As the European Commission (EC) announced on Tuesday, the LifeTime initiative will be supported with one million euros for one year from 1 March 2019. The funding is an incentive for the international research initiative.
The LifeTime consortium aims to better understand how diseases arise and develop in the human body - how genomes function in cells, how cells form tissues and dynamically transform their activities as diseases progress. "This is a major challenge of our era and will have dramatic impact on the early detection, prevention and innovative treatment of chronic and progressive diseases," according to the EC press release. Last but not least, researchers want to use the latest technologies to create the basis for tomorrow's precision medicine.
“LifeTime" is coordinated by Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin and by Dr Geneviève Almouzni at the Institut Curie in Paris. "We are very pleased to have achieved this prime position in Europe," said Rajewsky on Wednesday. "LifeTime integrates single cell methods, personalized organoids and machine learning to understand human cells when diseases develop and to apply them for therapy. The aim is to fundamentally improve patient care," he stated.
Only two life science initiatives were selected
A total of 53 research institutes from 18 European countries and 60 companies are involved in LifeTime. They can now plan how the vision for a healthier future can fit into the European research and innovation landscape in the Horizon Europe programme for the period 2012 to 2027.
The six winners of the European competition, including only two life science initiatives, were selected from 33 proposals by independent high-level experts. After one year, it will be decided in Brussels whether and which of the six research initiatives will continue to be funded by the EC on a large scale.
The two largest European research organisations - the German Helmholtz Association and the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) - are significantly involved in the LifeTime initiative.
Chancellor Angela Merkel praises LifeTime
A few days ago when she opened the second location of the Max Delbrück Center in the heart of Berlin German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke about LifeTime and declared "Scientific excellence and internationality go hand in hand here". The Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) under the direction of Rajewsky will soon move into the new building. "The fact that you are coordinating the LifeTime consortium from Berlin, with the participation of the Helmholtz Association and together with partners in France, is also very, very good news,” said the Chancellor.
During a laboratory tour at the Opening of the building young scientists presented the three pillars of the LifeTime initiative to Merkel.
- Organoids ("miniorgans") derived from the cells of patients serve as new disease models.
- Cells within an organoid or an entire living organism retrieve different information from the genome at different times. Using single cell analysis methods (such as single cell sequencing), this can be observed on a large scale and with high precision.
- Artificial intelligence will be used for the first time in a large life science consortium to process the vast amount data produced by single cell biology.
An example of successful multilateral cooperation
Angela Merkel emphasised the importance of Franco-German cooperation: "We are planning a lot in particular for science cooperation. In the Aachen Treaty, we explicitly stated that we would also work together in the field of artificial intelligence and that we wanted to form a joint network. This fits in very well here," said Merkel. "This also shows what global cooperation means and that multilateral cooperation still functions very well in some areas”.
To kick-off the preparatory year, a conference will be held in Berlin on 6 and 7 May 2019. There, the members of the consortium will present the initiative and inform how LifeTime wants to strengthen science and medicine in Europe.
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)
Head of Communications Department
Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky
Head of the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) at MDC
The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) is one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutions. Max Delbrück, a Berlin native, was a Nobel laureate and one of the founders of molecular biology. At the MDC’s locations in Berlin-Buch and Mitte, researchers from some 60 countries analyze the human system – investigating the biological foundations of life from its most elementary building blocks to systems-wide mechanisms. By understanding what regulates or disrupts the dynamic equilibrium in a cell, an organ, or the entire body, we can prevent diseases, diagnose them earlier, and stop their progression with tailored therapies. Patients should benefit as soon as possible from basic research discoveries. The MDC therefore supports spin-off creation and participates in collaborative networks. It works in close partnership with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in the jointly run Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). Founded in 1992, the MDC today employs 1,600 people and is funded 90 percent by the German federal government and 10 percent by the State of Berlin.