Utrecht University: €5.3 million grant for cell and gene therapy platform DARE-NL

Cell therapy is an innovative treatment using living human cells, usually cells from the patient’s own immune system. The immune cells are extracted from the blood and modified on a molecular level, allowing them to better recognise and destroy cancer cells. The processed cells are then administered to the patient by infusion. Gene therapy is used when the DNA of the immune cells is also modified.

New perspective
Cell therapy and gene therapy are considered very promising treatments. After therapy, patients are free of disease for an extended period of time, and some recover completely. Especially for patients without many treatment options such as standard medicines or surgery, these therapies can offer a new perspective. Despite this great promise, only very few cell and gene therapies are currently available to patients.

Especially for patients who are faced with limited treatment options, cell and gene these therapies can offer a new perspective.
Many cell and gene therapies fail to reach the final stages in their development, and do not reach the patient. There are several reasons for this, such as the complex nature of the therapy. Another factor is that the Dutch expertise in this field is fragmented across organisations all over the country. Moreover, few qualified staff have been trained and the legislation and regulations are complex.

National infrastructure
Thanks to the KWF grant, DARE-NL can change this. The platform brings together all knowledge and expertise in the field of cell and gene therapy in one national infrastructure. DARE-NL is a knowledge network, a platform for resources and technologies, and a means to make effective, safe and affordable cell and gene therapy available to patients.

DARE-NL combines all knowledge and expertise in the field of cell and gene therapy in one national infrastructure.
DARE-NL consists of renowned researchers from UMC Utrecht and the seven other university medical centres, the Princess Maxima Centre for Childhood Oncology, the Netherlands Cancer Institute/Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Sanquin Research and Utrecht University.

Getting medicines to patients
Utrecht University scientists involved in DARE-NL will investigate how safe and effective gene and cell therapy can become available to patients. Making the jump from development to applying the therapies is by no means an easy task, because of their complex nature. This also makes the approval process for the medicines particularly complicated.

We can now combine expertise from all kinds of scientific areas, not only to develop therapies, but also to make them available for the patients who need them.

Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS)
“The KWF grant offers a fantastic opportunity to start this process,” says Dr. Lourens Bloem, affiliated Utrecht Institute of for Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS) at Utrecht University and previously also with the CBG. “We can now combine expertise from all kinds of scientific areas, to not only develop the medicines, but to actually make them available for the patients who need them.”

Joining forces
DARE-NL is primarily coordinated by the UMC Utrecht. Tumour immunologist Dr Trudy Straetemans is project leader and one of the initiators of the platform. “By joining forces, we can make the development and production of new cell therapies and gene therapies easier and faster,” said Straetemans. “In this way, we build the bridge between a new idea and its clinical implementation, allowing more cancer patients to benefit from these promising treatments in the future.”

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