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Final Report Summary - EUTRAIN (EUropean TRanslational training for Autoimmunity & Immune manipulation Network)

EUTRAIN periodic report – publishable summary

Bas Vastert and Berent Prakken
Correspondence : Erika Roks eutrain@umcutrecht.nl
Website: www.eutrain-network.eu

Utrecht March – February 2016

Summary description and project objectives
EUTRAIN brings together leading scientists and institutes in the field of Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Diseases (IMID). Its goal is to provide the next generation of researchers with the insights, tools and knowledge necessary to bridge the gap between the bench and bedside. In doing this EUTRAIN addresses two specific needs:
(I) The need for novel therapeutic approaches for IMID, and
(II) The need for novel approaches in translational medicine.
Immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMID) are important health challenges in Europe and beyond, afflicting an estimated 5-8% of the total population. IMID, which develop in childhood, such as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), cause particular concern as pediatric patients are especially vulnerable. JIA is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood, leading to significant morbidity and long-term disability. In EUTRAIN, we have set out to study JIA as primary model for IMID for the following reasons:
1. Pharmaceutical companies do not spearhead the development of novel therapies for JIA, and none of the approved therapies are fully developed for children with JIA.
2. There is no safe and cost-effective cure for JIA and other juvenile IMID. Children with these diseases face lifelong treatment with serious consequences both for them (high risks of long-term side effects) and for society as a whole (high costs).
3. Improvements in diagnostic technologies, development of predictive tools of treatment response and of innovative and specific therapeutic approaches and interventions in these children has a major impact on their long-term prognosis as well as health-related costs
4. The study of JIA can directly benefit other IMID, as JIA consists of various well-defined subgroups with different immune pathogenesis.
Based on this we have set up a multidisciplinary and multidimensional program to establish a pioneering research and training program in Europe. This program will help the future generation of scientists to perform and translate groundbreaking research into new approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of IMID. In pursuit of these high-reaching goals, the following project objectives have been set:
1. To provide young professionals with new interdisciplinary knowledge on IMID through a dedicated research program.
2. To train young professionals to master the inherent complexities of translating research results into clinical practice and vice versa by providing talented ESR’s with a state-of-the-art multidisciplinary and intersectoral training program in translational medicine
3. To improve the career perspectives of young researchers by training them complementary skills so desperately needed to execute translational research (e.g. R&D management, communication, ethics and legal issues, funding, writing skills, intellectual property, valorization, and entrepreneurship).
4. To create a lasting pan-European, multidisciplinary scientific network that bridges the gaps between disciplines and between the academic community and the industrial community.

Work performed in the project,
1. Science (objectives 1&4)
Translation in EUTRAIN is a two-way endeavour, from bench to bedside and back again. Consequently EUTRAIN consists of three interrelated working packages (WPs) that form a bridge between bench (WP1, immune regulation of inflammation) with the bedside (WP3, imaging and systems biology) while both WPs come together in WP2 (biomarkers).
This consortium was brought together based on the complimentary expertise of the individual partners. Every EUTRAIN partner is leading in his/her research area and has unique expertise that is pivotal for translational research in childhood IMID. From the start we focused on the content of the research and the importance of the complementary training (see below). This helped to kick-start new scientific collaborations with concrete idea’s on how to further combine knowledge and expertise. This is clearly one of the strengths of EUTRAIN: it combines these unique but complimentary expertises of groups that did not necessarily worked together before. As a result both the partners proactively have started to explore possibilities for more collaborations and exchanges. The program has achieved important breakthroughs in the identification of new methods to induce immune tolerance through cellular and molecular manipulation of regulatory T cells (WP1). Also combining immunological knowledge with the newest imaging techniques and expert clinical cohort studies have helped to identify possible biomarkers for IMID. Moreover, EUTRAIN has successfully built on a computational algorithm for using novel imaging tools.

2. Training and Education (objectives 2&3)
The educational program at EUTRAIN is coordinated by the Eureka institute for Translational Medicine (www.eurekainstitute.org). As scheduled, all EUTRAIN students participated at Eureka courses between 2013-2015 and also at an additional specifically developed EUTRAIN-Eureka days. The educational program is dedicated to translational medicine, career mentoring and the acquisition of complementary skills (such as critical thinking, networking communication). In addition subjects such as research integrity and patient partnering are integrated. All EUTRAIN students received additional personal mentoring by Eureka faculty. Apart from that, individual ESR’s also participated in training courses offered by EUTRAIN partners such as mouse Imaging academy workshop held at European Institute for Molecular Imaging, Münster (November 2013). Another very concrete new initiative is the organization of dedicated fellow days – preceding PI meetings. During these meetings fellows deepened their knowledge and understanding not only of each others projects, but also of their respective fields of expertise.

3. Networking (objective 4)
EUTRAIN aims to develop a network of multidimensional and multidisciplinary professionals equipped and trained for translational medicine in IMID. To enhance this we opened an interactive website (www.eutrain-network.eu), and have organized at every meeting targeted group activities for fellows & PI’s. The catalyzing effect of Eureka promotes lively interactions between the fellows. A similar ‘bonding’ process is seen for the PI’s in EUTRAIN, which is reflected in already sprouting initiatives for new joined projects, for example in Horizon 2020. EUTRAIN fellows interacted with other trabnslational scientists at various EUTRAIN-sponsored meetings such as a Grant Writing weekend (Tulips) and a so-called TRIPR meeting (Genova). At the final meeting in Lyon, the focus was even completely on networking and next steps, both individually and for the group as a whole.

Main results achieved so far
New scientific collaborations have sprouted and will be continued. The program has led to new insight and new tools for both immune therapy, biomarker development and imaging. The scientific findings either have been published or are expected to be published in high impact international journals. Moreover it has set the basis for new initiatives between the partners, and already successful new applications (such as an E-RARE application). The educational program is running extremely well and is already serving as a template for other ITN programs in the field of Translational Medicine. As part of the educational program offered by the Eureka Institute for EUTRAIN an e-learning course was developed hosted by elevate (www.elevatehealth.eu). The course gives an introduction into Translational Medicine.

Expected final results and their potential impact and use
EUTRAIN has accomplished what it has aimed to do: to offer a concise scientific and training/ education program in translational medicine in IMID as part of a lasting network in Translational medicine. Apart from the tangible scientific output, the importance the individual training programs (and resulting career perspectives) of the ESR’s from EUTRAIN, EUTRAIN has set up together with Eureka a lasting training program that has its importance and impact far beyond the current project.

Related information

Reported by

UNIVERSITAIR MEDISCH CENTRUM UTRECHT
Netherlands
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