Precision Medicine, the extended Heal Italia partnership begins: the Alma Mater leads one of the Spokes

Funded under the PNRR, the initiative will develop knowledge, research and innovative technologies in order to bring the National Health System into the contemporary era of Precision Medicine. The University of Bologna leads one of the eight operational units, focused on the use of large-scale data to promote precision medicine in diagnostics and therapeutics.

The first national supply chain dedicated to research and innovation in the field of Precision Medicine is called HEAL ITALIA. The initiative is part of one of the 14 extended partnerships envisaged by the PNRR as part of Mission 4 Component 2 “From Research to Business”, with the aim of investing in innovation hubs to strengthen research chains at national level and promote their participation in European and global strategic value chains.

The HEAL ITALIA project – “Health Extended ALliance for Innovative Therapies, Advanced Lab-research, and Integrated Approaches of Precision Medicine”, which has a budget of 114.7 million euros, was presented by the University of Palermo, in as a proposing entity, together with 11 other universities, the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 5 Scientific Research and Treatment Institutes (IRCCS), 6 companies and a research foundation.

This is the first national network of scientists, technologists and young researchers who, with a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, share and develop knowledge, research and innovative technologies in order to bring the National Health System into the contemporary era of Precision Medicine. Through new methods, new services and above all an important network of clinical data to support translational research, new tools will be developed for the diagnosis and advanced therapies of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, metabolic and rare genetic diseases.

The University of Bologna is one of the partner universities and participates directly in the activities of all eight operational units (Spoke) into which the project is divided.

“By participating in this partnership, the University of Bologna places itself at the forefront in the fight against pathologies with a high social and health impact, through the development of innovative techniques for diagnosis and therapy tailored to the patient”, declares Alberto Believe, Pro-Rector for Research of the Alma Mater. “The involvement of hospital structures, including the IRCCS Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Bologna, and important industrial partners will make it possible to make the most of the fruits of scientific research, to ensure increasingly cutting-edge healthcare for citizens”.

In particular, the Alma Mater will manage the coordination of Spoke 2, dedicated to “intelligent” health, i.e. the management of data and the development of advanced methods, algorithms and artificial intelligence approaches to integrate health big data.

“The University of Bologna will coordinate the Spoke of Intelligent Health focused on the use of large-scale data to promote precision medicine in diagnostics and therapeutics”, explains Stefano Diciotti, professor at the Department of Electrical Energy and Energy Engineering. ‘Information “Guglielmo Marconi” and coordinator of Spoke 2. “This objective will be achieved by exploiting multi-level big data storage and analysis solutions, which comply with current legislation regarding the safety and protection of health data; in particular, it will be used innovative artificial intelligence systems to integrate various types of data, such as clinical, molecular and imaging data”.

As a whole, HEAL ITALIA wants to consolidate and innovate the results already achieved in oncology by transferring them to further emerging contexts, promoting basic research that generates prevention, screening, risk stratification, early diagnosis and personalized precision therapies for cancer phenotypes. recently defined disease. Applied to all medical disciplines, this approach will allow the National Health Service to apply safer and more effective individual protocols in areas such as, for example, precision surgery and precision radiotherapy.

The project is very ambitious, as it includes eight interregional networks that cover all areas of interest in precision medicine (from research on omics sciences, to new technologies for early diagnosis, to the repositioning of drugs, to new protocols for primary prevention, secondary and tertiary, to new clinical protocols for radiotherapy treatments), with the participation of numerous established scientists operating for the first time within the same “mother network”. The objective is to bring solutions, innovative therapies and early diagnosis to the patient’s bedside, allowing the citizen to discover the pathology as soon as possible and treat it as best as possible, and offering the healthcare system useful solutions for the daily management of local and management services of the patient.

“It is an opportunity of a magnitude that has never been seen before for the Italian research system and which must be seized, aware, from the beginning, that the resources deployed by the European Union represent an investment rather than financing; subtle semantic difference that must make all actors in the field responsible”, says Andrea Pace, President of the HEAL ITALIA Foundation. “This challenge requires a shared, coordinated and multi-sectoral strategy, based on a transversal research methodological chain that includes all phases, from prevention and screening to advanced diagnostics up to personalized medicine, with the long-term vision of satisfying the right of each person to receive effective, personalized and sustainable health services in a homogeneous way, respecting privacy and data protection, for the benefit of the entire community”.

Overall, the research team is made up of 350 researchers belonging to the project partners: University of Tor Vergata, Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, University of Palermo, Sapienza – University of Rome, University of Milan Bicocca, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Polytechnic University of Marche, University of Pisa, University of Cagliari, University of Catania, University of Foggia, University of Verona, the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Fondazione Toscana Life Sciences, IRCCS Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Bologna Sant’Orsola, BI-REX National Competence Center, IRCCS Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed), IRCCS Hospital Physiotherapy Institutes, IRCCS Mario Negri Pharmacological Research Institute, IRCCS Oncological Reference Center of Aviano, Mediterranean Oncological Institute, Engineering Informatics Engineering, Sordina Iort Technologies, Sanofi CHC, UPMC Italy. A team that will be further strengthened with the recruitment of over 100 new researchers and will train more than 100 doctoral students.