The latest round of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument has seen the successful funding of a Luxembourgish SME, Braingineering Technologies, which has been positively evaluated for a Phase 1 project.

SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) that are EU-based or established in a country associated with Horizon 2020 can get EU funding and support for “breakthrough innovation projects with a market-creating potential” under the revamped SME instrument, which has been rolled out as part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot. The SME Instrument supports high-risk, high-potential SMEs to develop and bring to market new products, services and business models that could drive economic growth.

The SME Instrument, which from 2018 has become an integral part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Pilot, is an extremely competitive funding instrument, with an overall success rate of 8.4% for Phase 1 and 5.5% for Phase 2. Phase 1 aims at supporting the company in getting a grip on the R&D, technical feasibility and commercial potential of a ground-breaking, innovative idea and developing it into a credible business plan for scaling it up. Projects receive a lump sum of € 50,000 and last around 6 months. Phase 2 helps the companies in developing their business concept further into a market-ready product, service or process aligned with the growth strategy; projects, lasting 12 to 24 months, are funded between € 0.5 and € 2.5 million.

Braingineering Technologies (BTech), the “brainchild” of Professor Jens Schwamborn, is a young and innovative spin-off company from the Luxembourg Centre of Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), an interdisciplinary centre of the University of Luxembourg. BTech cultures human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in a specific environment, thereby stimulating the development of so-called mini-brain organoids. These 3D structures, unlike traditional cell culture models, largely mimic the organisation and function of a real brain. Importantly, because these mini-brains can be cultured in arrays on microfluidic plates, they can be used for drug screening in a more cost and time efficient manner than would be possible with animal testing.

Furthermore, as iPSCs can nowadays be easily derived directly from a small biopsy (e.g. from Parkinson’s patients), the respective mini-brains carry exactly the same mutations as the patient, thus allowing for the development of truly personalised medicine. BTech uses their proprietary model to do pre-clinical drug testing and toxicology studies for pharmaceutical companies to identify new treatments for Parkinson’s disease. The support and coaching that BTech will receive through the first phase of the SME instrument will contribute to their consolidation and business development in the biotech sector.

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