Competition to spur on innovation

Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced the winners of a competition aimed ultimately at helping patients who are waiting for donated organs. The top prizes in the Organersatz aus dem Labor (Laboratory-Grown Replacement Organs) contest were taken by projects dedicated to generating cardiac and pancreatic tissue.

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The challenge is one of three the BMBF holds to promote disruptive pilot innovations that are of particular technological and social significance.

Researchers from all over Germany were invited to take part in the spring of 2019 for this year's event. The focus was on the five organs that are most frequently needed for transplants: the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and pancreas.

At virtual finals held in May, the six remaining contenders presented their vision of how they would approach growing replacement organs in the lab. At stake were a EUR three million first prize, EUR two million for second place, and EUR one million for the group finishing third.

The 3D-Heart-2B project from the medical school hospital in Hanover, the MMH, was awarded the top prize for bio-engineered three-dimensional, implantable cardiac tissue to support the heart. A team of researchers from the University Medical Center in Göttingen and Leibniz University Hanover among others, took second place. Its project, IndiHEART (Individual Cardiac Muscular Systems for Treating Cardiac Insufficiency), also used pluripotent stem cells to produce human cardiac tissue. A project based at the Helmholtz Center in Munich, e-Islet, received third prize. A cooperative effort involving four Helmholtz diabetes groups, e-Islet is working to produce islet cells from inducible pluripotent stem cells.

The BMBF's use of competitions to foster innovation is outlined in its High Tech Strategy 2025. The export initiative for the German healthcare industry, HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY, is the place to learn more about how the German government promotes innovation in medicine and healthcare.