News from the Cluster

Clust-ER Health at B.T. Expo 2023

This year again, the participation in BT Expo Shomed, an event organized by Modenafiere with the support of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and the Clust-ER Health for the conference part, has proved to be an excellent opportunity for networking and exploration of the issues that are most strategic for the biomedical sector in the region and, in particular, for the actors that are part of the supply chain of medical devices.

Not only that: the participation of international entities has also been intensified. In addition to the delegation from the Thuringia region, whose visit was organized by the Italian-German Chamber of Commerce (ITKAM), there were also representatives of the Romanian cluster Imago-Mol, a partner with which Clust-ER Health already has some active European projects on the topic of radiopharmaceuticals.

In addition to the important dissemination of European activities and projects in which the Clust-ER is involved, not least the new edition of the level II master MABIOMED for which Prof. Focarete had the opportunity to provide information to the many students present, we proposed a series of workshops in collaboration with other local actors. Biomaterials, packaging, training and opportunities for collaboration on the theme of nuclear medicine were the main topics, which allowed us to make foreign delegations aware of the state of the art and the challenges that our realities are facing.

Thuringia and Romania meet the regional ecosystem

Among the activities organised to facilitate the meeting between the delegations of Thuringia and Romania with local actors, the visit to the Technopole of Mirandola and the presentation in the lounge area of B.T. Expo served to highlight the activities from the scientific point of view and to introduce researchers directly involved. At the Technopole, they had the opportunity to meet the Director Annalisa Delnevo, the Scientific Director Aldo Tomasi and Dott. Tommaso Trenti, Department Director at the Modena Local Health Authority, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathological Anatomy.

The afternoon was the occasion to present in more detail both Clust-ER Health and the European projects in which it is involved, as well as the Imago-Mol cluster of Romania, with references to the topics it mainly deals with on the territory.

Biomaterials: from the BIOMATDB project to technology transfer

The first of the events was built on the theme of biomaterials, of high importance for the Clust-ER Health, and allowed numerous points of view to be presented, starting from the great work carried out within the European BIOMATDB project of which the Cluster is a partner. The construction of a database for better and more effective retrieval of information is currently underway and the testing and validation phase will soon begin which will involve different types of end users such as researchers, suppliers, manufacturers, students and all those who, regardless of experience level, need to work on it.

And what are the ongoing activities in terms of applied research and technology transfer? Prof. Laura Calzà, Dr. Anna Tampieri and Dr. Simone Sprio spoke about it during the event, addressing issues such as the use of biomaterials for the release of drugs and the study of materials such as hydroxyapatite for applications in the field of tissue regeneration. Finally, an intervention not to be missed on the very current regulatory theme, a fundamental step to determine what can actually be introduced on the market among all the solutions that have been studied, where Prof. Tomasi highlighted the major current critical issues for the sector.

Sustainable packaging: a cultural frame for new solutions

It opened exactly like this, with an overview aimed at highlighting the trends that can be found today in the packaging field and at clarifying the concept of sustainability, too often linked to marketing logic. “There are no absolute right or wrong solutions, each reality must think about what is right for them when it comes to designing new packaging,” said Prof. Paola Fabbri of the DICAM Department of the University of Bologna. The project Territorial Laboratories for Innovation and Sustainability, which was presented by Dr. Simona Sbardelatti on this occasion, was also focused on this theme. It is promoted by the Union of Modena Municipalities in the Northern Area, and involves the Technopole Mario Veronesi, Clust-ER Health and Democenter Foundation as partners.

When talking about products in the medical sector, in fact, we must take into account a great compromise whereby the choice of materials and the methods of use must not conflict with the guarantee of product safety, which often must be preserved for a long period with high effectiveness and stability over time. Dr. Giorgio Mari, a technical reference figure with great experience within the corporate realities of the Mirandola district, spoke on this aspect and about which characteristics should constitute a requirement to ensure that medical devices are “safe” with a higher degree of sustainability. Even in this case, as was highlighted several times during the meeting, eliminating plastic is not a viable option in most cases. Instead, one can think about how to reduce certain types of plastics, how to move towards single-material solutions or how to manage their end-of-life more efficiently and with processes that are less burdensome from an environmental impact point of view, an aspect on which Dr. Gianluca Magrini from Newster Group brought data from experiments conducted using hot sterilisation.

Also of great interest were the experiences brought by the two companies Bormioli Pharma and Encaplast, involved to highlight the different needs of the pharmaceutical and medical sector and the ongoing experiments.

Training and skills: from the regional dashboard to high specialisation

The health sector requires a very high level of specialisation, both for the type of technical knowledge required, and for the continuous evolution to which it is subjected. The training offered must therefore go hand in hand and be the result of a continuous bilateral exchange between the industrial world and that of the actors who plan and provide the necessary knowledge to stimulate innovation and competitiveness.

The Skills Intelligence tool, conceived by the collaboration between the Emilia-Romagna Region and ART-ER with the collaboration of the Regional Clusters, was presented by Dr Lara Porciatti to create a frame of reference and to understand what tools are available to make more efficient research on skills for each sector.

In this context, the MABIOMED Master was also presented by Prof. Focarete, as an initiative renewed from the first edition updated thanks to the continuous interaction with local companies not only at a regional but also national level. This year, in fact, in addition to the fundamental lessons of a more technical nature linked to the characteristics of biomaterials and the regulatory system, modules relating to sustainability and environmental impact assessment have also been introduced more incisively, but also for the management of innovation and technological transfer to also stimulate the inventiveness and entrepreneurship of students, with the collaboration of Materias.

This proposal, available for graduates of master’s courses, is also accompanied by the training activity of the ITS, higher technical institutes which, like the Biomedical ITS in Mirandola, offer two-year specialisation courses on topics of crucial importance for local companies, as explained by Dr. Giuliana Gavioli, President of the Biomedical Institute.

Nuclear medicine: a bilateral table for new collaborations at European level

The occasion to have our partners from Romania was very precious to create an opportunity to meet on the topic of radiopharmaceuticals and nuclear medicine, already very present and of strategic importance at a regional level. Together with the representatives of IRST – Romagnolo Institute for the study of tumors “Dino Amadori”, of PBL and Itel Pharma we spoke with the representatives of the Imago-Mol cluster to explore the opportunities for projects aimed at some of the European calls active on this topic. The existence of a network at a regional level that is already coordinated and cohesive represents an important starting point for the purposes of building a partnership and identifying innovative ideas.

All we have to do is get to work to cultivate the relationships created and the numerous ideas that have emerged in recent days!

The Clust-ERs are financed by the European Funds of the Emilia-Romagna Region - ERDF ROP 2014-2020