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Millions of people suffering from chronic or life-threatening diseases may soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief and no longer feel like the guinea pigs of the pharmaceutical industry. Whereas until now doctors have mainly used long-term therapies to combat the symptoms, an international research group, consisting of scientists from nine countries is now really concerned with the sustainable healing of diseases.

RESTORE is a research initiative led by the Center for Regenerative Therapies of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and Charité, which will conduct research in the field of new therapies, the so-called Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products, in order to implement these therapies on a long-term basis.

“Advanced therapies can revolutionize healthcare by restoring health rather than treating long-term diseases, as is currently the case,” explains Prof. Dr. Hans-Dieter Volk, Director of the Institute of Medical Immunology at the Charité and Director of the BIH Centre for Regenerative Therapies.

“We are seeing an increasing number of success stories in which patients can be cured in the final stages of their disease,” he stresses, but also warns against high expectations. “At the same time, there are still many obstacles to the use of these promising therapies in daily clinical practice. RESTORE offers us a unique opportunity to overcome these obstacles, both technically and in terms of production, clinical management and reimbursement. We are determined to translate future-oriented research into safe therapies and we will work together across disciplines and countries to achieve this goal.”

© Schröder/Charité

International cooperation

RESTORE is an international and interdisciplinary community of scientific institutions, hospitals, patient associations and industrial partners led by Professor Volk and his team. The core team consists of companies such as Charité, INSERM – Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche (France), University of Zurich (Switzerland), Miltenyi Biotec GmbH (Germany), TissUse GmbH (Germany), Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (UK), Pluristem Ltd (Israel), Innovation Acta S.r.l. (Italy), Fondazione Telethon Milan (Italy) and University of Minho (Portugal).

RESTORE’s objective of working towards therapies that effectively cure diseases is now also financially supported by the European Commission, which has initially agreed to a start-up funding of one million euros. The Commission has also encouraged researchers to further develop their concept and involve other scientists and institutions “to put Europe at the forefront of advanced therapies”.

Other EU support possible

“The decision to support RESTORE is a clear recognition of, firstly, the need for better treatment opportunities for patients in Europe, secondly, the high quality of European research in this field and, thirdly, the joint effort to become the world leaders in this important field through cooperation,” said Prof. Volk. “We will make every effort to involve all stakeholders, identify the challenges and further develop our plan for integrating advanced therapies into clinical practice so that every patient in Europe who can benefit from these new treatments has a real opportunity to do so.”

If RESTORE continues to be successful in advanced therapies, it will be launched as a major research initiative in the EU Framework Programme and can look forward to up to €1 billion in research projects for new therapies in the longer term.

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