Globally, one out of 100 children is born with a heart defect. In some severe cases, a heart valve or blood vessel functions poorly or may even be missing.
Such congenital heart defects are commonly treated today by replacing the missing or damaged part with synthetic prosthetic materials. Unlike direct transplant of tissue from human donors, such artificial materials are not rejected by the recipient's immune system. However, a major drawback of these materials is that these grafts need to be replaced regularly as the child grows, thus requiring repeated surgery and lifelong medical treatment.
A multidisciplinary team from Wyss Zurich has developed a unique tissue engineering technology to grow replacement tissue in the laboratory, which will be compatible with every patient, regenerate and grow with the recipient. To create this tissue, cells of human origin are first grown in culture on a scaffold in the shape of a heart valve or blood vessel. In a process called decellularization, the cells are then removed, leaving behind a perfectly shaped, biologically neutral human tissue matrix called LifeMatrix. After implantation, the recipient's own cells will repopulate the LifeMatrix, replacing the biodegradable scaffold; and this tissue will continue to grow with the child. Such grafts will avoid repeated major surgery and its associated risks.
Previous work on autologous and personalized cellular tissues (patient receives tissue grown from his own body), which already obtained approval for a pilot clinical study by the german authority (PEI), is the basis for this next generation tissue engineering technology. The aim of the Wyss Zurich project is to bring the LifeMatrix technology into the clinic with a first-in-man clinical trial.
Download LifeMatrix fact sheet
Swiss Higher Education Council
University Hospital Zurich
Empa - Materials Science and Technology
Maximilian Emmert is a cardiac surgeon and translational scientist with extensive clinical and academic experience. He has more than 10 years of research experience in the fields of regenerative medicine, stem cell therapies and tissue engineering. Since 2008, Maximilian is working in the Clinic for Cardiovascular Surgery at the University Hospital Zurich and in the Regenerative Medicine Program (REMEDI) at the University of Zurich. In 2009, he was awarded a scholarship by the Swiss National Science Foundation, “Special Program University Medicine” to conduct a project on “Advanced cardiac cell therapies”. Maximilian was also awarded the Pfizer Research Prize and the Annual Award of the Swiss Cardiac Surgery Society in 2012. In the same year, he obtained his habilitation in minimally-invasive, transcatheter tissue engineered heart valve therapies from the University of Zurich; and received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering focusing on "Translational therapies to repair the heart" from the Eindhoven University of Technology a year later.
Nico Angliker joined the LifeMatrix project in July 2016 and will support the translational research and development of new LifeMatrix products. Nico holds a Master in Cell Biology from the University of Berne and received his PhD in Neuroscience from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel for analyzing the role of the mTOR signaling pathway in the brain using genetically modified mice. Prior to his PhD, he worked for more than five years in the pharmaceutical industry (Berna Biotech, Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd.). In Actelion’s Cardiovascular & Fibrosis Biology Group, he developed cell-based assays for compound profiling and screening campaigns. In 2010, he and his colleagues received the Actelion Team Award for establishing and improving label-free analysis methods for mammallian cells.
Brigitte Angst joined the LifeMatrix team in January 2016. Assisting with quality management and quality control matters, Brigitte supports the translation of LifeMatrix production processes within a fully GMP-compliant environment. Furthermore, she collaborates with the Wyss Zurich Regenerative Medicine Platform to implement the ISO 13485 quality management system for the LifeMatrix project. Brigitte studied biochemistry at ETH Zurich. In 2012, she received her PhD in molecular biology at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics (ETH Zurich), where she worked towards the structural elucidation of the ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling process.
Karsten Bagger joined Wyss Zurich in November 2017 and is responsible for the Business Development of the LifeMatrix project. Karsten holds a Master in Finance and Accounting from Copenhagen Business School and combines experience from banking as well as heading up startups. He has spent 7 years in the financial sector, amongst others working at UBS AG as an investment strategist and Project Manager in Wealth Management and the Investment Bank (Zürich and London). He has experience with market access and commercialization of medical products in Africa and has helped several MedTech and digital health startup with fundraising and company building. He co-led the startup, Kessel International AG, as the CFO to secure investments and build the operations in Mexico and Colombia. Recently, Karsten has worked as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UBS AG to validate early-stage business ideas for UBS Wealth Management.
Daniela Bukatz joined the LiveMatrix Team at the Wyss Zurich in October 2017. Together with the other technicians, she is responsible for the GMP production of the tissue-engineered constructs in the Wyss Zurich clean room facility. Daniela was trained as Biology Lab Technician at the “Chemieschule Göttingen” in 1997. For the past 14 years she has gathered extensive experience in cell and molecular biology working for different research groups at Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen, University Hospital Freiburg im Breisgau, University Zurich and at the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences.
Tim Kästner joined the LiveMatrix Team at Wyss Zurich in May 2018. He is responsible for the GMP production and development of novel tissue-engineered constructs in the clean room facility at Wyss Zurich. Tim was trained as Biotechnology Lab Technician in 2008. He already developed several assays for the pre-clinical and clinical phase at Covagen AG, a former ETH Spin-Off, which was acquired by Janssen Pharmaceuticals in 2014. After a travel in 2015, he started in Sales, selling microscopes for Nikon Switzerland AG. After two years as sales representative, he decided to move back into scientific environment.
Matthias Meier joined the LifeMatrix team in June 2016. He is responsible for the GMP-compliant production of the tissue-engineered constructs as well as the development and improvement of the LifeMatrix technology. Matthias was trained as a Biology Technician (EFZ, “Eidgenössischer Fähigkeitsausweis”) at Novartis; and he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences. He has several years of experience in the field of cardiovascular tissue engineering as well as extensive cell culture expertise in both, industrial and academic settings. Matthias previously worked in various organizations, including the University Children’s Hospital in Zurich, the University of Bern, as well as Symetis AG, Redbiotec AG and Redvax GmbH.
Clinical Trial Manager
Michael Stader joined the LifeMatrix Team at Wyss Zurich in April 2018. He is responsible for the management and coordination of the clinical trials developed within the LifeMatrix project. After a professional training as nurse and subsequent work in a central operating theatre, Michael has spent the last 11 years in the clinical trial sector. He gathered comprehensive experience in the conduction of clinical trials as Clinical Research Associate for medical device studies at St. Jude Medical in Zurich and as Study Coordinator at University Hospital Zurich (Department for Cardiovascular Surgery), where he was responsible for the coordination and conduct of sponsored as well as investigator-initiated trials.
René Stenger is the Technology Expert for production of tissue-engineered matrices. As a chemist with a postgraduate “Diplom” in Medicine-Technology-Management (Bern University of Applied Sciences), he has long lasting experience in the highly regulated industrial environment of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. In his former positions in several spin-off companies, as well as the Swiss Center for Regenerative Medicine of the University Hospital Zurich, he accompanied various translational projects in the field of regenerative medicine, e.g. a First-In-Man clinical study to evaluate the safety of autologous tissue-engineered dermal and dermal-epidermal skin substitutes for the treatment of large deep partial- and full-thickness skin defects in Children and Adolescent (University Children’s Hospital Zurich) and an open, monocentric phase I/II trial to assess the safety and feasibility of the autologous SCRM001_TEVG in pediatric patients with a congenital single ventricle heart defect.