New field lab brings individual health profiles closer

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Councilman Paul Dirkse of the municipality of Leiden opened the Medical Delta Fieldlab Phenomix at the Leiden Bio Science Park. In this field lab, companies, healthcare institutions and scientists work together on practical applications of 'metabolomics' research: research into metabolic products. By measuring metabolic products such as amino acids, hormones, glucose or adrenaline, a good impression of someone's current health is created. For example, so-called ‘metabolic profiles’ allow physicians to diagnose or create a personalized treatment plan earlier.

In metabolomics, scientists study the unique chemical fingerprints that are created through specific metabolic processes in our bodies. This type of knowledge can help to focus care, as a whole, more on prevention or early treatment. Metabolomics can also play a major role for the agri and food industry. The new field lab offers scientists an open innovation setting to tackle projects in the healthcare and business sectors.

Both scientists from Leiden University and Erasmus MC who collaborate in metabolomics research in the Medical Delta, and companies and healthcare institutions in the region are internationally renowned. As a result, the field lab has the potential to become an international hotspot for the application of metabolomics. The ambition is that the fieldlab further stimulates the establishment of companies from the pharmaceutical, agri and food industry and accelerates the realization of a metabolomics ecosystem.

More prevention and tailor-made treatments thanks to metabolomics

By measuring metabolic products such as amino acids, glucose or adrenaline, physicians create a metabolic profile for each patient. With metabolomics they can then determine what side effects a drug will have 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.

Currently, scientists from LUMC, Erasmus MC and UMC Utrecht are using metabolic profiles to investigate how it is possible that corona patients react differently to the virus 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 the industry can work together. Metabolomics can deliver important benefits not only for the individual patient, but for healthcare as a whole” says Medical Delta professor 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 collaborating in the field lab come from different disciplines. The field lab is building on the scientific program 'METABOLDELTA' of Medical Delta. “The field lab gives an extra incentive to translate scientific findings into the market, healthcare and society, so 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.

In the field lab, Leiden University and Erasmus MC participate, 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 ERDF subsidy. InnovationQuarter and Medical Delta and others are involved in setting up and expanding the field lab.

Opening Medical Delta Fieldlab Phenomix - fotograaf Monique Shaw

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