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Multidisciplinary Institute of Ageing - Portugal

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MIA-Portugal (Multidisciplinary Institute of Ageing - Portugal)

Reporting period: 2021-04-01 to 2022-06-30

Europeans societies are currently falling ever deeper into a ‘longevity trap’: people live longer but the incidences of most age-associated diseases (diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases) increase. Similarly, the onset of frailty and disability is not delayed in parallel to increased lifespan. The consequence of this longevity trap at individual level is a significant decrease of quality of life for an increasing fraction of the individual lifespan. At societal level, it leads to an ever-increasing fraction of people suffering from multiple diseases, disabilities and frailty despite ever increasing spending on health and care services. This is because the underlying ageing process constitutes the main risk factor and most probably represents the ultimate cause for all these diseases and disabilities. The ageing process itself is likely not modulated by current treatments of the various individual diseases, essentially because we still know little about the biology of this ageing process.
MIA-Portugal is the first Centre of Excellence devoted to fundamental and translational Ageing Research in Southern Europe. It aims to gather a critical mass of excellent researchers to unravel the key biological processes underlying the ageing process. This new generated knowledge on critical mechanisms of senescence and healthy ageing will support the development of preventive medicine and advanced therapeutics in ageing and age-related diseases. This promotion of the transfer and innovation of practices and services will ensure the long-term sustainability of MIA-Portugal. In this process MIA-Portugal will foster the emergence of talent (human capital) through advanced PhD and postdoctoral training in ageing research building on the established structure at UC and its unique biomedical environment; it will also promote economic growth and highly-qualified jobs building on the competences of Instituto Pedro Nunes and profiting from its position as the scientific core of Ageing@Coimbra, with strong partnerships with European industry (e.g. EIT-Health business partners: biomarkers, diagnostics, pharma, imaging, medical devices) and business incubators.
Overall, these activities are expected to contribute to extend health span for European Citizens and reduce the economic burden imposed to the national health and social care systems.
Since the launching of the project, we established the bylaws of MIA-Portugal and of its ruling bodies and implemented the managing structure of MIA-Portugal. We hired personal to ensure a proper and effective liaison between MIA-Portugal and UC, secretarial support and a communication officer.
Major efforts were also directed to the preparation of the hiring process of the first two Principal Investigators of the project, a process concluded with outstanding success.
Furthermore, all the official step required to formally approve the construction of the building hosting MIA-Portugal were successfully completed.
In the meantime, relevant activities generating new knowledge on ageing and age-associated diseases were produced by the groups supporting MIA-Portugal, an aspect critical to nurture the insertion and rapid start of activities of new hired researchers. In parallel, we deepened the scientific collaboration between the different partners of the MIA-Portugal network, as best heralded by the award by the European program Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation promoted by Horizon 2020, of the project RESETaging linking researchers of MIA-Portugal and partners at Newcastle University.
The training of the next generation of Ageing researchers was also promoted by participation of members of the consortium in the virtual Annual Retreat of the students of the Ageing@ EITHealth_Brain PhD School and the preparation of a Summer School on Ageing, planned to be held in the Coimbra region in April 2022, in collaboration with the Alliance for Healthy Aging.
The project is still being launched and the socio-economic impact of MIA-Portugal is not expected to be rapid and short-living, but rather delayed in time and long-lasting (new knowledge needs to be generated to be exploited into novel opportunities to delay the biological features of ageing, thus increasing the healthspan of Europeans).
The societal impact of the project was severely limited by the successive lockdowns imposed by the covid pandemics, which blunted the possibilities of implementing some initially planned outreach activities. However, it is expected that the newly hired Communication Officer will transform this difficulty into opportunities to bolster the societal awareness of the MIA-Portugal activities.
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