NPORTNetherlands Platfom for Organoid Technology


Prof.dr. Onno Kranenburg
Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht
University Medical Centers, partner hospitals, Hubrecht Institute, Princess Maxima center

New adult stem cell-based culture technology termed organoid technology provides an important opportunity to establish a world leading role for the Dutch life sciences sector in preclinical and clinical research. Organoid Technology facilitates the long term culturing and biobanking of normal and diseased cells from many different organs with high individual success rates so that living disease models can be established. Organoid technology has been developed at the Utrecht Science Park, and has already had a strong international impact on fundamental knowledge, drug development, and precision medicine (e.g. cancer and cystic fibrosis). To maximize benefits, standardized procedures to acquire, store and share tissue and cells should be implemented as well as data infrastructures and FAIR governance. By building on knowhow in Utrecht, the Netherlands Platform for Organoid Technology (N-PORT) aims to develop a nation-wide, standardized infrastructure for organoid technology.

The Utrecht Platform for Organoid Technology (UPORT) will form the basis for further standardization and upscaling to a national level, aiming to cover all steps from the patient to the academic or commercial user. This will greatly facilitate various types of research, including fundamental research, but also the design of clinical studies using organoid technology as a predictive or prognostic platform for individual disease progression or treatment selection.

A standardized national protocol for patient inclusion:
Over the past years, over 1.250 patients suffering from over 15 disease entities have been included in organoid derivation protocols at the UMC Utrecht. From an ethical, research and economical perspective it is essential that these protocols are carefully designed, standardized, and implemented throughout the Netherlands by patient inclusion teams that are uniformly trained to inform patients on all relevant aspects. National uniformity in patient inclusion protocols will provide an ideal framework for ethical studies to develop and adapt the most optimal informed consent procedures in relation to organoid technology.

A standardized national protocol for tissue acquisition:
The logistical routing is different for almost every disease entity, and will need to be optimized within each hospital and standardized between hospitals. From past UPORT experience it has become clear that the quality of tissue biopsies can vary widely between and within hospitals. NPORT will create multidisciplinary national teams of specialists (surgeons, medical oncologists, radiologists, pathologist, etc.), nurses and researchers, involved in the treatment of a specific disease. These teams, instructed by NPORT, will ensure establishment of high quality standard operating procedures to take biopsies for organoid derivation.

A searchable organoid biobank for tissue and data collection:
Patient-derived expanded organoids subsequently need to be stored in a centralized liquid nitrogen biobank and an associated web portal enabling dedicated searches and requests for organoid samples. Patient-specific research data that will be generated with organoid technology need to be correlated with clinical and genetic data for multiple types of analyses by NPORT data scientists. This needs to be done in a highly controlled manner ensuring current Dutch law on patient privacy. NPORT will seek collaborations with other large initiatives on this subject, including BBMRI, HEALTH-RI, the Dutch Cancer Registry, the Hartwig Foundation, the Dutch cystic fibrosis society, and other relevant organizations for developing and implementing a searchable bio- and databank according to FAIR principles.

An automated culture platform for organoids:
The first examples show that clinical care can be optimized using patient-derived living biobanks of organoids. The current standard to generate organoids requires highly skilled operators that limit throughput, increases the risks for errors, and limits the traceability of the entire process. We here aim to develop new robotics that can process, culture and freeze organoid cultures for biobanking. This requires the establishment of multidisciplinary teams of biologists, engineers, digital image analysis experts and programmers, and may be part of a recently established partnership between UMC Utrecht, Utrecht University, and the Technical University in Eindhoven. The goal is to design a modular robotic platform that can be implemented at research and diagnostic laboratories, to enable the processing and tracing of large-scale patient-derived organoid cultures at economically viable prices.

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