Novel Horizon 2020 research project for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Novel Horizon 2020 research project FOLSMART starting off with the goal of an improved treatment method for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Since January 1st 2016 the EU funds a research project devoted to the field of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) under its Horizon 2020 programme (NMP PILOTS). FOLSMART explicitly aims for a treatment improvement in RA and focuses in particular on folate-targeted nanodevices for the activation of macrophages. The main objectives of FOLSMART are the translation of the laboratory-based medication into Phase I clinical trials and to establish the spin-off company Folmatech, which shall be the future producer and distributer of the compound.

The FOLSMART project is the direct successor of the NANOFOL project, an EU funded research project running during the years 2009-2013 and - like FOLSMART - coordinated by Professor Artur Cavaco-Paulo in Portugal. Almost all FOLSMART partners have previously also contributed to NANOFOL. The therapeutic strategy which was developed during the project shall now receive its clinical validation during the upcoming years.

FOLSMART will run from January 2016 until December 2019 and is funded by the European Commission with almost 5 million euros. One main goal of the project is to bring the novel folate-based nanodevices (FBN) as treatment option for RA to Phase I clinical trials. The currently used drug therapy for RA with methotrexate (MTX) has shown lower clinical scores compared to the nanodevices for folic acid-mediated targeting of activated macrophages in animal models. Therefore, FBN based therapy will be benchmarked against MTX and the approach shall lead to a better clinical outcome, lower toxicity levels and less side effects for the patient. The clinical trial will be conducted by the company Blueclinical in Porto, Portugal. Starting in the year 2018, it will involve testing of the new formulation in eight healthy individuals.

“Not only will the patients benefit from the improved clinical outcomes but also the Health systems’ efficiency will be improved by avoiding an early start of biologic therapy”, says Prof. Artur Cavaco-Paulo (Departamento de Engenharia Biologica, University of Minho/TecMinho), coordinator of the project. Another major goal of FOLSMART project is the creation of Folmatech, a spin-off company with the mission of developing the FBN-products. Folmatech can be best understood as a virtual biotech start-up with an impressively validated core technology for chronic inflammatory diseases. The company will be responsible for the commercialization of all issues related to intellectual property of the FOLSMART project.

The consortium
Top scientists from four European countries are contributing to the success of FOLSMART. Three partners of the consortium are based in Portugal, namely the Associacao Universidade Empresa para Desenvolvimento – TecMinho (coordinator Artur Cavaco-Paulo) with facilities in Guimarães and Braga and the Instituto de Biologia molecular e celular (IBMC) as well as Blueclinical – Investigacao e desenvolvimento em saude LDA (BLCL) both located in Porto. The Institute National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (INSERM) in Paris is a partner as well as two universities from Austria, the Universität für Bodenkultur (BOKU) and the Medizinische Universität Wien (MUW) both of them located in Vienna. From Germany the company Synovo GmbH is contributing to the scientific work of FOLSMART and the company GABO:mi Gesellschaft für Ablauforganisation :milliarium mbH & Co KG will support the research group with professional project management.

About the Horizon 2020 Programme
Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. FOLSMART is funded as part of the topic NMP-06-2015 - Novel nanomatrices and nanocapsules in the specific call H2020-NMP-PILOTS-2015.

Contact Details
Prof. Artur Cavaco-Paulo
Departamento de Engenharia Biológica
Universidade do Minho
Phone: +351 253 604 409
Email: artur(at)

Project office
Dr. Stefanie Fülöp
International Projects Manager
GABO:milliarium mbH & Co. KG
Phone: +49 89 288 104 34
E-Mail: Stefanie.Fueloep(at)

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 683356.

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