CARDIOCONTRACT: a new iBET project


A new project was launched at iBET, the CARDIOCONTRACT project, a consortium between iBET, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Sophion Bioscience (an R&D performing SME, Denmark), that aims to develop a complete system for the high-throughput functional cardiotoxicity screening of drug candidates, through contractility analysis of cardiomyocyte (human heart cell) based tissue constructs when exposed to drug candidates. This project was funded under the Eurostars Initiative, co-funded by EUREKA country members and the European Union HORIZON 2020 framework programme, with around 800.000 euro during 15 months. Importantly, it was the highest-ranked Portuguese project in EUREKA programme.

Current industrial drug development is hampered by unwanted cardiotoxic side effects of novel drug candidates. Early in vitro testing of such deleterious effects relies on ion channel analysis (patch-clamp technique) using cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells. However, functional cardiotoxicity beyond ion channel analysis as well as better cell models are required since many cardiotoxic events cannot be accurately predicted with the present available technology.

In order to develop an automated, reproducible and cost effective format for functional cardiotoxicity assessment, iBET team members from the Animal Cell Technology Unit (Paula Alves, Margarida Serra and Marta Paiva) will combine their expertise in differentiation and maturation of cardiomyocytes from human pluripotent stem cells with DTU ́s knowledge of biomaterials to develop an analysis kit (CPlate), a 3D plate with miniaturized 3D cardiomyocyte cultures that will be used in the prototype machine (Qpid) created by Sophion Biosciences.