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Máxima Butterfly Consortium

With 37 partners from 13 countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, UK, Check Republic, Check Slovak, USA, Australia, Spain, Italy), the program allows the mobilisation of a wide range of knowledge all over Europe and beyond.

The partners are selected based on their unique complementary skills and experience to ensure a balanced programme. All training elements and research projects are part of overall aim to train a new generation of talented PhD students in pediatric oncology. Partner organisations give training course in their specialised field, covering the newest insights on tumour entities and state-of-the art techniques in (epi)genetics, immunology and bioinformatics such as organoid culturing, CRISPR-based gene editing, multi-dimensional co-culture systems.

Full development of new interventions for children with cancer can only be achieved through close collaboration with industry, ranging from small start-up companies to large pharmaceutical industry. Butterfly offers intensive inter-sectoral exposure as multiple private parties (industrial and other non-academic) have committed to the programme. E.g. non-academic partners, including national (e.g. HUB for Organoids) and international companies (e.g. Charles River, AstraZeneca, Roche, Xilis), will provide secondments for PhD students. PhD students will gain a better understanding of the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries work during secondments. The non-academic partners are also highly involved in the training programme, in supervision arrangements, and in organising networking opportunities for the PhD’s.

“Many partners have collaborated together previously in different compositions”

The international network of the Máxima is extensive and includes e.g. top institute as the Hopp Children’s Cancer Centre (KITZ) in Heidelberg, Institutes Curie and Gustave Roussy in Paris, Charité in Berlin, and St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. With the KITZ in Heidelberg the Máxima has officially launched a Twinning Programme in which the two centres joint forces in (pre)clinical studies and education to train the next generation of scientists and clinicians in their joint mission to cure all children with cancer. This intense collaboration between the KITZ and the Máxima will also be highly beneficial for the Butterfly programme in many ways, e.g. by providing secondments in Heidelberg, access to additional patient samples, models and data, and other expertise’s.

The Butterfly program will connect to regional PhD graduate schools as the “University of Utrecht graduate school for life sciences”. This will bilaterally strengthen the educational programmes and stimulate internationalization on a regional level.

The ITCC has an experienced Education Committee and very broad network. Together with the patient organisations Solving Kids Cancer and Dutch Childhood Cancer Organisation, they will facilitate the dissemination and communication of Butterfly’s results, provide training during the summer schools and facilitate the translation of research into clinical trials.