Skip to main content

TWINNING for a Comprehensive Clinical Centre for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Parkinson's Disease

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CENTRE-PD (TWINNING for a Comprehensive Clinical Centre for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Parkinson's Disease)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2017-05-31

The economic burden of brain disorders within the European Union is approximately 800 billion euros annually, indicating a major need for brain research to improve diagnosis and treatment and for training medical doctors and healthcare professionals to better care for patients. Among these, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most common neurodegenerative movement disorder, affecting an estimated 7-10 million people worldwide and over 1000 individuals in Luxembourg. Therefore, PD has been chosen as a proof-of-concept template for applied biomedical research in Luxembourg that will translate into novel neuroprotective therapies for PD. Luxembourg stakeholders, including the National Research Fund (FNR), have invested great effort over the past decade in the implementation of a strategic initiative between the University of Luxembourg (UL) and institutional stakeholders from the integrated Biobank of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Institute of Health, and the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg, to promote translational research on PD.

With its relatively young research and innovation experience, Luxembourg highly benefits from the expertise of excellent European research peers. CENTRE-PD (http://www.centre-pd.eu) aims at TWINNING the Universities of Oxford (UOXF) and Tübingen (EKUT), two worldwide leading centres for clinical and fundamental research in PD, with the UL to strengthen ongoing research and health care advancements and establish a comprehensive clinical centre for diagnosis and treatment of PD in Luxembourg. CENTRE-PD will achieve the latter through the transfer of skills and knowledge from internationally leading European counterparts from the UOXF (http://opdc.medsci.ox.ac.uk) and EKUT (https://www.hih-tuebingen.de).

The major objectives of the project include:
(1) Building of new infrastructures in Luxembourg (including a prospective PD patient cohort and at-risk cohort for PD, a brain bank, neuro-imaging and stem-cell research platforms, a neuro-stimulation centre and gait laboratory);
(2) Launching of joint databases and platforms for future research initiatives (harmonised clinical datasets and neuropathological validation, joint biomarker studies for early diagnosis and stratification of PD, compound screening campaigns on patient-based cellular models, and joint studies on neuro-modulation);
(3) Engaging key stakeholders through clinical and public outreach programmes, a joint education and training programme for clinician scientists and researchers, partnerships with industry and initiatives for patient engagement.

The CENTRE-PD project will strengthen the potential for future collaborations nationally and beyond borders, boosting research excellence in Luxembourg and providing better access to diagnostics and therapies. Moreover, the lessons learnt during the implementation of CENTRE-PD in the context of PD, will be of great value in the subsequent application to other socioeconomically relevant diseases in Luxembourg.
Work performed under CENTRE-PD allowed clinical and research staff from the three CENTRE-PD sites to exchange their expert skills and knowledge to advance PD research, diagnosis and treatment in Luxembourg.

To this end, the CENTRE-PD project personnel have organised and supported numerous training and exchange of knowledge opportunities including workshops, short-term staff exchanges, hands-on training and consortia meetings focused on the following topics:
• PD cohorts (recruitment and retention strategies, diagnostic criteria, progression markers, genetics of PD, digitalised data collection, skin biopsy training, good clinical practice);
• PD research (human-derived PD cell models, gene editing of cell models, mechanisms of PD symptoms such as freezing of gait);
• PD diagnosis (differential diagnosis, diagnostic criteria for cognitive impairment, clinical imaging techniques for diagnosis);
• PD treatment (deep brain stimulation, continuous therapies for advanced stages of PD, advanced treatment options, PD pumps for administering medication);
• Project communication and management.

These events have helped establish the Luxembourg PD cohort study and research as a centre of excellence in PD research in Luxembourg (www.parkinson.lu; www.facebook.com/ncerpd). By end of May 2017, the clinical team has seen a total of 364 patients and 403 control participants. Moreover, through standardisation of recruitment and data management procedures across partner sites, the combined cohort data reduces inter-site variability and increases synergism. This forms a basis for future clinical research collaborations and allow for cross-validation of research findings across the cohorts.

Another significant accomplishment is the joint movement disorders curriculum, led by EKUT, available to medical professionals from the three partner sites.

CENTRE-PD partners have also published a substantial number of collaborative publications and organised or participated in numerous public outreach events, including PD patient summer parties, workshops, international PD events, and the upcoming pillow fight in Luxembourg September 2017 to raise awareness for PD(http://www.parkinson.lu/index.php/en/pillow-fight).

Finally, several new international research collaborations have been successfully established including academic research projects between UL (Luxembourg) and EKUT (Germany), UOXF (UK), Donders Institute (Netherlands), Radboud University (Netherlands), Juntendo Medial School (Japan), University of Erlangen (Germany) and the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF). The project has also fostered collaborations with industrial partners such as Medtronic (deep brain stimulation techniques and genetic profiling for therapeutic outcomes), SAGE Bionetworks (www.sage.org USA), Philips (falls detectors for Luxembourg cohort study; EIT Health programme) and Illumina (genotyping of PD patients in Luxembourg).
Luxembourg benefits from the CENTRE-PD project in terms of introducing a clinical research culture within the Luxembourg population. The affiliated comprehensive awareness programme increases awareness of PD research within the general population and healthcare professionals in Luxembourg, and thus the willingness of participation in clinical studies, reflected in higher recruitment numbers, better adherence and compliance to the clinical studies. This aspect is also crucial in the establishment of a brain bank in Luxembourg to raise awareness of the importance of brain donations towards the future medical research for PD.

CENTRE-PD has also supported an increase in innovation and research excellence in Luxembourg including:
• Clinical and translational research at the LCSB/UL with an automated cell handling and compound screening platform and wider access to PD research models;
• New health-care strategies supported by the Luxembourg Ministry of Health, paving the way to improved clinical care, including interdisciplinary collaborations, new health-care strategies and health-care networks for PD;
• First steps into medical education at UL with a pilot programme for specialisation in neurology (and oncology) from 2018;
• A first physician scientists track in Luxembourg, supported by the National Research Fund (FNR), the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Health;
• Increased international visibility, collaborations and attractiveness of competitive funding (EIT Health, MJFF, H2020 TEAMING).
CENTRE-PD logo
EU Funding Statement