Precision medicine, Heal Italia begins: first national supply chain

Heal Italia was born, the first national supply chain dedicated to research and innovation in the field of Precision Medicine, financed with 114.7 million euros. 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) was presented by the University of Palermo, as the proposing entity, together with 11 other Universities, the Istituto Superiore di Healthcare, five Scientific Research and Treatment Institutes, six companies and a research foundation, and represents the first national network of scientists, technologists and young researchers who develop innovative knowledge and technologies in order to bring the National Health System into the era contemporary Precision Medicine through new methods, new services and a network of clinical data to support translational research for advanced diagnoses and therapies in the fight against cancer and cardiovascular, metabolic and rare diseases.

The role of the Bi-Rex-Competence Center of Bologna specialized in Big Data is very important, which within this project will work to support digital transformation and Big Data Management processes in the world of healthcare, pharmaceuticals, research and innovation. Overall, the research team is made up of 350 researchers belonging to the project partners and will be further strengthened with the recruitment of more than one hundred new researchers and the training of over one hundred doctoral students.

The project, coordinated by Giorgio Stassi, professor of Technical Sciences of Laboratory Medicine, has the aim of “identifying and reducing the extremely large health inequalities between Northern and Southern Italy today, developing a roadmap of interregional collaboration to define innovative strategies based on scientific evidence and easily usable in clinical practice,” explains Stassi. “The overall goal is to provide novel, cost-effective and evidence-based predictive and non-invasive diagnostic pathways.”

The aim is therefore to create solutions to support innovative therapies and early diagnosis, allowing the citizen to discover the pathology as soon as possible and treat it as best as possible and offering the healthcare system useful systems for the daily management of local services and for taking care of the patient. “Our vision is to facilitate the transition to ultrasensitive, cost- and time-efficient detection tools that enable early diagnosis and frequent screening of patients, two of the cornerstones of precision medicine approaches. The development of innovative devices for precision diagnosis and personalized therapy will influence the course of the disease and patient-specific outcomes.”

The project’s eight operational units follow the logical path of translational research and range from the Holistic Nosology spoke to identify, classify and refine the phenotypes of multifactorial diseases, to the Intelligent Health spoke for data management and the development of advanced methods, algorithms and machine learning approaches based on artificial intelligence and machine learning for the integration of healthcare data, Prediction Models for the development of methods to support early diagnosis and personalized prognosis, 4D-Precision Diagnostics for a diagnosis “precise in space and time ” based on four-dimensional approaches that integrate clinical and imaging biomarkers, Next-Gen Therapeutics for the design and validation of innovative and personalized therapeutic strategies based on individual patient data, Healthy Toolbox for the development of innovative devices for diagnosis and precision therapies , Prevention Strategies for the development of prevention and gender medicine strategies based on integrated approaches and environmental, lifestyle and clinical biometric data, Clinical Exploitation for the clinical validation and implementation of innovative predictive precision medicine approaches , preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic, based on consolidated or emerging molecular and clinical phenotypes and on decision-making protocols guided by artificial intelligence.

“We have done great team work with all the participating subjects, not only from the point of view of the scientific approach, but also by sharing the management approach, overcoming exclusively academic or corporate logics and providing balanced governance roles between public and private subjects to guarantee the functionality of the choices”, states Andrea Pace, President of the Heal Italia Foundation. “The proposed and shared work scheme involved the identification of thematic, interdisciplinary and highly interconnected Spokes to develop solutions for classes of pathologies with high social impact such as cancer and cardiovascular, metabolic and rare diseases. 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 and personalized medicine, with the long-term vision of satisfying the right to every 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”.