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A drug discovery platform for early human embryogenesis.

Objective

The first weeks of human embryonic development are crucial. Early abnormalities or insults result not only in infertility, but also contribute to long-term impairment of human health (e.g. cardiovascular disease and diabetes). Managing the onset of pregnancy therefore offers a huge opportunity to improve public health through effective family planning and disease prevention.

To better manage pregnancy, biomedical research would require large numbers of human embryos for use in genetic and drug screening. Unfortunately, however, the scarcity of human embryos makes this impossible. Recently, hope for an alternative approach has come from work in my lab showing that mouse stem cells self-organize into structures closely resembling pre-implantation embryos (a.k.a. blastocysts), that we termed blastoids. Because stem cells can be largely expanded and genetically-modified, these synthetic embryos provide a powerful, scalable alternative that is amenable to drug and genetic screens, thus opening numerous possibilities for therapeutic breakthroughs.

Here, I propose the development of human blastoids and uterine organoids to model embryogenesis and uterine implantation in vitro. This platform will be used to identify potential targets for the therapeutic modulation of the molecular pathways that control (1) early embryogenesis and (2) interactions between the embryo and uterus, and will pave the way to (3) establishing a drug discovery pipeline for the management of implantation.

This project will generate key insights into druggable molecules controlling early human embryogenesis, facilitating identification of therapeutic targets to improve in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures and contraception and, ultimately, to prevent several chronic diseases.

Call for proposal

ERC-2020-COG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-COG - Consolidator Grant

Host institution

INSTITUT FUER MOLEKULARE BIOTECHNOLOGIE GMBH
Address
Dr Bohrgasse 3
1030 Wien
Austria
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
EU contribution
€ 2 000 000

Beneficiaries (1)

INSTITUT FUER MOLEKULARE BIOTECHNOLOGIE GMBH
Austria
EU contribution
€ 2 000 000
Address
Dr Bohrgasse 3
1030 Wien
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)