SUMMARY: The core expertise of my research group is the creation and application of enabling in vitro technologies that mimic the host-microbe interphase with particular focus on mucosal microenvironments. Model systems such as M-SHIME (a mucosa containing dynamic gut model) and HMI (host microbe interaction model) can be used to generate mechanistic insight in host-microbe interactions and complement in vivo observations. This is particularly important to increase our understanding of how the microbiome can modulate host health, either through production of specific metabolites, establishing colonization resistance against pathogens, modulating immunity, triggering local inflammation etc…. Such dynamic human gut models allow the screening of a wide variety of candidate drugs, functional foods and/or feeds before a more narrow selection enters the stage of in vivo trials.
Moreover, having control over simulated gut microenvironments, including the integration of epithelial cells, goblet cells and macrophage like cells, allows our research team to mechanistically understand microbe-host interactions and tease out microbial subpopulations that fulfil crucial functions in the human gut, either by facilitating crucial metabolic conversions, strengthening epithelial barrier or modulating immune response. This fundamental research formed the basis for a granted patent wherein microbial consortia have been identified that can be applied in live biotherapeutic strategies to curb disease and induce or prolong remission. This novel class of live biotherapeutic products has recently entered the stage of Phase 1b/2a clinical trials in the context of ulcerative colitis.