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Amsterdam Rheumatology Center for AutoImmune Diseases

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ARCAID (Amsterdam Rheumatology Center for AutoImmune Diseases)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-12-31

Autoimmune rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, vasculitis and systemic lupus erythematosus are characterized by inflammation and affect connecting or supporting structures of the body and lead disabling and painful conditions. These diseases continue to exert significant tolls on the quality of life of millions of afflicted patients and significantly influence European societies in the form of loss of (work-) productivity and high costs. Major advances in the understanding of the immunological processes underlying these diseases have been made but often it has not been possible to translate these to improved diagnostics or therapeutic healthcare interventions. The process to use immunological discoveries to develop practical solutions, such as diagnostics, vaccines or drugs, is called translational immunology. To fully realize the potential of scientific discoveries in immunological rheumatology there is an urgent need to train the next generation of multidisciplinary translational researchers. While diagnostics have improved and many new therapeutic healthcare interventions have been introduced in the clinic, continuous treatment is still required as no curative therapy is currently available for autoimmune rheumatic diseases. To successfully bring the knowledge and expertise from the laboratory into the clinic, an integrated undertaking of healthcare providers, the academic community, the pharmaceutical industry, trial designers, health policy makers, regulatory authorities, insurance companies, doctors, patients and the general public is needed. This requires an excellent graduate program at an excellent institute that trainstranslational researchers who will understand the needs and demands that exist in the clinic, the strengths and limitations of interventions and its ethical and regulatory aspects, and has the innovative drive and entrepreneurial spirit to push his or her scientific discoveries towards new applications.
ARCAID (Amsterdam Rheumatology Center for AutoImmune Diseases) aims to fund a top class European rheumatology school for Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) interested in excellent bench-to-bedside training. ARCAID aims to select the best students to become excellent researchers, who perform high quality research and translation of results benefits patients, and who can subsequently have a major impact on scientific breakthroughs that foster the European society and economy. AIRCAID features an international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach to train a diverse group of ESRs to become the future leaders in autoimmune rheumatology research and developers of improved bench-to-bedside approaches. The multifaceted training programme ensures that the ESRs will learn about the opportunities and obstacles in the domains of all the involved stakeholders.

ARCAID will be a top-class research institute where ESRs will be skilled through excellent training programs setup along four trivial pillars in translational research:
I.Application of state-of-the-art technologies on human and murine biosamples;
II.Delineating the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying pathophysiology of disease;
III.Development of improved computational procedures for data analysis and interpretation;
IV.Discovery of novel markers to improve diagnostics, prognostics and therapy response to aid thedevelopment of personalised medicine.

The first pillar consists of learning how to apply common (e.g. flowcytometry, quantitative PCR, cell culture, basic microscopy) and state-of-the-art technologies (e.g. single cell sequencing, metabolomics, CyTOF, advanced microscopy and PET-MRI imaging) on cells and tissues to solve important research questions. A special focus will be the acquisition, processing and use of human biosamples. The second pillar builds upon the first pillar, on how to interpret the obtained data to setup additional functional studies aimed at delineating the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying pathophysiology of disease. The third pillar becomes increasingly important in this era of artificial intelligence and will involve excellent training in the application of machine-learning, bioinformatics and big data in the different translational research studies. Finally, the fourth pillar is devoted to translating our research findings of novel (imaging) markers and drug targets to clinical applications, aiming for more accurate diagnostics, personalised medicine, and more effective therapies, thereby contributing to improved health care for patients with autoimmune inflammatory diseases. Every ESR research project will consist of a blend of all four pillars but with the focus on one or two of the four pillars and supervised by highly experienced and renowned researchers in the field.
In the first year all 20 ESRs were recruited. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to find creative solutions in terms of organizing research and availability of lab space. The initial work that was done is described in the progress report (Deliverable 4.1). After a year one fellow quit, we have just found a new ESR to replace him. In the past year all fellows have made good progress in their projects. Already the project has 11 publications and fellows are working towards their first secondments. Collaborations are being set up and networks created. The Technical report gives an update of all results.
The long-term ambition of the ARCAID programme is to establish a strong and coherent international network that connects highly skilled young researchers as well as established scientists, who will continue to inspire each other to excel in making discoveries in translational immunological rheumatology far beyond the funding period.
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