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Research models in infection, cancer and regeneration: replacement and translation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REMODEL (Research models in infection, cancer and regeneration: replacement and translation)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-01-31

REMODEL is a collaboration project aiming to increase capacity to work with advanced 3D model systems in biomedical research. REMODEL combines the existing local expertise in bioengineering, cancer and infectious diseases at the host institution IBMC-i3S with partners at the frontline in developing organoid systems, manipulating them to fit specific purposes and validating their use as models, in order to build capacity to work with innovative model systems that can replace animal experiments and increase translational relevance. In doing so, REMODEL addresses a key issue in today’s biomedical research: how non-animal model systems can be developed to meet the needs for translationally relevant research in the era of precision and personalized medicine, whilst at the same time accounting for societal pressure to replace animal experiments. REMODEL will capacitate the coordinating institution, IBMC-i3S, through the establishment of organoid advanced in vitro models and their customization for the main areas of research (infection, cancer and tissue regeneration).


REMODEL addresses the following specific objectives:
o To develop scientific and technical capacity in the coordinating institution to use organoids and advanced in vitro model systems for studying cancer, infection and tissue regeneration
o To equip ESRs with the scientific skills to use organoids and advanced in vitro model systems to address research questions in doctoral and postdoctoral research projects
o To train and mentor ESRs in international interdisciplinary research environments and equip them with transferable skills for careers in different sectors
o To develop a training program in innovative biomedical model research to be implemented in the coordinating and the partner institutions
o To highlight the role of innovative biomedical research models in different research contexts
o To set up the first Portuguese 3Rs knowledge centre
This report covers the first 15 months of the REMODEL project, November 2019 to January 2021.

The development of training activities, a significant part of the project, has been focused on training workshops held in loco by the host institution IBMC-i3S. Two editions of a hands-on workshop, on “Organoids and Advanced 3D in Vitro Models for Research in Health and Disease” were held in 2020, with contributions from REMODEL partners in the form of online lectures and one-on-one teleconference sessions with students. This was complemented with practical classes, and an elearning portfolio was developed specifically to support the practical classes. This e-learning allowed the students to see the entire experimental procedures on video before performing them themselves.

Individualized training for host institution researchers is integrated with the implementation of new research models at IBMC-i3S. The workshops already had the intended effect of showcasing the REMODEL project within the host institution, giving rise to collaborations with research groups within the i3S in which PhD students receive training and support in setting up organoids for their respective PhD projects. Two organoids have been established so far. Standard operating procedures for gastro-intestinal organoids have been established.

The first important step towards the creation of a Portuguese 3Rs centre was taken as this ambition is integrated into the strategic plan for 2021-25 for the host institution.

With focus on Early Stage Researchers, students are being co-supervised by REMODEL team members, transferrable training courses have been organized and scheduled and a mentoring strategy has been established.

Project outreach is taking place through the project website and Twitter account.
REMODEL will contribute to raising the research profile of the institution and scientific skills of its staff developed through training schools and short-term scientific training periods as well as transferable skills training and mentoring of Early Stage researchers, but also through staff participation in international conferences presenting work within the REMODEL themes / framework. Organoids as experimental models are at the frontline of methodological development in biomedicine, and demonstrating competence in working with such models will place IBMC-i3S in the spotlight in an international research context, and make the institution an attractive partner for future collaborations beyond the REMODEL network.

IBMC-i3S is already a national leader in the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) of animal experimentation, and REMODEL represents a crucial step towards establishing the first Portuguese 3R centre at i3S. On the European level, REMODEL represents an important initiative to bring together key partners in the development of innovative models to overcome the present fragmentation of European organoid research and move towards applications in animal replacement.
Organoids under development at IBMC