ICAR 2023 with Joana & Jana

Between the 13th to 17th of March 2023, two members of our consortium, Joana Rocha-Pereira and Jana Van Dycke from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) traveled to Lyon, France to attend the 36th International Conference on Antiviral Research (ICAR). ICAR is an annual event where scientists in the areas of basic, applied and clinical research gather to review recent developments made in antiviral drug discovery and development. From panel discussions about women in science to poster presentations, here is a recap of ICAR 2023 with our researchers, Joana and Jana.

A Recap of ICAR 2023

Although photographs were not allowed at the event, we were still able to gather insights into the conference. Aligned with International Women’s Day, the conference began with an excellent panel discussion on “Women in Science” (chaired by Kara Carter, Evotec’s Entrepreneur in Residence and ICAR President), where our very own partner from KU Leuven, Joana Rocha-Pereira was an invited panelist. Joana is an Assistant Professor at the Rega Institute at KU Leuven, Belgium where she supervises one of our postdoc researchers, Jana van Dycke.

At the conference, Joana presented a poster, titled “High-content antiviral screening assay for enteric viruses using human intestinal organoids”, which described the possibility of using gut organoids as a drug screening platform for antiviral agents. The research presented in Joana’s poster was conducted for the OrganoVIR project, another EU-funded consortium, and was performed by an Early Stage Researcher (ESR), Nanci Ferreira (Joana was Nanci’s PI at OrganoVIR). Her poster highlighted the potential of this innovative approach to revolutionize antiviral drug discovery.

On the other hand, Jana van Dycke presented her research poster, titled “A gut-immune model system using human intestinal enteroids to identify antivirals targeting enteric viruses and the host immune response”. Her poster, which garnered plenty of interest and generated insightful discussions, focused on investigating human norovirus infection of differentiated HIEs seeded on transwell inserts, as well as her efforts to establish an immune-gut co-culture with human macrophages. Jana’s research is a component of the complete gut-brain axis model that the consortium aims to establish.

Combining expertise to build gut-brain axis organ-on-chip

Our project combines expertise in organ-on-chip technology, 3D printing, bioengineering, organoids and virology to develop a gut-brain axis organ-on-chip (OoC). As one of the seven beneficiaries involved in the GUTVIBRATIONS project, KU Leuven is contributing to the project through its expertise in antiviral testing, virology and cell cultures. Furthermore, KU Leuven is also responsible for providing gut and brain organoids, which are one of the three components that form the basis of the gut-brain axis OoC. 

By combining gut and brain organoids with STACKS and biosilk (both are provided by other beneficiaries within our consortium), we will build the next-generation gut-brain axis organ-on-chip, which will provide an animal-free alternative for virus research and drug development.