Approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2021, the new VHIR Scientific Structure aims to solve major health challenges, by promoting an impact-oriented research to, as its ultimate goal, improve society’s well-being. The Scientific Structure has been defined according to VHIR and the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital Strategic Plans and it is aligned with both the National and European health research landscape.
Moving towards a more modern, agile, and flexible scientific organisation, the implementation of the new scientific structure will trigger the establishment of more strategic collaborations and alliances with external institutions, as well as promote cross-disciplinary collaboration between key topics.
There are seven eCORE (from the Catalan “espais col·laboratius de recerca”), which distinguish between those focused on major health challenges and technological enablers that are aimed to facilitate the achievement of health challenge objectives.
The eCORE focused on Health Challenges are:
- Global Health.
- Chronic, Prevalent Diseases & Aging.
- Woman & Child Health & Rare Diseases.
- Brain & Mind and Behaviour.
The transversal eCORE which work as enablers are:
- Personalised Medicine, Innovative Diagnostics, Molecular Imaging & Digital Health.
- Advanced Therapies and Advanced Interventions, Nanomedicine, Transplant & Donation.
In the first half of 2022, the 63 research groups at VHIR decided their affiliations either primarily and/or collaboratively to all or some eCORE. Informative sessions with all groups affiliated to each eCORE took place and groups from each eCORE appointed Coordinators and Associates. Since then, the coordinators of each eCORE are represented at the Internal Scientific Council.
In July 2022, 3 Project Managers, joined the VHIR with the main role to provide support to the effective implementation of the new scientific structure. After needs & requirements identification, missions and objectives were defined for each eCORE and first drafts of the Work Plans were presented to Internal Scientific Council (ISC) and to Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).
Among all the eCORE, four main common areas were identified to be developed and currantly working on it:
- To implement a Collaborative Research Culture, through the identification of main research lines of the eCORE groups and key and cutting-edge scientific ideas/purposes, in order of detecting internal common points and shared needs to enhance synergies and avoid duplicative efforts. This will allow to answer major Health Challenges in each eCORE and be aligned to VHIR’s strategic plan.
- To increase competitiveness of national and international proposals by promoting the application to high impact collaborative projects, therefore increasing the options of funding.
- To work on the visibility and outreach of the VHIR scientific talent through the eCORE new structure, emphasizing the additional and synergistic potential of their members.
- To promote and organize joint scientific activities and events and to develop ashared educational /teaching training program.
The aim of the eCORE Global Health is the study of those diseases that have a global impact in society. For this reason, 2 main missions have been stablished.
The first mission envisions to create a multidisciplinary working group for research in health and climate change at VHIR. The relationship between climate change and disease is clearly complex and much remains to be discovered. The eCORE bring together the expertise from different biomedical fields to go beyond epidemiological studies and to perform translational research with direct clinical applicability, thanks to high-level experts in basic and clinical research in various disciplines.
The second mission is focus on developing a work strategy to guarantee high quality research in upcoming global threats. The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the need to act quickly and efficiently in the face of future health challenges. After analysing the main gaps and limitations for research during the past pandemic (at the group, institutional and global levels), the eCORE is working in the main aspects that would need to be in place to guarantee high quality research in upcoming global threats.
Chronic, Prevalent Diseases & Aging
This eCORE aims at promoting a more integrated and patient-oriented approach for chronic conditions associated with aging. The final objective is a deeper understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms that overlap in most chronic diseases and converge in the same patients.
For this reason, the eCORE has set two initial objectives:
Overarching objective: To promote a new collaborative (vs. competitive) scientific ecosystem to promote internal strategic synergies between different eCORE groups;
Specific objective: To promote multidisciplinary and translational approaches/projects in chronic diseases that allows a holistic view of patients with these conditions by combining knowledge from basic biosciences, molecular imaging and clinical research (including health outcomes research).
- Creation of a cross-cutting “seeds project” in relationship with aging mechanisms that can be financed by the VHIR Institution.
- Identifying the main scientific health challenges in the chronic and aging field.
- Presentation of multidisciplinary transversal projects to competitive calls as eCORE unit (at least 3 groups of the eCORE).
- Plan the purchasing of common equipment/resources of interest among all groups of the eCORE (sharing resources).
Woman & Child’s Health & Rare Diseases
This eCORE aims at creating a national and international hub of high-quality research in the field of pregnant woman, child and rare diseases that can impact in clinical results and quality of life of affected individuals. The ultimate goal is to promote pioneering translational projects that investigate longitudinally the entire evolutionary cycle of an individual, starting from the prenatal stage, through childhood and adulthood with a particular interest into rare diseases.
