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 Emmert 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 Emmert 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 Ph.D. 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 Angliker holds a Master in Cell Biology from the University of Berne and received his Ph.D. 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 Ph.D., 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.
Tel: +41 44 634 55 62
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 Ph.D. 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.
Tel: +41 44 634 56 34
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 Meier 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 Meier 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.
Tel: +41 44 634 56 90
Business Development Lead
Dr. Francesco Pasqualini joined Wyss Zurich in Sept 2016, after being a group leader and scientific coordinator in the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Zurich and the Disease Biophysics Group at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. In these capacities, Francesco managed Ph.D. students and post-doctoral fellows on multi-million dollar research grants and industry collaborations. He has co-/authored international patents and research papers published in Science, Nature, and Cell journals. Francesco’s work focused on i) biophysically-descriptive computational models of human cardiac cells; ii) tissue-engineered cell culture platforms, organs-on-chips, for drug testing and disease modeling; and iii) quality assurance platforms for stem cell biology and regenerative medicine applications. Francesco serves as a reviewer for international journals and funding agencies, as an external expert for Life Sciences consulting firms, and a member for the Standards Coordinating Body for Gene, Cell and Regenerative Medicines and Cell-based Drug Discovery.
GMP Production Technician
Fabian Schläpfer has joined the LifeMatrix team in June 2015 and is responsible for production, analysis and development of further LifeMatrix products in a regulated environment. Fabian Schläpfer was educated as a Biology Technician (EFZ, “Eidgenössischer Fähigkeitsausweis”) at ETH Zurich. He has several years of pharmaceutical industry experience.
Tel: +41 44 634 56 90
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.
Oliver Weingart joined Wyss Zurich in May 2016. He is responsible for the LifeMatrix clinical trial management and coordination. Oliver Weingart received his “Diplom” in Biology from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (2007) and his Ph.D. from the Department of Health Sciences and Technology of ETH Zurich (2011) for his studies in toxicology and bioanalytics of pharmaceutical toxins. In 2014, he was awarded the Pioneer Fellowship by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab of ETH Zurich to evaluate the business potential of an analytical method for Botox pharmaceutical testing. Previously, Oliver Weingart worked at the Swiss Federal Institute for NBC-protection (Labor Spiez) and was a visiting scientist at the University of Barcelona, RKI Berlin and the University of Göttingen. He was awarded a research grant by the 3R Research Foundation Switzerland.
Tel: +41 44 634 39 67