A FEW INTRODUCTORY WORDS…
In 2008, the combined European biomaterial market was worth €271.4 million. Within the BioAlps region, several teams are working on drug delivery and biomaterials. Drug delivery can be defined as the method and route used to provide medication, for example, PO (by mouth), IV (intravenous), IM (intramuscular), intrathecal, intratumoral, and spinal. Biomaterials are materials designed in order to ensure that our bodies do not reject them.
Biomaterials are used to manufacture prostheses, implants, and surgical instruments. They can be natural (e.g. collagen, cellulose) or synthetic (e.g. metallic, alloy, ceramic, plastic, and others). Tissue engineering is a particularly exciting area of biomaterials that opens up new research and therapeutic perspectives.
FROM FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH IN ACADEMIA...
The EPFL’s Surface Chemistry and Biomaterials Group (SCBG) offers several levels of courses on biomaterials, from Bachelor degree to Doctorate. The Master degree includes teaching in biomaterials, biomimetic materials, nanomaterials and optimisation of materials. In the field of dentistry, where new biomaterials are indispensable, there are several undergraduate and postgraduate courses, in Geneva and Lausanne. The University of Geneva offers Bachelors and Masters degrees in dentistry, as well as vocational training. The University of Lausanne offers Doctoral courses in the life sciences that span several disciplines. The University of Bern has several departments involved in dento-facial orthopedics and dental surgery, with postgraduate training courses.
Within the BioAlps cluster, research teams are investigating new biomaterials and new drug delivery mechanisms. There are several teams within the EPFL working on different aspects of biomaterials. At the EPFL, the Laboratory of Biomechanical Orthopaedics is one group which focuses on translating the results obtained in the lab to a therapeutic solution for patients.
A close collaboration with the Department of the locomotor apparatus (DAL) of the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) collaborates closely with the team. Another group, the Surface Chemistry and Biomaterials Group (SCBG) is involved in research on biomedical materials based on calcium phosphates such as bone substitution materials, templates for bone tissue engineering, carriers for sustained drug delivery systems, and stationary phases for chromatographic separation of biological molecules.
SCBG investigates biodegradable synthetic bone substitutes (synthetic bone graft) for clinical applications in the fields of dental and maxillo-facial surgery, osteosynthesis, vertebroplasty, arthroplasty and palliative treatment of osteoporosis. SCBG holds a leading position in two fields : injectable bone grafting materials based on Calcium Phosphate Hydraulic Cements (CPHC), and synthetic bone macrografts made of Chemically Hardened Calcium Phosphate Ceramics.
...TO TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH
The EPFL Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine and Pharmacobiology works intensively in biomaterials, with applications in tissue engineering and drug delivery in mind. The materials focus is biological activity, whether the design and use of biological or biomimetic molecules, or the development of materials that can respond to biological signals.
Applications foci at the moment are regenerative medicine, especially angiogenesis, bone healing, chronic dermal wound healing, and nerve regeneration; delivery of drugs to the cytoplasm or the nucleus, especially delivery of plasmid DNA and antisense oligonucleotides across the plasma membrane and into the appropriate intracellular targets; delivery of anticancer or antiproliferative drugs in difficult-to-reach loci using biological trafficking, especially within the peritoneum, the coronary artery wall, and the lymphatics; and development of immunomodulatory technology for vaccination and for tolerance induction.
The department strives to conceptualize new chemical approaches to materials for medicine and to drive them from concept to clinical evaluation. One material has been taken to clinic and marketplace (photopolymerized PEG- based macromers as a lung sealant), and two others are in clinical testing (two bioactive materials, one in chronic wound repair and one in bone repair).
The EPFL participates in the Competence Centre for Materials Science and Technology (CCMX), one of several centres of excellence. It aims to serve the interests of Switzerland in the field of materials science in terms of research, education and technology transfer by reinforcing ties between academia, industry and the Swiss economy.
Bern University’s School of Dental Medicine (ZMK) not only treats run of the mill dental problems, it also carries out research into reconstructive dental surgery, new materials for implants and computer generated modelling. The MEM Research Center, composed of the Institutes of Surgical Technology and Biomechanics (ISTB) and Evaluative Research in Orthopaedic Surgery (IEFO), are a part of the medical faculty of the University of Bern.
The University of Bern, its Medical Faculty together with the University Hospital (Inselspital) is establishing a medical technology platform termed Artificial Organ Center for Biomedical Engineering Research to promote a strong research programme.
Even though the biomaterials sector is relatively young, there are already a number of start-ups in the BioAlps cluster working in the field in areas as diverse as hair loss and artificial muscles. Other, well-established companies, such as Debio R.P., based in the Valais, world leader in polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA)-based injectable, sustained-release technology, are also based in this region.For more detailed information please click here.
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