To implement this challenge the eCORE has set the following 3 initial objectives:
- To develop a Strategic Plan for a Paediatric Research Hub at VHIR and the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (Child Health).
- To promote the visibility of research in pregnant women, fetal development and newborn at VHIR and the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (Woman Health).
- To break the walls between basic and clinical research groups promoting joint research and educational activities and strengthening the relationship between all the activities on rare diseases at the Vall d’Hebron campus, with a longitudinal focus, from the fetal to elderly age.
Brain & Mind and Behavior
The main objective of the Brain & Mind and Behavior eCORE is to create a Collaborative Hub for Translational & Biomedical Research in the Neurosciences; to generate knowledge, enhance translational applicability and potentiate innovation with the aim of addressing the Neurological and Mental Diseases and lead and collaborate this research ecosystem.
The eCORE will work to implement several shared platforms to make visible and expand research capabilities among neurological and mental diseases, with the goal of increasing collaborative translational research, enhance innovation and promote technological transfer. Specifically:
- Experimental Models Platform (cell culture and animal models and techniques)
- Biomarker Research Platform (genetic, molecular and imaging)
- Shared Biological Samples and Study Cohorts Platform
- Clinical Data Platform (to identify comorbidities among diseases)
This scientific know-how in both pre-clinical and clinical studies offered in several platforms can potentiate the visibility and capabilities of the eCORE and its members to facilitate transversal research and promote leadership in the application of multicentric and international grants.
Cancer eCORE directs its efforts to unveil and understand the mechanisms of the cancer origin and progression, and transform this knowledge into:
- Development of innovative solutions (new biomarkers, new software, artificial intelligence, immunotherapy, early diagnosis technologies and advances in liquid biopsy)
- Innovation in new drugs and drug targeting and delivery systems (new molecules, repositioning existing drugs and using nanomedicine)
- Personalized medicine (to guide the treatment of patients according to the molecular alterations of their tumors)
- Cell and animal models including a platform of patient-derived xenografts (PDX) to perform preclinical studies
- Clinical research in cancer and work on patient engagement and advocacy
Complementary expertise within the eCORE can open the door to future internal/external collaborations with public and private parties, participation in large national and international consortia/associations and leadership consolidation by coordinating the national programs for personalized medicine, liquid biopsies and early-phase clinical trials.
Advanced Therapies and Advanced Interventions, Nanomedicine, Transplantation & Donation
AVANT is a transversal and multidisciplinary eCORE formed by 25 VHIR research groups working in Advanced Therapies, Innovative Therapies, Nanomedicine, Donation and Transplantation.
AVANT’s goal is to position VHIR as a reference center in the development and clinical implementation and accessibility of innovative therapies that improve the health and well-being of patients.
To this end, AVANT is organized in three strategic Hubs, where collaboration and knowledge exchange between the participating groups, as well as with external entities, are facilitated in order to create an optimal ecosystem for the development of new treatments and therapeutic processes. These three Hubs are:
- Advanced Therapies HUB. Focused on the research and development of gene, cell and regenerative therapies, it seeks to provide effective and lasting solutions for diseases for which there is currently no curative treatment.
- Nanomedicine HUB. Nanotechnology has facilitated the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of multiple diseases and is emerging as one of the branches with the greatest projection for the future. Specifically, VHIR is working on the development of nanosystems for imaging and diagnosis, nanomaterials for regenerative medicine and nanosystems for the treatment of diseases.
- Transplant Center. Focused on increasing the availability and quality of donated organs and tissues. As well as improving transplant procedures and optimizing the monitoring of transplanted patients in order to improve their quality of life and survival.
Personalised Medicine, Innovative Diagnostics, Molecular Imaging & Digital Health
Personalized medicine is a fundamental tool for optimal patient management and therefore leads to a more effective and efficient healthcare system. Due to this, the main objective of this eCORE is to contribute to its implementation in clinical practice.
To achieve this main objective, efforts are focused on 2 secondary objectives: the management of clinical data and the development of diagnostic tools.
The first point refers to the obtaining of biomarkers of different kinds that allow the identification of patients with a certain pathology and the prediction of the different medical actions that can be carried out on said patient to perform a more effective medicine. precision. To obtain these biomarkers, advanced analysis of available patient data will be performed following different approaches.
The second point focuses on the development of tools that make it possible to transfer previously found biomarkers to clinical diagnosis for their implementation in medical departments with the aim of adequately managing patients after proceeding to carry out the appropriate validations.
In short, this eCORE seeks to improve the quality of life of the patient through the use of innovative tools that allow an earlier, more precise diagnosis and a more effective treatment, therefore, a personalized diagnosis and treatment for patients that contributes to a medicine of precision.