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Access to the leading circle of patient-oriented health research

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Published on Friday, 11 January 2019

Through the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), the University of Luxembourg has become a partner in the health research area of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT Health). 

“This is an important step, both for the University and for the Grand Duchy,” says Prof. Dr. Stéphane Pallage, President of the University of Luxembourg: “It gives the country access to a network of Europe’s leading companies and academic institutions who are working on novel solutions for health preservation and on approaches to diagnosis and therapy in an aging society.” Prof. Rejko Krüger, Head of the Clinical & Experimental Neuroscience Group at LCSB and spearhead of the EIT membership, also sees great opportunities: “We now have the chance to develop the results of our research towards patients far more efficiently than before.” EIT is a public-private partnership, funded jointly by the private and public sector and primarily by the European Commission.

LCSB has already been involved in an EIT Health project for some time now, as Rejko Krüger relates: “With our know-how in Parkinson’s research we are doing the groundwork, so to speak, for the technology company Phillips and the start-up company Portabilis in the development of a combined sensor. With this combined sensor, it should be possible to recognise an acute risk of falling in Parkinson’s patients with early enough warning to prevent injury and at the same time call for help. In this project, both we and the companies recognised how important it would be for us to contribute in a bigger way to the EIT network and for Luxembourg to become a regular member. So we submitted the application to this effect in 2017.” It was accepted at the end of 2018: Luxembourg is now the third member country in the EIT Belgium/Netherlands region. Thus, EIT BeNe has become EIT BeNeLux.

Dr. Rejko Krüger talking about EIT Health

Krüger describes the benefits of membership in the EIT Network using the example of developing the sensor for Parkinson’s patients: “Phillips had already established a system that can automatically detect when a person with a Parkinson’s-related or other walking disorder falls, and can then call for help. But by then it could be too late, and the person could have already suffered life-threatening injuries. So the question was: how could advancements be made in terms of prevention. That brought Phillips and Portabilis to us.”

Why they opted for LCSB: In the scope of the Luxembourg Parkinson’s study (NCER-PD), LCSB and scientists of the Luxemburg Institute of Health, the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg, the Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg and the Laboratoire National de Santé are collecting data on the walking patterns of Parkinson’s patients. The patients wear shoes outfitted with special sensors. These sensors provide the scientists with a continuous stream of data about things such as stride length and tripping frequency. “Through this digital health approach, we want to identify patterns in the gait that are clear signs of an imminent fall,” says Krüger, who coordinates NCER-PD.

Combining the Phillips system with the NCER-PD approach should make it possible to prevent people from hurting themselves when they fall – for example by having special hip airbags inflate immediately before the fall. At the same time, the system is used to call for assistance. “As a regular partner in EIT Health, we can now submit project applications ourselves,” Krüger says. “That means we are not only contributing our expertise to existing projects, but can also create incentive and conduct targeted research into new approaches that are emerging the context of EIT.”

“EIT projects, in which ideas from various partners come together, will help us enormously to bring our basic research to the patient as a concrete benefit,” says Prof. Rudi Balling, Director of LCSB. “EIT Health offers a favourable environment for that: outstanding partners, truly good and proven infrastructures, and a financial endowment with which projects can be carried through to completion.”

© Michel Brumat