"At our research centre, we would like to develop new diagnostic and treatment methods in order to provide better care to patients," explained Professor Michael Scharl. He leads the microbiome consultation sessions and the Translational Microbiome Research Center at the University Hospital Zurich. He and his team research the gut microbiome – the entirety of all bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut. "Changes in the microbiome are associated with many illnesses," explained the specialist in gastro-intestinal illnesses. "We are trying to find out which bacteria contribute to the emergence of certain illnesses, and how." The researchers would like to understand which bacteria ultimately promote the emergence of an illness, and how they can be inhibited. In the best case, these bacteria can then even be used in treatment.
Bacteria instead of chemotherapy
The scientists' main focus is on colon cancer and chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Prof. Scharl's laboratory is where the start-up Recolony arose. It is working on the development of a capsule with gut bacteria that can be taken to fight colon cancer. Patients would then ideally not have to undergo any more chemotherapy. These specific gut bacteria are present in particularly low numbers in the intestines of colon cancer patients compared with those of healthy people. They are, however, capable of activating the body's own immune system so that it can fight the tumour cells again. Recolony was able to show in various animal models that the treatment could also work on skin, breast and lung cancers. "It's easy to imagine that one capsule containing the right bacteria could also have an effect on other chronic illnesses such as depression, diabetes or multiple sclerosis," explained Prof. Scharl.
"Investment in the medicine of the future"
The start-up b-rayZ is one of the projects of the Health Innovation Hub in Zurich. Mario Dini, Head of the SWICA Corporate Center, explained why SWICA contributes financially.
Mr Dini, what exactly is the Health Innovation Hub?
"It's a strategic initiative of the University Hospital Zurich (USZ) to promote entrepreneurship and start-ups in the healthcare sector."
SWICA contributes financially. Why?
"We have the same mission as the USZ: to enable people to have the best possible quality of life. The challenges in healthcare are varied and huge. By getting involved, SWICA is boosting the capacity for innovation and shaping the healthcare of tomorrow."
Since when has it been involved?
"Since 2019. SWICA was the hub's first pioneering partner. As a healthcare organisation, SWICA aims to shape the healthcare system in the long term and make an important contribution with its partners. The satisfaction of our customers is our highest goal, and innovations in healthcare ensure that quality and efficiency are increased further."