António Jacinto coordinates the European project "NIMSB – NOVA Institute for Medical Systems Biology", centralized at Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, in partnership with the Max Delbrück Center, in Berlin, distinguished with a total funding of thirty-five million euros, from which fifteen and a half million are European funding, through the Teaming for Excellence – Horizon Europe competition. At national level, the Government and Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia will also fund the new research institute that will be located in Oeiras.
There has been great progress in biomedical research. However, it is now possible to cure cancer or diabetes in animal models, such as mice, but in humans, those diseases and many others still cause a great deal of suffering and mortality. António Jacinto, NMS researcher and coordinator NIMSB from NOVA, believes that one of the reasons for this limited success is the lack of understanding of human biology and pathophysiology at the cellular and molecular levels. Thus it is necessary to find better ways of collecting molecular data from humans, to develop experimental models more similar to human tissues and organs, and to be smarter to make sense of it all. With the funding now obtained and which will last for six years, the NIMSB research programme, focused on filling this gap, will allow the installation of fourteen new research groups, whose researchers will have access to innovative technologies that provide unprecedented information about the molecular causes of the genesis, progression and treatment of diseases.
António Jacinto explains: “This new project will enable our country to use new technologies such as artificial intelligence applied to biomedicine and emerging multi-omics methodologies, which make it possible to analyze each cell of the body with a resolution never achieved before. These technologies provide unprecedented information about the molecular causes of disease onset, progression and treatment. New diagnostic and therapeutic concepts will enable early detection of disease and increase opportunities for treatment before irreparable damage occurs, with the promise of treating the causes of disease rather than its symptoms.”
The development of this research area at NOVA will allow research teams to carry out projects where human biology and pathophysiology play a more central role. António Jacinto adds that "it is always exciting to start something new. Given the scope, duration and breadth of this project, it is likely that it will shape the remaining of my research career. I expect to be part of a team that will successfully manage all the planned activities and have a strong scientific and social impact".
The idea of implementing this project was developed in the context of NOVAHealth, NOVA's platform to promote interdisciplinary research and innovation in health matters. The need for new approaches to precision medicine was identified as a priority and the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin was identified as the ideal partner due to its experience in the area. From this partnership, the NIMSB in Oeiras will be born, which aims to apply emerging biomedical and digital technologies and innovative solutions in the field of health, while developing the biotechnology and information technology sectors.
The NIMSB is aligned with several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The drive for early disease detection and discovery and validate novel therapeutic strategies is directly related to Good Health and Well-Being (SDG 3). Furthermore, there is a strong link with Quality Education (SDG 4), as the project will implement educational programs in emerging technologies, and a link with Industry Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9), as it is expected to contribute to the development of new products and services for health. Additionally, Gender Equality (SGD 5) is also a core principle that will permeate all activities.
The Teaming for Excellence funding, within the scope of Horizonte Europa, aims to create new or modernise existing centres of excellence in Widening countries through strategic partnerships with leading institutions in other countries.
Know more about this project on the website of Universidade NOVA de Lisboa and portuguese newspaper Público.