Scientists, patients, their family and representatives, business developers, politicians and representatives of Interreg were gathered and formed a hopeful family for one day. Scientists showed the tremendous work that has been performed towards a stem cell therapy for muscle disease. The clinical trials are international milestones and the next steps are already planned. Furthermore the project resulted in the establishment of a company, eighteen scientific publications, extensive media attention and strong, lasting collaborations between five universities and 2 companies in the Euregio-Meuse-Rhine.
Maintaining healthy muscles is essential for a healthy life, but genetic and non-genetic diseases, and ageing make muscles lose their function during life. GYM has developed and will commercially produce an innovative stem cell therapy for the treatment of patients with reduced muscle mass, muscle power and muscle energy.
The production will be transferred to a newly founded company “Milocron Therapeutics’’. The launch of this company during the final event implies a major step towards therapy development. The challenges the GYM project addressed, impacted both the vulnerable population and the socio-economic status of the Euregio Meuse-Rhine. GYM has strengthened this region as leader in stem cell therapy for muscle disease. The project has fostered the synergy between academic researchers and the biotechnology industry and the profitable climate that has been created for regenerative medicine in this region.
But it was not only about science this time. An impressive dance performance by Maartje, a patient with mitochondrial disease, and her sister Janneke was deeply moving and inspirational and provided a unique perspective on the resilience and strength within the community. Maartje and Janneke danced to the Coldplay song Fix You. ‘I created this dance together with my sister now, when it is still possible to dance together’, Janneke explained.
A short documentary about two brave young man with a rare muscle disease illustrated the impact and urgency of the GYM project. The documentary showed the inspirational story of Mo and Hidde, two young man with the rare muscle disease Lama2-MD. They are hoping for a breakthrough in this innovative stem cell therapy which would provide them with a healthier future. They personally thanked all stakeholders involved in this European project and Interreg (Euregio Meuse-Rhine) for funding it. Mo, Hidde and their families showed the impact of a rare muscle disease, but also their resilience and the happiness in their life. This was further substantiated by Gerald Croes, a combative father, who committed his life to change the perspective for his and other children with a muscle disease by founding Ride4Kids and collecting money to speed up therapeutic research.
The meeting ended with the launch of “Milocron Therapeutics” (Brightlands Health Campus Maastricht), speeches of Jean-Philippe Odeurs (Management Authority of InterregEMR) and Elianne Demollin, not only as Deputy of the Province of Limburg but also as a mother, and a video message of world champion kickboxing Rico Verhoeven, who supports the project personally.
Although the Interreg project will end this year, the collaboration between the universities will continue. The project team is committed to reach its goal of an effective stem cell therapy for muscle disease in the years to come. The team consists of Clinical Genomics/Toxicogenomics, School MHeNS, University of Maastricht (Prof. Bert Smeets), Stem Cell Institute, University of Leuven (Prof. Maurilio Sampaolesi), Exercise Physiology and Sports Medical Center of Biomed, University of Hasselt (Prof. Bert Op ‘t Eijnde), Laboratory of Hematology for Cell and Gene Therapy, University of Liège (Prof. Yves Beguin), Dental Materials and Biomaterials Research, University Clinic RWTH Aachen (Prof. Horst Fischer), Scannexus, Maastricht (Dr. Job van den Hurk) and Kenko International, Bosch en Duin (Ineke Rijnhout).
Lees hier het artikel dat dagblad De Limburger schreef over Generate Your Muscle: GYM project in dagblad De Limburger