Ties between Janssen and Radboud University and Radboudumc have been there for several years. The ambition of these frontrunners in innovative healthcare is to accelerate access to innovation for patients. Dr. Eng Kinga Matuła (KM), specialist in single-cell multi-omics and Jeroen Van Houdt (JH), Omics group leader at Janssen Pharmaceutica, answer three pressing questions about the successful collaboration in the single-cell technology project.
1. How did the collaboration on this specific single-cell project come about?
KM: ‘My research is focused on the development of single-cell multi-omics technologies. These platforms measure different (bio)molecules from individual cells. In this way, a profound biological insight is obtained. As a postdoc at Radboud University, I was co-developing a method (QuRIE-seq) to quantitatively map the mechanism of action (MoA) of drug candidates in multiple cellular pathways. The platform enables simultaneous high-throughput quantification of multiple molecular "layers": mRNA molecules and hundreds of membranes and intracellular (phospho) proteins. The benefit is clear - this method replaces many different, mutually incompatible analytical instruments that provide an incomplete picture of the MoA. Janssen is actively investing in the latest innovative technologies and the most promising research. In 2019, the company was very interested in single-cell research, and they organized a symposium on single-cell applications in Beerse in Belgium. There I met Janssen's employees, including Jeroen, which resulted in a collaboration in 2020.'
JH: ‘Radboud University and Radboudumc are highly regarded in the field of Single Cell Technology, among others by the research group of Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Huck. Prof. dr. Huck is a board member, co-founder and chair of the scientific advisory board of Sphere Fluidics (2010), co-founder of Cytofind Diagnostics (2017) and of QurieGen (2022). He also won the Spinoza Prize (2016) and was the Groeifonds winner in 2022. Everything comes together again, because in 2018 Kinga Matuła worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the spin-off company Cytofind Diagnostics and then she continued research at Radboud University. The Huck group had a collaboration with Aduro Biotech focused on unraveling the MoA of Ibrutinib. We want to incorporate innovative approaches to accelerate and de-risk different stages of drug development to provide patients with better working medicines with fewer side effects Intensive collaboration with Janssen from Radboudumc and Radboud University increases those possibilities.'
2. What was the project like? And what has it yielded?
KM: 'Quantitative insight into the MoA of drug molecules is still in its infancy. We need tools that allow us to capture and "untangle" the full complexity of signaling networks and obtain quantitative maps of the dynamics of the cellular response. This project allowed us to validate the second version of the technology to study effects in cells isolated from human donors (primary cells). We can capture now unexpected side effects as early as possible and select the most promising drug candidates as soon as possible for further (pre)clinical trials. In addition, it was an important learning process for us to work with a large stakeholder.'
JH: ‘This project has shown that we can use this technology to better understand complex biological processes and gain a deeper understanding of how medicines work. The new technology will contribute to the search for new and more efficient treatments for patients.'
We want new insights about diseases to benefit as many patients as possible, as soon as possible
3. How did you like working together?
KM and JH: "Great! Even though it was in COVID time and therefore often online, we have made important steps to apply the technology in our research. Early identification of successful drug molecules can have a major impact on drug development. Which drug candidates are promising for further research? The new technology helps to better understand the underlying functioning of drug molecules, so that drug development can actually become more efficient. The collaboration with Janssen helped the team to realize that there is an unmet need and traction. In 2022, QurieGen was officially launched to help pharma companies to redefine the way drug molecules are discovered and developed."
About Radboud University
Radboud University is a broad, internationally oriented research university. Together with Radboudumc, an intellectual climate is created that inspires employees and students to make a relevant contribution to important social themes. Radboud University has more than 22,000 students (14,200 bachelor, 7,941 master). She encourages her graduates to want to take up responsible positions in an increasingly international society. The university's social profile is dynamic and focused on important developments in society.
Radboudumc's mission is "to have a significant impact on health and healthcare" and wants to achieve this by providing the most person-oriented and innovative patient care, conducting groundbreaking medical scientific research and offering inspiring education.
At Janssen we are working towards a future in which diseases are a thing of the past. We are the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and we are committed to providing a better future for patients around the world. We do this by fighting diseases with scientific research, improving access to medicines and creating hope with passion. Our focus is on the medical areas where we can make the biggest difference, such as cardiovascular & metabolic diseases, immunology, infectious diseases & vaccines, neuroscience, oncology and pulmonary hypertension.
Read more information in the Biotech News & Life Sciences magazine.
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