VANGUARD Project Leaps Forward: Successful Bi-Annual Meeting in Milan

On the 3rd and 4th of July, the cosmopolitan city of Milan, Italy, played host to the bi-annual project meeting of VANGUARD. The meeting was organised by Lorenzo Piemonti and his team from San Raffaele Hospital.

The agenda was dense and engaging, with VANGUARD project partners taking turns to brief each other on their respective research progress. These update sessions not only reflected the strides taken but also shed light on the future, setting the trajectory for the upcoming months.

The gathering has been a vital step in the VANGUARD consortium’s relentless pursuit to produce a bioartificial pancreas that could be transplanted into patients without requiring immuno-suppression. Crucially, the main objective underpinning these discussions was the pursuit of a game-changing medical advancement: the development of a vascularised, immune-protected bioartificial pancreas.

In conclusion, this meeting was more than just a progress update; it was a demonstration of cross-border European collaboration and unyielding resolve. Consortium meetings such as the one held in Milan are significant milestones on the path to this remarkable goal.

Annual VANGUARD meeting held in Igls, Austria

Team members of the VANGUARD project travelled to Igls in Austria for the annual consortium meeting which was held on 22 January 2023. The full day meeting covered the research progress of all work packages in the first three years of the project, the next steps planned and enough time for lively discussions between representatives from all nine partners to ensure the efficient and effective implementation of the project.

Watch the VANGUARD project video online

During the annual VANGUARD project meeting 2022 held in Geneva, Switzerland we spoke to all project partners involved about the objectives of VANGUARD, their role within the project and the possible impact generating a vascularized and immune-protected bioartificial pancreas that can be transplanted into non-immuno-suppressed patients can have. The interview is now available online and can be watched below.

VANGUARD publication on Ethics of Early Clinical Trials of Bio-Artificial Organs available online

A new VANGUARD publication has recently been made available in Transplant International. Its name is “Ethics of Early Clinical Trials of Bio-Artificial Organs” and the publication outlines the ethical challenges addressed by Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam team. Although the social value of bio-artificial organs can be undoubtedly enormous, the VANGUARD project is also evaluating potential ethical issues related to bio-artificial organs that were raised with the introduction of this novel technology. The full article can be read here:


Regenerative medicine is the new frontier in the field of organ transplantation. Research groups around the world are using regenerative medicine technologies to develop bio-artificial organs for transplantation into human patients. While most of this research is still at the preclinical stage, bio-artificial organ technologies are gearing up for first-in-human clinical trials in the not-too-distant future. What are the ethical conditions under which early-phase clinical research of bio-artificial organs can be conducted safely and responsibly? What lessons can be learned from prior experiences with early-phase clinical trials in adjacent fields of research? This is a Meeting Report of an online international workshop organised in the context of the Horizon 2020-funded VANGUARD project, which is developing a bio-artificial pancreas for the treatment of patients with type 1 diabetes.

VANGUARD publication on Advances and challenges of endocrine pancreas bioengineering available online

A new VANGUARD article has recently been published in Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research. “Advances and challenges of endocrine pancreas bioengineering” – Islet transplantation is a valid treatment option for type 1 diabetes patients. Despite the advantages of this intervention, many obstacles limit its efficacy such as the loss of islets during the process and the need for lifelong immunosuppression. This mini-review discusses the advances and recent technologies aiming to improve the outcomes of islet transplantation. The full article can be read here:


β-cell replacement via islet transplantation (IT) is a viable option for the management of patients with type 1 diabetes. Despite good functional results, IT remains limited by the lack of donors, poor revascularization, loss of islets due to inflammation and hypoxia, and the need for lifelong immunosuppression. In this review, we present the recent advances in the field of tissue engineering proposed to overcome these obstacles. The most promising technologies include the use of stem cell-derived β-cells, accessory cells, scaffolds, encapsulation methods, prevascularization techniques as well as alternative transplantation sites. With the ultimate goal of the generation of neovascularized, immune-protected implantable constructs loaded with insulin-secreting cells, these technologies present a promising future for the field.

VANGUARD consortium meeting in Geneva, CH

On June 3-4, the VANGUARD consortium finally met in person after two years of online meetings. The meeting, which took place at the Geneva University Hospital, was an important occasion to discuss the progress of the project and present the latest results of each Work Package.

The UNIGE team also conducted a tour of its lab facilities along with live demonstrations of certain techniques.

We thank the organisers and all participants for their precious contribution and look forward to continuing our fruitful collaboration in the coming months and years.

VANGUARD Ethics Workshop

Bio-artificial organs and bio-engineered or bio-printed tissues for transplantation in humans are rapidly being developed. It is anticipated that some applications will be ready for clinical testing in the near future. How can first-in-human clinical trials be conducted in a safe and responsible manner? What are ethical points to consider for early clinical trials of regenerative medicine in transplantation?

To discuss these and related topics, our partner Erasmus MC organised a VANGUARD workshop titled Ethics of early clinical trials in regenerative medicine in transplantation in February 2022. This workshop brought together 74 participants and experts in the fields of regenerative medicine and ethics to discuss these ethical challenges. The video below shows the full recording of the VANGUARD Ethics workshop held online, Thursday 3 February 2022 from 16:00-18:00.

New publication on the generation of pre-vascularised organoids

The VANGUARD consortium recently published collaborative work in the journal Transplant International on the generation of pre-vascularised organoids.

The authors from the University of Geneva and the University of Eastern Piedmont show that pre-vascularized islet organoids exhibit enhanced in vitro function compared to native islets, improved engraftment and accelerated vascularization in vivo in a murine model.

The paper is available Open Access on the journal’s website.