Richard van Wezel en student in lab
Richard van Wezel en student in lab

OnePlanet works on science solutions to stimulate business

A pill fitted with an ingestible sensor that can take measurements in the stomach and intestines or a new laser technique to measure the ripeness of fruit on the tree. These are just some examples of developments that the staff of OnePlanet Research Center in Nijmegen and Wageningen are working on. Richard van Wezel, Director Health at OnePlanet, talks about the unique collaboration of educational and research institutions.

Developing new digital technology for a healthy and sustainable world. That's the goal for OnePlanet, the multidisciplinary partnership of Wageningen University & Research, Radboud University and Radboudumc and Imec, a leading Belgian research centre.

Sensor technology is one of the spearheads. Richard van Wezel has been director of Health at research centre OnePlanet since 1 January 2024. He also works as professor of Neuroscience at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior at Radboud University.

Stimulating business activity

'OnePlanet was created five years ago thanks to support from the province of Gelderland to stimulate business activity and innovation. The great thing about this cooperation is that we develop things, which we actually market. With every idea we want to develop, we ask ourselves whether there is a market for it: do people or companies want to pay for it?', says Van Wezel.

'That is a very different starting point for university researchers than the research that academics normally engage in.'

Intestinal flora

A pill fitted with an ingestible sensor, which, among other things, measures the temperature in your stomach and intestines and keeps track of how long food stays in your intestines, has already been tested on healthy subjects. A pill, which can take a sample from your stomach or intestines for analysis, is still being worked on. The first studies of this in humans are expected in 2025.

'These can be important developments for the treatment of patients with chronic diseases such as Crohn's disease. But gut flora also plays an important role in other diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, which affects your health. A sensor will help diagnose, optimise and further develop medication.'

Nitrogen sensor

New sensors for the food industry and agriculture are also being developed, tells Richard van Wezel. 'There is a huge labour shortage in healthcare and agriculture. With our products, we are trying to find a solution for that. For example, we have developed a nitrogen sensor to take measurements around a farm and a laser technology to measure the ripeness of fruit in the orchard, so you know when they can be picked. Another example is 3D mapping an orchard so that you can tell employees or a robot in advance which branches need to be pruned. That saves time and labour and increases production.'

One project

Not only is a lot of time and energy being spent on developing the sensor, careful handling of all collected data and ensuring privacy also require attention.

'Within OnePlanet, we collaborate with about a hundred employees. There are colleagues who work on market research and business development, but also colleagues who work on legislation, safety and electronics. That makes it possible for us to come up with a product together in a few years and actually bring it to market. That's really unique.

This article previously appeared on TechGelderland. Text: Ceciel Bremer. Photo: Raphael Drent

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Sustainability, Health & Healthcare