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Unique project provides impulse for regenerative medicine

REGiNA final symposium: Presentation of results

Unique project provides impulse for regenerative medicine

REGINA health region: Commonly regarded a successful project also by the council board.

(Stuttgart) – At the final symposium of the „REGiNA health region“ project, BioRegio STERN Management GmbH presented the results of five years of scientific and practical work in Stuttgart’s Haus der Wirtschaft on Friday, 4 July 2014. In total, around EUR 12 million have been invested in this project – which incorporates 18 sub-projects – by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in conjunction with its almost 30 partner organisations, who amongst them have contributed around EUR 6.4 million to that sum. Its success is demonstrated by the market approval of several medical products, although a fair amount remains to be done to fully establish regenerative medicine in healthcare.

„REGiNA introduces new products and processes based on regenerative medicine to patients‘ healthcare,“ said BioRegio STERN Managing Director Dr. Klaus Eichenberg, as he welcomed the project participants, scientists and entrepreneurs with the very same words he had chosen to launch the project five years earlier. The extent to which the prospects he outlined back then have been realised is demonstrated by the numerous sub-projects that resulted in market approvals for products. For example, the implants to replace cartilage, skin and soft tissue made by Esslinger Amedrix GmbH, that are already CE-certified in part. Dr. Thomas Graeve, Managing Director of Amedrix, is certain that „the support offered by BioRegio STERN and REGiNA has contributed significantly to our product development.“

REGiNA was the only project in Germany to bring together everyone involved in regenerative medicine – doctors, insurance companies, patients, scientists, entrepreneurs and members of the public – in a single interdisciplinary forum. To achieve this, the BioRegio STERN Management team invested a great deal of communication and promotional work over the last five years at symposia and trade fairs and through publications such as a brochure on regenerative medicine. To date, funds totalling around EUR 12 million have been invested in the BMBF-sponsored project encompassing 18 sub-projects and involving almost 30 project partners, who between them have contributed around EUR 6.4 million themselves from the health region. The chairman of the project’s Scientific Committee, Prof. Matthias Steinwachs from the Schulthess Clinic in Zurich, confirmed that the money has proved a wise investment: „Everyone at REGiNA has worked quite admirably, many of the projects are successfully established by now, and although some of the expectations were perhaps over-ambitious, overall we can be very satisfied.“ Dr. Gerhard Stumm from VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH and project manager on behalf of the BMBF confirms the project’s success and praises the good working relationship with BioRegio STERN Management GmbH. He reports that very good results have been achieved in some of the sub-projects as part of this cooperation.

For example, as part of the project, Prof. Hans Peter Wendel from the Clinic for Thorax, Heart and Vascular Surgery at the University Clinic of Tübingen joined forces with medical product manufacturer JOTEC GmbH from Hechingen to develop special surfaces for implants with blood contact. These stop stents and catheters from being identified as foreign bodies and avoid undesirable reactions. It was one of the stated aims of the project to achieve this kind of cooperation between research and industry: „REGiNA made sure the interdisciplinary collaboration worked,“ Prof. Wendel confirms. Those involved at REGiNA specifically addressed the search for collaborative partners so the researchers could concentrate entirely on their project work. Dr. Viola Bronsema, Managing Director of BIO Deutschland, the industry association for the biotechnology sector, underlines the project’s unique nature: „It all comes down to communication. It was important that REGiNA gathered everyone involved around one table.“

Thus alongside development and approvals, the focus was always on securing reimbursement from insurers for the products. After all, a lot of money has to be invested at the outset in researching the products and processes involved in regenerative medicine. For example, Carsten Linti from the Institute for Textile Technology and Process Engineering (ITV), Denkendorf, is designing a quick-action arterial seal that not only stops secondary bleeding but is also completely broken down inside the body. This innovation will prevent complications for the patient and helps reduce the length of stay in hospital.

Faced with limited funds, health insurance companies now have to decide which new regenerative treatments and products they should and can fund. Dr. Wolf Rogowski from the Helmholtz Centre in Munich, a health economist and participant in the REGiNA project, is a specialist in this field. He is trying to evaluate the potential and boundaries of innovations for the healthcare sector. One of the key questions in this respect is: „How much are we prepared to pay for our health?“ He says the health insurers cannot always carry the full cost for every use of a new product. „It is a debate fraught with difficulty that politicians try to avoid,“ says Dr. Rogowski. He believes that the gap between patient benefit and financial savings will need closing in the future. While regenerative medicine procedures can go beyond the short-term repair of cartilage defects in the knee to actually healing them, artificial joints generally require multiple operations and the patient still often suffers lifelong limitations. However, if insurance companies simply confine their costings to an annual calculation alone, the long-term savings made by using regenerative methods will not be factored into the equation to any adequate degree. Achieving an appropriate view of costs and benefits was one of REGiNA’s aims, which certainly needs pursuing further.

„REGiNA is not yet completed“, Dr. Klaus Eichenberg explained very clearly. „While REGiNA has achieved considerable progress in regenerative medicine, this is only the beginning, and we will continue to pursue this course in the region. The project has spawned numerous new projects, and it will be interesting to see where we stand five years further down the line.“

BioRegio STERN Management GmbH has produced several films that document the success of the REGiNA project. They present selected examples of research work from the health region – for example, how Dr. Bernd Rolauffs from the BG Trauma Hospital, Tübingen, optimises cartilage implants based on human cartilage and stem cells by applying targeted mechanical compression and stretching, and how Prof. Hans Peter Wendel and his colleague Dr. Meltem Avci-Adali from the University Clinic of Tübingen for Thorax, Heart and Vascular Surgery camouflage prosthetic arteries with the body’s own cells so skilfully that the blood no longer recognises them as foreign bodies, meaning there is no inflammatory reaction.

Bildrechte: Michael Latz/Bio Regio STERN Management GmbH Bildquelle:Michael Latz/Bio Regio STERN Management GmbH

About BioRegio STERN Management GmbH:
BioRegio STERN Management GmbH is a skill-sharing network, providing a help and advice centre for founders of new businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers in the life sciences sector in the cities of Stuttgart, Tübingen, Esslingen and Reutlingen and the Stuttgart and Neckar-Alb regions. BioRegio STERN Management GmbH represents the interests of these market players in dealings with political circles, the media and associations and provides advice on grant applications and corporate financing. Key focal points include regenerative medicine, medical technology and the automation of biotechnology. Managing Director Dr. Klaus Eichenberg is a molecular and cell biologist and investment analyst.

BioRegio STERN Management GmbH
Diana Schwarz Public Relations Management
Friedrichstrasse 10
70174 Stuttgart
+49 (0)711-870354-23

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