If you stood on the first floor of the Swiss Institute for Translational and Entrepreneurial Medicine (sitem insel) and glanced upward, you would see a soaring glass building with transparent offices and staircases that seem to almost float in the air. The modern laboratory space, which CSL Behring scientists moved into in 2019, was built in the spirit of exchange and an open culture of innovation.
“By making interpersonal connections, we hope to unlock success stories in translational medicine,” said Simon Rothen, CEO of sitem insel.
Under sitem’s roof, the Clinic of Pneumology of the University Hospital of Bern, the new Bern biotech startup AlveoliX and CSL Behring, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of biotherapeutics, have come together to research and find treatments for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
The collaboration is particularly timely because ARDS, a life-threatening condition, was among the most serious impacts for patients infected with COVID-19. ARDS causes severe inflammation of the lungs.
“Acute respiratory failure can result from various harmful influences including acute inhalation injury and systemic or pulmonary infections, such as COVID-19,” said Dr. Manuela Funke-Chambour, Chief Physician at the Clinic of Pneumology of the University Hospital of Bern.
The collaborative team wants to better understand the occurrence and evolution of ARDS so they advance the development and supply of new medications to treat it.
“Since 2020, we have been developing what are known as organ-on-a-chip models in our laboratory at sitem insel. These are in-vitro models that allow us to mimic very accurately the way in which our bodies work,” said Dr. Nina Hobi, CEO and Scientific Director of the biotech startup AlveoliX. “For example, we can reproduce the structure and function of the human lung.”
“The AlveoliX model brings us close to the physiological conditions present in the human body, allowing us to test new product candidates at a very early stage in the development of treatments for respiratory diseases,” said Adrian Zuercher, Head of Research Europe at CSL Behring.
The collaboration is a win-win for both sides, Hobi said.
“CSL Behring is open to unconventional partnerships, enabling us, as a small company, to make the best-possible use of our skills and agility.”
Sitem’s CEO Simon Rothen added: “CSL Behring Research is a driving force for networked research within the sitem insel community, allowing us to achieve results faster as part of appropriate partnerships and, ultimately, to bring innovations to the patient more quickly.”