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This project aims to enhance a cutting-edge bone organoid technology developed at the Laboratory for Bone Biomechanics. Our goal is to create a personalized diagnostic system for bone-related conditions. Within the project funded by PHRT we focus on osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a rare genetic bone disorder affecting a small number of individuals. The main objective is to predict how patients with OI might respond to different drugs. OI affects fewer than 1 in 2000 individuals and leads to significant challenges like limited mobility, frequent fractures, and limb deformities due to irregular collagen structure. Current treatments like bisphosphonates have their limitations, and development of new drugs is slow. Our project seeks to improve drug testing by combining various techniques such as micro-CT imaging, mechanical property measurements, biomarker assessments, and next-generation sequencing. The ultimate aim is to deepen our understanding of OI, refine preclinical drug testing methods, and offer valuable insights into personalized disease models. This could potentially revolutionize treatment options for a disorder that currently lacks effective therapies.
One of our key challenges is to stay focused on our main goal: Ensuring that the results we get from our experiments actually help both patients and clinicians in their practical work. While working on the project, we come across technical and experimental difficulties quite often. Interestingly, these challenges often lead us to new scientific questions. It’s a bit like when Alice enters the rabbit hole. But our main aim is still to produce results that can be used in real-world clinics. To do this, it’s really important for us to keep interacting and collaborating with our clinical partners.
I’m particularly proud of the PHRT project as it represents the first grant I independently authored and secured after my PhD. Despite encountering initial setbacks because my first submission was not granted, my resilience shines through. Adapting to feedback, revising and enhancing the grant, and ultimately securing the necessary funds – which played a pivotal role in funding my own salary – stand as my greatest accomplishments. In essence, the PHRT project marked my initial stride towards independence.
What I truly love about working in the ETH Domain is the chance to interact with many smart, motivated, and fascinating individuals. The ETH Domain has a strong reputation that attracts students eager to learn new skills and to challenge themselves in demanding projects. Supporting and guiding these students in their research work keeps me motivated, even when we face big obstacles along the way.
My biggest dream has always been to establish a startup that truly makes a positive impact on society and people, driven by the outcomes of my research. The PHRT project has been instrumental in bringing me closer to realizing that dream. Right from the grant-writing stage, I started envisioning how the results of our research could directly benefit clinical practices. In fact, I’ve already taken a significant step towards turning this dream into reality by initiating the creation of CompagOs AG. Our immediate goal is to offer an alternative to animal models for developing treatments for bone-related health issues like osteogenesis imperfecta, bone cancer, and bone metastases. Ultimately, we’re aiming for clinical applications that assist physicians in creating personalized treatment plans through patient-specific drug efficacy tests. There is still a long road ahead of me, and I am grateful that PHRT supported me in my first steps!