OrganoVIR aimed to make organoids a superior model for virus research and to transform the virology landscape

OrganoVIR was a Horizon2020 Innovative Training Networks (ITN) programme training young researchers to lead innovation in the field of organoids for virology in Europe. OrganoVIR started in January 2019 and ran until December 2022. 

OrganoVIR studied several highly prevalent viruses with limited availability of antiviral treatment or vaccine using newly established human organoids.  Organoids were used to study human viral infections in their natural environment for the first time. By introducing and establishing human organoids as superior models for viral pathogenesis studies and antiviral testing, OrganoVIR will help to reduce and replace animal experiments in different research fields. In parallel, OrganoVIR trained young researchers to enable them to lead innovation in the field of organoids for virus research. 


Immortalised cancerous cell lines and animal models remain state-of-the-art in studying viral diseases to test antiviral drugs. However, there is a clear need for physiological human models to better understand how viral infections cause disease in humans. The OrganoVIR consortium aimed to bring progress beyond the state of the art by establishing organoids as a superior model for virus studies and the testing of antiviral drugs. With the successful development and implementation of organoids in virology, OrganoVIR has set a new horizon for the study of human virus infections, which is of high interest to both academia and industry.  Furthermore, OrganoVIR provides a unique European network that expands the application of organoids for virology in both academia and industry. Through a multi-sectoral and innovative training programme, OrganoVIR provided interdisciplinary trained researchers who are internationally oriented, which will increase mobility. This is necessary to guarantee a leading position for the EU European Union (European Union) in innovative virology and to broaden the possibilities for EU companies to invest in organoid technology applications.

Within the OrganoVIR project, the following results have been accomplished:
•    Successful adaptation of human organoids for virology
•    The utilisation of expertise on organoids and virology to standardize methods for assessing viral infections
•    The development of a specialised media for lung organoids
•    An increased understanding of how specific viruses (such as coronaviruses and picornaviruses) enter the human body and establish infection
•    The characterisation of antiviral molecules against specific viruses
•    Standardisation and extending of established organoid cultures for High-throughput screening
•    Development of an ethical framework for the use of organoid technology
•    Lead innovation in the fields of organoids for virus research

RIVM’s contribution

RIVM coordinated work package 5 (WP5) together with the Dutch Society for the Replacement of Animal Testing (dsRAT). WP5 was very important to create widespread support for the non-animal methods being used, which is needed to impact virology and beyond. Three ESRs conducted a secondment at RIVM.  They were involved in setting up organoids at RIVM for the culturing of new picornaviruses discovered through molecular methods in clinical material/sewage to establish public health relevance with the EV surveillance (polio eradication programme) and the ILI and ARI surveillance.  They also focussed on strengthening syndromic surveillance of skin-related viral diseases, such as Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and political, social and ethical aspects of organoid technology (with dsRAT). 

Kimberley Benschop, Erwin Duizer and Adam Meijer were involved in OrganoVIR.


OrganoVIR received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 812673.