The SynEry project, funded under the European Innovation Council (EIC) within the framework of the European Union's research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe-EIC Pathfinder, has a total budget of 3.2 million euros over four years, finishing in March 2026.
The problem that the project adresses is the insufficient blood supply and elevated risks of transfusion-transmitted infections in less developed regions and in scenarios of natural disasters, pandemics or military conflicts. Donated blood might be essential to save lives.
Safe blood transfusions
The objective of the SynEry (Bottom-up reconstruction of a Synthetic Erythrocyte) is to provide a scalable, on demand artificial blood substitute, via the design of a Synthetic Erythrocyte facsimile that can be cost-effectively produced from the bottom-up using pharmaceutical-grade manufacturing facilities.
The project aims to reproduce the key features of erythrocytes. Researchers plan to mimic the erythrocyte cytoskeleton, its lipid asymmetry, functional proteins and response to the environment among others. The results will pave the way towards the synthesis of artificial cells with a long-term vision to develop an effective and universal blood substitute, to address the unmet medical need of safe blood transfusions.
In first instance, SynEry envisions providing a global solution in the field of transfusion medicine, yet the long-term vision and applicability goes far beyond: Erythrocytes could become an ideal drug delivery platform in other applications, the technology developed within the project could be used to build other artificial therapeutic cells, and the imaging technology developed could be applicable for other cardiovascular imaging.
The group at ICMAB, Chiara Distefano, Arántzazu González-Campo, Jorik Waeterschoot and Sara Battista | ICMAB, CSIC
The role of ICMAB in the project
From ICMAB, reserachers from the FunNanoSurf group participate in the project: Arántzazu González-Campo as PI, Chiara Distefano as PhD researcher, and Sara Battista as postdoctoral researcher. Currently Jorik Waeterschoot, from KU Leuven, is performing a secondment with us for 6 months.
The role of ICMAB in the project is to work on the biofunctionalization and characterization of the nanoparticles essential for the formation of red blood cells, like lipid vesicles. The main activity of the group will be the biofunctionalization of nanoparticles, and the study and control of their assembly and disassembly.
Jorik Waeterschoot, Chiara Distefano and Sara Battista at the ICMAB FunNanoSurf Lab | ICMAB, CSIC
The goals of the project will be tackled by an interdisciplinary consortium combining expertise on different areas, such as microfluidics, (bio)nanotechnology and in-vivo testing models. In addition to the KU Leuven (Belgium) as coordinator, the consortium is formed by the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB, CSIC), the Center for Nanomedicine and Tissue Engineering – CNTE (Italy), and the Integrated Biology of Red Blood Cell – Université Paris Cité – INSERM UMR 1134 (France).
On 28-29 April 2022, the kickoff meeting of the SynEry project was held in Leuven. It was a great opportunity to interact in person with all consortium partners and establish the first collaborative activities to ensure the timely delivery of the project milestones. The partners and collaborators had the opportunity to get to know each other personally during the meeting.
SynEry selected for the EIC Bootcamp
SynEry was one of the 16 projects selected for the EIC Bootcamp 4.0, organized as part of the Tech to Market Business Acceleration Services (BAS) Programme. A virtual four-day initiative of intensive training in entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. The EIC Innovation Bootcamp 4.0 aims to help researchers navigate through the entrepreneurial world and acquire the right skills to successfully exit the lab with a technology or product ready for the market.
Additionally, the selected projects have access to the EIT Alumni Mentorship Programme.
The SynEry project has received funding from the Horizon Europe programme under grant agreement No 101046894.