EIT Grants: networking for better health care

Two companies on Leiden Bio Science Park – Idris Oncology and Toxys – gained a grant from EIT Health, a European innovation accelerator network. The funds will enable them to make major steps towards clinical practice.

Encouraging entrepreneurship so that new products and services will become widely available. That’s one of the main goals of EIT Health. Menno Kok, director Belgium-Netherlands at EIT Health: “I met some very enthusiastic young innovators at the Show me the Money walk-in sessions on start-up financing at Leiden Bio Science Park. For us it was a perfect opportunity to see what’s going on in healthcare innovation. And I guess it inspired the people I spoke with to do a successful application for our grants.”

One of these winners is Hans Peter Mulder, molecular biologist and co-founder of Idris Oncology. He gained a €25,000 Proof of Concept Grant, which will enable Idris to do extensive in vitro testing of their innovation: a diagnostic procedure to observe mutating cancer cells without doing painful biopsies. Mulder: “We’re developing a procedure to catch enough cancer cells from the patient’s blood to track how the cancer is mutating. By closely following these mutations, doctors will be able to adapt the treatment to this ever-changing disease. We already know that our procedure can catch much more cells than previously developed techniques. With the EIT grant we will build a test set-up in which we can simulate the human blood circulation. This enables us to test our procedure without using animals.”

The second Leiden company to gain an EIT Grant is Toxys. Their innovation is called ReproTracker, an in vitro assay to assess toxicity hazards of new drugs during early embryonic development. Toxys was awarded a €50,000 grant for a headstart project to further develop the ReproTracker. Giel Hendriks, biologist and CEO at Toxys: “This type of testing usually requires major studies with animals. We have a working proof of concept that visualises biological processes related to embryonic development in stem cells. We are now ready to further validate the reporter cell lines. With the grant we can hire a scientist to do this during a full year. An important next step in bringing ReproTracker to the market.”

For both Leiden companies the EIT grants mean new chances for their innovations. Mulder hopes that the test results will be opening doors to major funding agencies and private investors. Hendriks expects to convince end user organisations to cooperate in the process of further validating their innovative assay.
EIT-director Kok is certain about the win-win opportunities of the awards. “Our aim is to make a real change in health care. This is why we focus on innovation hot spots like Leiden Bio Science Park. We trust that award winners will consider themselves to be part of a network that is still expanding. If they succeed, I’m sure they will also be ambassadors for a common goal: the best possible health care for all European citizens.”

EIT Health
EIT Health Proof of concept and headstart funding
Idris Oncology and their PoC grant
Toxys headstart grant

Interviews by Marc van Bijsterveldt
Photo: EIT Health Belgium-The Netherlands