New foundation for testing cancer drugs on living tissues

8 July 2013

The KNAW, its Hubrecht Institute and UMC Utrecht started a joint foundation to further develop the organoid technology of Hans Clevers. This technology will be applied to design and test new cancer therapies. Organoids are derived from pieces of tumor or healthy tissue and can be prolonged in tissue culture. Establishing the new foundation called HUB, was agreed on Friday 5 July.

‘We have been working on this for years’, says prof.dr. Hans Clevers, president of the KNAW and former director of the Hubrecht Institute. ‘We understand cancer in theory, but in practice the development of better treatment is intractable. The number of people dying from cancer is increasing. Our methods putatively provide new chances.’

The foundation is called Hubrecht Organoid Technology (HUB) and will test cancer medicine on living tissues derived from tumors, but cultured as a mini-organ in the laboratory. By generating large collections of such mini-organs, a so-called ‘Living Biobank’, it can be better understood why patients respond diffently to different drug treatments. It is to be expected that this will lead to the prescription of medicine that is specifically tailored to the unique genetic code of a patients tumor.

The initiators of the foundation are Hans Clevers and Ton Logtenberg, CEO of biotechnology company Merus in Utrecht.

About the Hubrecht Institute
The Hubrecht Institute is a research institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Presently there are 20 research groups with a total of about 200 employees. In addition to a highly interactive and international scientific environment, excellent research facilities are available for imaging and functional genomics. Moreover, several model organisms are present, including C. elegans, zebrafish and mice. The institute is situated in Utrecht at the university centre De Uithof. The Hubrecht Institute is affiliated with the University Medical Center Utrecht and has close connections with Utrecht University, e.g. in the Graduate School Cancer Genomics and Development Biology.