New initiative aims to revolutionise healthcare in Europe

A visionary initiative to revolutionise European healthcare, in which the University of Leeds is an associate partner, has taken a step closer to fruition through gaining European Commission support.

Digitwins, a large research initiative, with over 200 partners in 32 countries, aims to transform healthcare and biomedical research by creating a truly personalised healthcare system. On the 18th May it was announced that the project was through to the next stage of the competition to become an EU Flagship for Future and Emerging Technologies (FET).

By creating an individual ‘digital twin’, for every European citizen that accurately reflects individual biological differences, Digitwins aims to predict the reaction of each individual to new drugs and therapies. Through accurate, personal computer models of the key biological processes that keep us healthy or lead to disease, the technology will make it possible to identify individually optimal treatments and lifestyle measures. The risk of adverse drug reactions and side effects will be removed and the costs of healthcare systems will be reduced. 

If successful, in the next stage of the process, DigiTwins would be financially supported by the EC over a one-year period to prepare for the final selection of the FET-Flagships. FET-Flagships are science-and technology-driven, large-scale, multidisciplinary research initiatives built around a visionary unifying goal that are promoted and financed by the European Commission under its Research and Innovation Program Horizon 2020 with one billion euros over ten years. 

Prof. Hans Lehrach, who is leading the initiative, states: “A significant fraction of the costs of healthcare is due to the fact that we cannot predict how a specific patient will react to a specific drug.” Thus, combined with research for advancing diagnostic and therapeutic technologies, Digital Twins has the potential to saving millions of lives and hundreds of billions of healthcare costs in the future. 

Professor Pietro Valdastri, who is leading the University of Leeds involvement said; “Robotics can improve the quality and the relevance of diagnosing diseases, as well enhancing personalised therapy delivery. My team is extremely excited to be involved in such a challenging project that has the potential to revolutionise medicine”

The initiative involves academic, clinical and industrial partners from across Europe and beyond. The cross disciplinary team combines leading scientists, clinicians, public health experts, policy makers, medical informatics experts, experienced science management professionals, serial entrepreneurs, industry researchers and patient group representatives as well as experts from cross-cutting fields, such as economics, regulation, ethics, health insurance, data security and privacy. It is led by Prof. Hans Lehrach (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin), Dr. Nora Benhabiles (CEA - French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) and Dr. Rolf Zettl (BIH - Berlin Institute of Health).

Further information 

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