VEO: Winner of Proefdiervrij Venture Challenge 2023

On Friday the 21st of April 2023, Proefdiervrij announced VEO as the winner of this year’s Venture Challenge. As the winner, VEO received €25,000 from the Proefdiervrij Foundation to further implement human organoids as the animal-free alternative for human virus research.

Proefdiervrij Venture Challenge

In the past decade, we have seen many developments made in animal-free innovations. However, how are researchers going to valorise new technologies to allow patients to benefit the most from these innovations?

The Proefdiervrij Venture Challenge, organized by the Dutch Society for the Replacement of Animal Testing (DSRAT), is a programme that helps researchers set up a venture plan in which scientific breakthroughs are converted into solid business plans. During this programme, experts of the GameChanger Challenge guide researchers to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills while increasing the impact of using animal-free alternatives in research.

Meet VEO

At Amsterdam UMC, researchers at VEO (Viral Experts Organoids) are developing human respiratory tract, gut and brain organoids to test efficacy of innovative candidate antiviral drugs in order to increase the success rate of drug development and provide solutions for personalized virus medicine.

The VEO team consists of five researchers from OrganoVIR Labs, Giulia Moreni (PhD student), Inés García-Rodríguez (PhD student) Carlemi Calitz (Postdoc Researcher), Katja Wolthers (Head of OrganoVIR Labs), Adithya Sridhar (Principal Investigator) and Dasja Pajkrt (Head of OrganoVIR Labs). Together, VEO is working to implement human organoids as the ideal animal-free alternative for preclinical antiviral drug screening.

Why human organoids?

Results from using laboratory animal studies to test antiviral drugs show a very low predictive value. In fact, over 90% of antiviral drug treatments tested on animals fail in humans. After all, animal organs and human organs are very different from one another. Therefore, using animal models for human virus research does not provide accurate results.

A human organoid is a miniature and simplified version of a human organ. Human organoids contain the DNA of their donor, meaning that it carries the personal characteristics of the donor. As a result, human organoids are able to accurately show virus infections similar to those in humans and can test antiviral drugs in this human derived model.

Implementing an animal-free alternative may be challenging. However, as winners of the 2023 Proefdiervrij Venture Challenge, VEO is determined to propel the use of human organoids in research for human diseases and preclinical drug research. A future with animal-free research may be closer than you think!

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