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DBT calls for concept proposals for research in stem cell and regenerative medicine

Our Bureau, New Delhi
Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has floated a request for concept proposals from Indian academic and scientific institutions in the area of stem cell and regenerative medicine, with an aim to support development of organoid pipelines, disease models and animal models for human diseases.

The Department has invited concept proposals on “Developing stem cell-based models for disease & drug testing, and animal models to establish safety and efficacy of stem cells for potential applications as therapy for human diseases” for consideration under its Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Programme.

Applications are expected to have defined Milestones and Timelines detailing how the project will move forward with well defined deliverables and expected outcomes. Interested investigators or clinical researchers or scientists qualifying the pre-requisites conditions can submit the Concept Proposals through the DBT eProMIS portal on or before November 25, 2022.

The DBT elaborated that organoids and tissues differentiated from stem cells are a promising resource for disease modelling, drug screening and regenerative medicine as these can faithfully capture tissue organization, bridging standard cell culture approaches and in- vivo animal models. However, focused research efforts are needed to address issues of low reproducibility and variability as well as overcome other barriers to the use of organoids and stem cell-based pipelines as standards for drug screening, disease modeling etc.

While organoids are the future, the testing of medical treatments in animal models for safety and efficacy is an essential requirement before initiation of clinical trials in humans. Robust animal models with a high degree of pathophysiological similarity to the human disease model are required in order to readily extrapolate the dosage, route of administration, and treatment outcomes to humans.

Emerging technologies like stem cell and gene therapy pose unique challenges for the evaluation of their safety and efficacy. Larger animal models are required for accurate modeling of bone, cartilage, skin, lung, pancreas, liver, intestine, cardiac, neurological, renal and other organ’s injury, and evaluate corresponding treatments. Longer lived animal models are required for studying long-term effects of therapies as well as chronic and degenerative diseases.

“With the increasing availability of gene editing tools and decreasing costs of genome sequencing, it is now possible to rapidly develop the use of stem cells and animal models for various purposes. This request for proposals will support organoids and stem cell-based pipelines for drug screening; stem cell based models of disease for diagnosis, drug discovery and screening; animal models to establish safety and efficacy of stem cells for human diseases relevant to the Indian subcontinent,”said the Department.

The focus of the Concept proposal may include protocols for development of reproducible organoids with low/none variability as models for disease; development of drug screening pipelines using organoids; 3D printing using medical waste for development of organoids to model disease or drug screening pipelines; induced (chemical/ physical) animal models for bone, cartilage, skin, lung, pancreas, intestine, liver, kidney, cardiac, neurological and other organ’s injury, and evaluation of stem cell based substitutes. Rabbit and larger animal models are to be preferred in the project.

Besides, the focus may also be into breeding approaches for combination rodent models, such as immunocompromised + specific disease, particularly for evaluation of stem cell xenografting; development of humanized mouse/rat/guinea pig models to evaluate immunological responses against human stem cell- derived grafts; animal models for studying long-term effects of cell and gene therapies, and degenerative diseases; and animal models for evaluating safety of stem cell and gene therapy.

Collaborative proposals may be submitted by public and private universities, colleges, Institutes, and non-profit organizations recognized by DSIR as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (SIRO). The Academic centers may preferably be linked with a medical/veterinary institute. These centers/institutes/hospitals should have well defined teams of basic scientists, clinicians and animal handlers. Basic science team should have a strong background in the areas of molecular biology, cell biology, immunology, and a track record of performing animal experiments. At least one partner institute should have established animal houses and experimentation facilities that would meet regulatory requirements for the proposed studies. Coordination between groups working across species is highly encouraged. All concept proposals must adhere to statutory regulatory requirements, it added.


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