Our representatives participated in the annual meeting of EATRIS, the European Infrastructure for Translational Medicine, in Ljubljana. Assoc. Prof. Irena Koutná and Dr. Pavel Šimara from our Cell & Tissue Engineering Facility presented a poster on their new cGMP facility built in our center. Only few institutions in the Czech Republic have the capacity to produce cell-based medicinal products or tissue engineered products under cGMP conditions and FNUSA-ICRC now belongs among them. Representatives of FNUSA-ICRC also met potential research partners from France, Italy, Norway and Spain and started discussion on potential collaborations. EATRIS is an EU research infrastructure consortium that comprises more than 90 research institutions from 12 European countries. It focuses on accelerating medical discoveries to clinical development through international collaboration of top-level European academic research centers. FNUSA-ICRC is a member since early 2017.
The Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology Research Group, namely Tomasz Jadczyk with the support of Technology Transfer Office, has established a scientific collaboration with University of Oxford. The ICE research team led by Zdeněk Stárek, MD, PhD, will cooperate with the Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford, led by Prof. Blanca Rodriguez, PhD. The aim of a joint project is to apply machine learning methods for automatic ECG analysis. Results of the study may help to classify ECG phenotypes and support innovative treatment strategies.
FNUSA-ICRC and a Czech company PrimeCell established a research consortium on innovative regenerative medicine with several Israeli partners, Alpha Net, Pres-By Vision and Chelotech. A memorandum on research cooperation was signed by all partners at the end of November in Jerusalem during an opening ceremony of a state visit of the President of the Czech Republic to Israel. The Czech-Israeli research consortium will deal with the use of human cellular products to treat various types of diseases.
FNUSA-ICRC cooperates extensively with British scientists and research institutions, despite the British exit from the European Union. FNUSA-ICRC researchers are currently involved in the implementation of several international research projects funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research program, such as the CresPace project led by University of Bath in southwestern England, which aims to develop a new bio-electronic pacemaker, or ES-Cat project led by the University of Cambridge, which focuses on searching new proteins and their use in medicine or biotechnology. In cooperation with a Liverpool company, FNUSA-ICRC is trying to develop antibodies against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease – this project has been financially supported by the South Moravian Region. Bilateral co-operation in science and innovation is very much supported by the new Ambassador who has identified this area as one of the major priorities.
As surprising as it may seem in light of news surrounding the British exit from the EU, the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) have been intensively collaborating with researchers and research institutions from the UK. The Center has been working with them to develop diagnostic and medical equipment and together, they have been searching for new therapeutic options for cardiac and neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. Researchers from both countries have been discussing potential collaboration in cardiac arrhythmia and heart failure research. Their collaboration also gets the support from the new UK ambassador to the Czech Republic, Nick Archer.
At the moment, researchers from the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s Hospital in Brno are involved in several international research projects funded from the EU research program Horizon 2020, such as the CresPace project, conducted at the University of Bath in south-west England, which aims to develop a new bio-electronic pacemaker, and the ES-Cat project, implemented at the University of Cambridge, focused on the search for new proteins and their use in medicine and biotechnology. Together with a company from Liverpool, they have been developing an antibody against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease; this project was financially supported by the South Moravian Region, Czech Republic.
Researchers from FNUSA-ICRC have published articles that they have co-authored together with scientists from the prestigious Francis Crick Institute, the University College London and the Institute of Cancer Research in the field of oncology; with the Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool in the field of cardiology, and with the University of Newcastle and King’s College in the field of neurology.
In October, a group of experts on cardiac diseases and disorders from the Imperial College London visited FNUSA-ICRC. Their visit to Brno was preceded with other meetings of representatives from both countries, such as at the ESC Congress in Munich and London. The researchers have identified a number of opportunities for their closer collaboration in cardiac arrhythmia and heart failure. Bio-engineers from Brno will meet their colleagues again in London at the end of November and another visit from the Imperial College is expected in Brno in December. “We have been also discussing collaboration on a comprehensive education project for European electrophysiologists,” says Dr. Zdeněk Stárek, head of the Cardiac Electrophysiology team at FNUSA-ICRC.
FNUSA-ICRC is not concerned that either existing or new joint projects might be impacted by BREXIT. “We have been monitoring the situation carefully and we do not anticipate that the UK’s leaving the EU might have any significant negative impact on our collaboration with British scientists,” says Gorazd B. Stokin, FNUSA-ICRC Chair. “Research should be one of the priorities for Britain and we are sure that the level of research in the country will remain very high even in the years to come. However, if some foreign experts were to leave the UK after all, we would be happy to offer continuing with their research at FNUSA-ICRC,” he adds with a smile.
His words have been confirmed by the new ambassador of the UK to the Czech Republic Nick Archer: “Although the UK is leaving the European Union, research collaboration with the Czech Republic continues and has been growing. We consider future bilateral collaboration in research and innovation one of our main priorities.” Otakar Fojt, the science attaché from the British Embassy in Prague, adds: “The British government guarantees funding of the British portion of all Horizon 2020 projects that were submitted and approved prior to the country’s exit from the EU. British researchers currently work on 380 H2020 projects with researchers from the Czech Republic and other countries. Out of 568 projects that the Czech Republic is involved in, 67% of them is with British participation. FNUSA-ICRC is an excellent example of Czech-British research collaboration.”
