Dementia refers to an age-related clinical syndrome of progressive cognitive decline, which leads to an increasing dependency on informal and professional care, behavioural abnormalities, and finally death. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia. It may start years to decades before the onset of symptoms. AD affects over 7 million people in Europe, and this figure is expected to double every 20 years as the population ages. It currently costs approximately €130 billion per annum to care for people with AD across Europe, rendering AD one of the leading medical and societal challenges faced by the EU society as recognised by H2020. Despite intensive efforts, there are currently no disease-modifying treatments or preventive strategies for AD.
BBDiag responds to challenges in early stage diagnosis of AD and timely sets up an ETN with the required interdisciplinary expertise and cutting-edge technologies to provide a high quality triple-i (interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international) research platform for the training of a new generation of early-stage researchers (ESRs) for the development of such an important diagnostic technology. Our consortium consists mainly of leading academic and industrial experts drawn from 5 major consortia across Europe with expertise in AD blood biomarkers (The international Blood-Based Biomarker Interest Group), preclinical & clinical validation and trials (FP7 & Alzheimer Europe-PharmaCog), and biosensing & AD (FP7-NADINE, UK – Sensing for Dementia and H2020 Graphene Flagship). These experts will bring to the ETN the state-of-the-art of their respective consortia to provide the core multidisciplinary expertise of the network. Additional high-quality academic, industrial and international partners are also brought into the consortium to strengthen the ETN in its triple-i dimensions, cutting-edge technology, entrepreneurship. The ETN involves seven academic, six non-academic and two international Institutions, whose expertise spans across five major scientific disciplines (Life science, Engineering, Physical science, Healthcare, and Economics). Six non-academic institutions (5 companies) are involved in the ETN demonstrating the strong cross-sectoral (public & private sectors) participation and contribution to the research and training programme.
To set up a multidisciplinary ETN for the training of ESRs for blood biomarker-based diagnostics for early-stage AD with four main training features: discovery & innovation, “triple-i” research & training, entrepreneurship, and skills set for future leaders (see page 3 for detail).The main Training objectives (TO) of the ETN are:
- To rigorously train the Fellows for domain-specific knowledge, skills and hands-on experience by the provision of cross-disciplinary/cross-sectoral supervision teams complemented with personal mentoring to make them highly competent in achieving the scientific objectives (SOs) of the project (see pages 2-3). To empower the Fellows to be the leading experts in their respective fields by placing them at the forefront of the scientific challenges with opportunities to make advances to take their fields beyond the current state-of-the-art.
- To provide extensive training for all Fellows to attain the fundamental interdisciplinary knowledge and skills for the whole BBDiag field spanning across engineering, physical science, life science, healthcare & business, to ensure that the Fellows are true polymaths able to meet their future career challenges.
- To provide specialized network training on entrepreneurship covering all aspects of innovation process, coupled with extensive secondment opportunities with industrial, clinical and international partners to develop Fellow’s innovative thinking and business mind-set.
- To train the Fellows to develop a complete set of transferable knowledge, skills and behaviour of world-class researchers by a series of local, work-package based and network-wide training events, specially designed under the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (Vitae RDF) – an innovative researcher training model endorsed by the UK Joint Research
The scientific objectives (SO) of the project include:
- To develop novel graphene and ELISA barcoding based multiplexed biosensing techniques with embedded electronics for the detection of a panel of blood-based AD biomarkers at clinically relevant concentrations.
- To discover a panel of most reliable early-AD blood biomarkers by employing innovative techniques.
- To develop a fully integrated prototype point of care (PoC) diagnostic tool for early-stage AD.
- To carry out preclinical and clinical validation for assessment of reliability & pathologies of biomarkers.
- To carry out clinical trials for evaluation of diagnostic accuracy of the BBDiag PoC tool.
- To develop an innovative business model and exploitation strategies for early-AD diagnostics, and to explore novel commercial and clinical applications of the technology.