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Trends in life sciences – and how they are reflected in recent BHC calls

October 24 2018

The EU is investing in research, technology and innovation to find scalable and sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by our society with regard to health, demographic change and wellbeing. Topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Personalised Medicine and Regenerative Medicine are hot in EU’s strategy for a healthier world, and Big Data appears to be the element tying everything together. We have had a look at some of the recent Better Health and Care (BHC) calls, to see what they can tell us about current trends in life sciences, and how these trends can help us towards a healthier society.  

The influence of data science and AI on healthcare

Artificial intelligence (AI), is increasingly becoming a part of our lives, with self-driving cars and intelligent applications on your phone and computer. In essence, AI is a collective term for computer systems that are able to “sense” their environment and use the data to understand, learn and take action in response to this. AI is also increasingly becoming a part of our healthcare system – a fact which has been encircled by fears about replacement of hospital staff. In reality, AI is not about replacing real people, the technologies does not make doctors redundant, but instead it will be an addition to the team, which can help prevent human errors and  improve risk assessment, timely diagnosis and effective treatment – which will all contribute to better patient outcomes. We are already seeing how AI-driven image analysis, are able to detect abnormalities, which would be near impossible for the human eye to detect.

AI can truly help us revolutionize our healthcare system, and the AI market is predicted to explode in the coming years, reaching a value of $6.6 billion by 2021. However, the fear or perhaps rather the lack of knowledge about the potentials of this technology, may be the cause of the delay in the unleash of the transformative powers of AI into the healthcare system. The challenge will therefore be to make hospitals and medical practices embrace AI technologies, but also to ensure that we have enough of the right data. AI is only as good as the data it uses, big data can provide new opportunities, but is vulnerable to human errors, so the challenge here is to ensure the right analytical approaches. If you are interested in this field, we recommend that you check out the  DTH01 call, which focuses on Big Data and Artificial Intelligence for monitoring health status and quality of life after cancer treatment.

Unmet promises for Regenerative Medicine?

Regenerative medicine has been a buzz-word for a long time, as an emerging interdisciplinary field, which has been predicted to become a game changer when it comes to curing patients with diseases that are difficult to treat, as well as replacing damaged or malfunctions organs and tissues with the patient’s own material. However, despite some successes, regenerative medicine has not yet lived up to its promises, and it is still an unfamiliar field to many scientists and clinicians. The challenge is clear; we need to bring the breakthroughs from the lab to the healthcare system and turn them into methods and products that can be applied in practice. If you are up for these challenges check out BHC call 7, which is dedicated to regenerative medicine: aiming to take us from new insights to new applications.

The future is Personal

With current treatments, patients are treated with a one-size-fits-all approach and if the therapy is not effective another therapy is attempted. Personalised medicine or precision medicine aims to change this paradigm by finding diagnostic markers (in terms of DNA, RNA, proteins or metabolites) that can predict therapy response. The field of personalised medicine is very broad, but we have mainly seen breakthroughs in addressing diseases such as cancer. In order to bring this field even further there are still challenges that need to be faced. One of the challenges is to integrate Big Data and ICT solutions, in order to process the wealth of data, which personalised medicine will provide. In BCH call SC1-HCO-01: Actions in support of the international Consortium for personalised Medicine, the aim is to address this challenge, as well as ensuring efficient sharing of information and collaboration in this field across countries and continents. The call also aims at addressing the issue of standardisation of clinical study design.

The Human Exposome Project

The Human Exposome Project, is a project dedicated to explore and understand the complexity of how our environments (life-styles and climate) exposes us to health risks, including the combinations of several risk factors, and how certain exposures affects us differently, and on different stages in life. There are tens of thousands of chemicals in our environments that we are exposed to in our everyday life, and a continuous introduction of new ones. Currently, the main challenges are finding out how these chemicals affects us, and finding the best method for measuring our exposure and enabling the required data storage, integration and analysis. Breakthroughs in this field, could help us regulate harmful chemicals and exposures, preventing diseases and negative long-term effects. If your project is part of the solution to these challenges, you should check out the BHC call dedicated to this topic; BHC 28 The human Exposome Project: a toolbox for assessing and addressing the impact of environment on health.

 
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Camilla Jensen, MA
+31 (0)30 7370779