Between November 12 and 15, FNUSA-ICRC took part in MEDICA trade fair for medical technologies in Düsseldorf. The trade fair has a long tradition and is one of the largest and most prestigious events of its kind in the world. The Czech Republic was represented by more than twenty companies and the organization of the stands was sponsored by the CzechTrade agency and the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic. Our center has participated in a project of this scale for the first time and presented its activities and possibilities of cooperation to a wide range of visitors and exhibitors, including both manufacturing, research and distribution companies operating around the world. Representatives of the FNUSA-ICRC Technology Transfer were offering for example the possibility of testing new medical technologies or laboratory services to potential customers. In addition to getting new contacts, we also met with our past and present partners, such as VUT or BioVendor.
A kick-off meeting of the unique Molecular, Cell and Clinical Approach to Healthy Aging (ENOCH) project was held in the premises of FNUSA-ICRC. The participants discussed key activities focusing on identifying the treatment of aging affecting diseases, such as dementia, cancer or heart diseases. The ambition of the project is not immortal life but healthy aging in the least burdened by diseases. The unification of the five best Moravian research centers represents a milestone in regional cooperation as it connects 220 researchers from FNUSA-ICRC, the Institute of Molecular and Translation Medicine at Palacký University in Olomouc (IMTM), the Regional Centre of Applied Molecular Oncology of the Masaryk Oncological Institute (RECAMO), the Department of Neurology at the Faculty of Medicine, Olomouc University Hospital, and the Blood Cancer Research Group at Ostrava University (BCRG).
Associate Professor Ondřej Ludka, Head of the Sleep Medicine research team, was the main local organizer of the jubilee XX. Czech and XV. Czech – Slovak Congress of Sleep Medicine held in early October in Mikulov under the auspices of Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of MU, Professor Martin Bareš. Assoc. Prof. Ludka gave a speech called “Chronobiology and Cardiovascular Disease”, he also presided over a number of sections and received an award for the best publication of Czech Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine Society for his publication Ludka O et al. Differential likelihood of NSTEMI vs. STEMI in patients with sleep apnea, published in the International Journal of Cardiology, with an IF of 6.189 (Q1). Sleep Medicine also had its stall here, as well as round table discussions with representatives of the application sphere and the professional public under the auspices of the Technology Transfer Department and with the support of the European Regional Development Fund project.
At the beginning of October, a meeting of Supervisory Board and International Science and Advisory Board of FNUSA-ICRC was held in the premises of ICRC. This panel for monitoring and evaluating the progress of our research teams was held for the fifth time. The meeting began by Dr. Stokin and his speech, the presentation of all our research teams and the meetings of both councils followed afterwards. Thanks to the participation of external evaluators whose experience and recommendations are very beneficial for the future of ICRC, a high international standard of medical research within our center is guaranteed. The evaluation of the individual research teams has not yet been published, however, the evaluators have appreciated the general continuous progress of the center and high level of research.
Research collaboration between the International Clinical Research Centre of St Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) and the prestigious Mayo Clinic research hospital has been expanded.
The Sleep Medicine research team established collaboration with Dr. Lyle J. Olson from the Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic. Collaboration focuses on breathing disorders and post-surgery complications, especially during chest surgeries. “One track of our joint research is to specify the risk level of post chest surgery complications in patients with different breathing disorders,” explains Dr. Ivan Čundrle, a member of the Sleep Medicine team. “The second field of joint research explores whether different types of anesthesia affect the frequency of apnea occurrence in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.”
The Biostatistics research team at FNUSA-ICRC established collaboration with Dr. Jay Mandrekar who is the primary statistician for the Mayo Clinic Department of Neurology, and the Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology. “The purpose of the joint project is to correct the Cox proportional hazards regression model which is the most frequently used model for statistical clinical and biological data analyses. We will focus on accuracy when testing the importance of variables and estimating risk and survival functions in a model with repeated observation,” explained Silvie Bělašková, the Head of the Biostatistics research team at FNUSA-ICRC.
Over long term, joint research carried out by both institutions has focused on treatment and prevention of both cardiac diseases and circulatory system diseases, and neurologic diseases. “The expansion of our collaboration proves that our joint research to date has worked and is meaningful, which is also documented by its results,” said FNUSA-ICRC’s Chair Gorazd B. Stokin. These include, among other things, almost 200 joint scientific articles and several US and international awards for young Czech researchers. The method and equipment for heart arrhythmia treatment developed by a research team comprising five researchers from the Mayo Clinic and five researchers from Brno is about to be granted an US patent.
On the occasion of the foundation of the independent Czechoslovakia, a representative from the Mayo Clinic and the FNUSA-ICRC collaboration coordinator, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology Yonas Geda, was awarded a commemorative medal by the 1st Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Jan Hamáček for his contribution to the development of collaboration between FNUSA-ICRC and the prominent US hospital. “Dr. Geda received his award on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s foundation that was celebrated at the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago on 28 September,” said FNUSA Director Martin Pavlík who also participated in the event.
The ceremony took place in the Union League Club where the future Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk gave a lecture during his tour in 1918 when he was promoting the foundation of an independent country. The festive event was attended by Czech countrymen, US investors in the Czech Republic, Czech exporters and collaborating institutions from the Czech Republic and the USA, including FNUSA-ICRC.