progress in the commercialization pathway is assessing the robustness of the product regarding its scalability and reproducibility. The project will allow us to do this."
Water pollution is an increasing global concern with strong implications in human health, aquatic ecosystems, and economic growth. Water monitoring with the frequency required to timely monitor and control contamination outbreaks is seldom carried out because current analytical methods require bulky costly instrumentation implemented in centralized laboratories and manipulated by highly qualified personnel. Thus, sampling collection, stabilization and transport is required, making the cost-per-analysis hardly affordable, especially in low-income countries. New analytical tools have been assessed using cost-effective electrochemical methods that require compact low-power instrumentation to detect water pollutants in a faster and more user-friendly manner. Although many different approaches have been reported in the scientific literature, most of them cannot be made into a commercial product. This is because the performance requires several manual steps, which makes in-field testing less convenient.
"In a recently patented development, our team has made a step-forward to provide portable ready-to-use electrochemical sensors that can be deployed and used by non-experts to analyze water pollutants just requiring a simple addition of the sample. Successful analysis of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), used as an indicator of water organic load, with a sensor prototype in an operational environment like a wastewater treatment plant have shown the potential of our technology. Not only can our sensor technology be applied to detect COD but it can be adapted for the analysis of other compounds such as organohalides or heavy metal ions, identified as pollutants of priority concern" explains Gich.
The outcomes of this project will contribute to at least two of the UN Sustainable Goals: SG6– Clean Water and Sanitation and SG12 – Responsible Production and Consumption, as well as to tackle several of the environmental objectives of the EU Green Deal strategy, pursuing technological innovations with high potential economic and ecologic impacts. A clear focus of this project is on aiding in the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all and efficient use of natural resources. The deployment of analytical tools for the early-warning of contamination events and efficient monitoring of pollutant remediation in water treatment processes and potential water recycling would be fundamental to keep our aquatic ecosystems healthy and in turn ensure water access for all.
RNA-based nanomedicine for cancer therapy (SMARTY 2.0)
Nora Ventosa, from the Nanomol-Bio group (ICMAB, CSIC) and Miquel F. Segura from Vall d'Hebron Institut de Recerca (VHIR).
In the recent years, it has become evident that nanomedicine, through the conjugation of RNA biomolecules to nanostructured materials, enables the conversion of this biomolecules into drugs with high efficacy. Although a wide range of nanocarriers are in development phases, there is still not a standard formulation for the clinical administration of RNA-based therapies. Quatsomes (QS) are pH-sensitive non-liposomal lipid nanovesicles, with an excellent long-term colloidal stability and batch-to-batch homogeneity. Moreover, recent results obtained by the groups involved in this project were the first ones to show that QS can be loaded with small RNAs (Boloix A et al. Small 2021 and Patent application nº WO2020229469), which demonstrated the feasibility of QS to administer RNA-based therapies for cancer treatment and potentially to treat any other human disease.
The aim of this project is to move forward the pharmaceutical development of this nanomedicine until the doors of the preclinical regulatory phases. Hence, QS offer the opportunity to maximize the performance of the already available RNA-based therapeutics, not appropriately formulated or in a development stage embedded in a company pipeline assuring the benefit of the end-users: i) researchers, by improving market opportunities to test the RNA-based therapies in in vivo models; ii) patients, by providing a new RNA-based nanotherapy against cancer.
"The goal is to complete the non-regulatory pharmaceutical development of therapeutic active miRNA nanoformulated in Smarty nanovesicles for pediatric cancer treatments. And bring the product until the doors of the preclinical regulatory phases" explains Nora Ventosa. "Smarty nanovesicles have an excellent long-term colloidal stability at room temperature, which is a feature highly desired for RNA nanocarriers and difficult to achieve. The main challenge is to demonstrate the in vivo efficacy of the new RNA-based nanomedicine when intravenoulsy delivered".
On 2021 Nanomol Technologies SL signed a license agrement to exploit this nanoformulation platform. The company can exploit Smarty Nanovesicles as a delivery system for all human diseases, except pediatric cancers. VHIR and ICMAB teams decided to exclude this market niche to hold the possibility to create a spin-off with the aim of developing nanomedicines for the treatment of pediatric tumors. ICMAB researchers Nora Ventosa and Mariana Köber are involved in the project, together with Miquel F. Segura and Ariadna Boloix from VHIR.
Resolució de concessió dels ajuts d'Indústria del Coneixement per a l'any 2021 (Llavor i Producte). Modalitat B. Ajuts Producte destinats a l'obtenció de prototipus i a la valorització i transferència dels resultats d'investigació generada per equips de recerca de Catalunya.