Councilor Paul Dirkse of the municipality of Leiden opened the Medical Delta Fieldlab Phenomix on July 9th at the Leiden Bio Science Park. In this field lab, companies, healthcare institutions and scientists work together on applications of metabolomics. Measuring metabolic profiles provides a rich profile of a person’s current health. For example, with so-called “metabolic profiles”, doctors can make diagnoses earlier or make a personal treatment plan. The field lab is a flywheel for the change in healthcare towards personalized medicine.
In metabolomics, scientists study the unique chemical fingerprints that are left by specific metabolic processes in the body. These chemical fingerprints provide knowledge that can help to shift the focus in care toward prevention or early treatment. The new field lab offers scientists an open innovation setting to tackle projects in healthcare and business.
A flywheel for healthcare innovation
“We see a change in health care: from care, to cure, to prevention,” says Joep van den Eerenbeemt, business developer at InnovationQuarter. “We expect healthcare to transition from generic solutions for everyone, to specific interventions for one person. In order to determine which intervention will be most effective for which group of patients, proper diagnosis is necessary. This is an early step toward personalized medicine: a ‘private’ package of diagnostics, treatment and lifestyle advice for everyone. ”
“Thanks to diagnostic tools, we can apply drugs more effectively and detect diseases at an early stage,” says fellow business developer Lonneke Baas. “Good diagnosis already has a central role in healthcare; laboratory diagnostics are used in more than 70% of all medical research. It is not just about the diagnosis, but also about deciding which treatment is most likely to be successful. and to monitor the treatment over a longer period of time. We therefore see this field lab as the first step towards large-scale screening facility for metabolites. ”
What does fieldlab Phenomix offer?
“Phenomix is a screening facility for using metabolites in diagnostic processes,” says Joep van den Eerenbeemt. “InnovationQuarter is involved in assembling a consortium of pharmaceutical, food and technology companies as partners and customers. We see opportunities: The field lab can enable local (SME) companies to facilitate big pharma, both technologically and commercially, in transforming their business from ‘a few blockbusters around the world ‘to’ many personal medicines linked to relevant diagnostics’. ”
Leiden University and Erasmus MC work together on metabolomics
The scientists of Leiden University and Erasmus MC who collaborate in Medical Delta on metabolomics research, as well as the companies and life sciences & health institutions in the region have a strong reputation internationally. As a result, the field lab has the potential to become an international hotspot for the application of metabolomics. The ambition is that Phenomix attracts companies from the pharmaceutical, agri and food industry to greater Rotterdam – The Hague, thereby accelerating the realization of a metabolomics ecosystem.
More customized prevention and treatments thanks to metabolomics
By measuring metabolic products such as amino acids, glucose or adrenaline, medical professionals can create a metabolic profile for each patient. With metabolomics they can then determine the side effects that a drug will have on patients with a certain profile. In addition, individual health profiles help to take preventive measures in a timely manner, for example by adjusting the diet if a disease appears to develop.
Scientists at LUMC, Erasmus MC and UMC Utrecht are currently using metabolic profiles for investigating, for example, the different ways in which patients react to the coronavirus and to anti-inflammatory drugs. The scientists hope to be able to share their findings quickly, after which the industry and healthcare institutions can better tailor care to the profile of the patient.
“This is a good example of how scientists, doctors and industry can work together. Metabolomics can deliver important benefits not only for the individual patient, but for the healthcare sector and society as a whole, ”says Medical Delta professor Prof. Thomas Hankemeier (Leiden University, Erasmus MC), one of the initiators of the field lab. “This also applies to other sectors and companies, for example in the food industry. My ultimate goal is that every Dutch person can obtain a metabolic profile when he or she needs it. ”
Opportunities through collaboration
The scientists working together in the field lab come from different disciplines. The field lab is thus building on Medical Delta’s scientific program “METABOLDELTA”.
“The field lab provides an extra incentive to translate scientific findings to commercial applications, which means that it has a direct impact on patients and healthcare as a whole,” says Gertine van der Vliet, managing director and board member of Medical Delta.
Leiden University and Erasmus MC participate in the field lab with various companies from the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. It is located at the Leiden Bio Science Park and is being set up with an EFRO subsidy. InnovationQuarter and Medical Delta, among others, are involved in setting up and expanding the field lab.