Advanced therapies, big-data systems in the healthcare sector, personalized care for chronic patients and minority diseases are the four projects that make up the NEXTHEALTH community, accredited as a RIS3CAT community by the Government of Catalonia and coordinated by Biocat, which from now through 2019 will be working to tackle challenges related with health and the healthcare system in Catalonia.
22 companies in different sectors and 28 stakeholders in the research, development and innovation system are shaping these four initiatives led by the University of Barcelona, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, Eurecat and Institut Universitari de Ciència i Tecnologia (IUCT). They are collaborative projects that seek to have a high impact on innovation and aim to boost the competitiveness of participating organizations through new business opportunities and activities.
A consortium to accelerate development of advanced therapies
The ADVANCE.CAT project, led by the University of Barcelona, aims to set up an accelerator to develop advanced therapies in Catalonia based on cell and gene therapy and tissue engineering. According to the promotors of the project, there are several stakeholders in Catalonia that are individually quite strong in the field of regenerative medicine but don’t cover the whole value chain (from basic and clinical research to marketing products).
The consortium is made up of 18 organizations in the healthcare arena, including 2 universities, 12 biomedical research institutes or private foundations and 4 companies. This Catalan network aims to establish an organizational structure to develop advanced therapies in the clinical phase and accelerate the ideas through to clinical application or industrial production as quickly as possible. Among its main goals, the University of Barcelona wants to interact with EIT Health and participate in European projects.
Digital technology in hospitals: improving health services
Hospital Sant Joan de Déu is leading the second project under the framework of the Community, called Hospital Líquid 4.0 with five collaborators including R&D&i organizations and companies. The project began in 2010, when the hospital launched the Hospital Líquid (H2O) initiative to provide health-related services and contents for patients and families through digital platforms, including mobile apps and online patient communities.
Convinced that digital technology is a key tool for providing healthcare services, the project heads now want to continue moving hospital healthcare towards more proactive, collaborative and personalized medicine.
To do so, they will take advantage of the health data generated both inside and out of the hospital with big-data and analysis systems. They will include clinical, genomic and biomedical imaging data, as well as information from patients in online health communities and mHealth. Among its main aims, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu would like to develop a multi-channel off-site care platform to better serve patients while improving doctor-patient and doctor-doctor communication.
Self-management for chronic patients to optimize healthcare resources
Personalized care for chronic patients is the focus of the third project, NEXTCARE, led by Eurecat with 23 companies, organizations and research centers. The main beneficiary of the project are complex chronic patients, those with one or more chronic condition, with multi-morbidities, who are in a delicate state due to social, economic and/or clinical factors, are normally elderly and consume a significant amount of healthcare resources.
The project leaders are working to promote a new personalized care model for chronic patients based on ICT tools that help optimize resources. The solutions will be based on the 4Ps of medicine (Prediction, Prevention, Personalization and Participation). These initiatives will include a test bench to develop innovative products to monitor patients and prevent conditions from becoming acute, foster self-management among patients, and transfer early diagnosis tools to primary care centers.
A platform to promote new therapies for minority diseases
The final project, AMMIC, aims to develop a platform to advance new therapeutic strategies and drugs for minority diseases like Myotonic dystrophy type 1 and pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma. Institut Universitari de Ciència i Tecnologia (leader) along with seven other organizations (one hospital and six biotech companies) will promote several programs to act as an accelerator guiding drug candidates through development and helping patent new therapeutic solutions. It also aims to promote genetic and epigenetic analysis tools and new screening platforms for research and clinical use.
The therapeutic arsenal available for rare diseases, which affect more than 300,000 people in Catalonia (mostly children and young people who in many cases don’t reach the age of 25), is quite limited. According to the project leaders, access to orphan drugs depends on the laboratory’s strategy and the decisions of healthcare authorities in each country.
The NEXTHEALTH community is one of the five RIS3CAT communities accredited by the Government of Catalonia. The others deal with sustainable and efficient energy (coordinated by IREC), safe and healthy eating (coordinated by IRTA), eco-friendly mobility and new diagnostic devices (coordinated by FICOSA) and big data applied to health (coordinated by Leitat). In total, €19.1 millions in ERDF funds have been put towards these programs, managed through ACCIÓ.