On Tuesday 15 October 2019 the LifeTime consortium gathered for the initiative’s mid-term meeting in the heart of Paris, at the Institut Curie. The LifeTime work package leaders presented the work conducted in the first six months and outlined the next steps and plans for future activities. The meeting featured scientific talks (Magda Bienko, Oliver Delattre, Jan Korbel, Patrik Verstreken) and a special lecture (Helmut Gerhart) focussing on the LifeTime core technologies.
“We started in May, we received one million to build a Roadmap, after two rounds of peer-reviews. It is great to see that a friendship has developed between different scientists in Europe. LifeTime is important as a community and there is a huge support for us a Consortium at the European level”, said Nikolaus Rajewsky (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin), co-chair of LifeTime. Planning the vision for a healthier future in Europe requires collaboration between scientists in different fields, a goal that LifeTime managed to reach. “There are 90 important institutions involved in LifeTime and by working in this coherent manner at the European level we have a chance to make a difference and serve the community and the citizens. We have a saying at Institut Curie ‘Together, let’s beat cancer!’. I would paraphrase and say ‘Together, let’s get LifeTime forward!'”, said Geneviève Almouzni (Institut Curie in Paris), co-chair of LifeTime.
The agenda for the mid-term meeting was full as a broad range of topics, covering all the LifeTime’s work packages: CSA Project Management and Flagship governance and structure (WP 1&2), Single-cell multi-omics and imaging (WP3), Data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning (WP4), Experimental disease models (WP5), LifeTime Launchpad (WP6), Industry and Innovation (WP7), Communication (WP8), Ethical, legal and societal issues (WP9), and Education and training (WP10). The work package leaders each gave a summary of the work done so far in each work package.
LifeTimers involved in the work packages made progress in identifying single-cell multi-omics and advanced imaging technology areas that will form part of the LifeTime Technology Platform. A report has been compiled of the various technologies. For WP4, group leaders engaged with the community to assess the state-of-the-art for data science, artificial intelligence and identify the current challenges to realising LifeTime’s objectives. The next steps are to determine novel models of integration, analysis, visualisation and benchmarking, large-scale data sharing and management as well as the integration of health records and genetic information with molecular data.
Progress has been made also in defining the required technology developments in organoids modelling. The next step is the integration with the LifeTime Launchpad reports. Regarding the disease selection, the WP6 leaders have prepared reports for 5 therapeutic areas: autoimmune, cancer, cardiovascular/metabolic, infectious, neurological/neuropsychiatric diseases based on agreed evaluation criteria which include: high-societal societal impact, heterogeneity on the cellular level that needs to be deciphered for disruptive clinical avenues, availability of cell and tissues samples in biobanks and/or of respective patients cohorts, clinical feasibility, ethical considerations, sex-related aspects and alignment with national/EU strategies for disease research programmes.
On WP7, the task leaders identified and engaged with the most appropriate industrial and translational partners for the development of new products and services. At the moment, there are 80 companies, associations, networks, alliances that support LifeTime. The next steps include consultations with industry partners on the LifeTime Launchpad and Roadmap, the preparation and publication of the recommendation on Innovative Health Initiative (IHI).
Other important topics of discussion at the mdi-term meeting were Communication, Education and training and Ethical legal and societal issues. The communication team prepared a Communication toolkit for partners in the consortium. This communication toolkit includes flyers, fact sheet, a video and a template for presentations. Following the Ethics Stakeholder Workshop, the work package leaders identified the ethical, legal and societal issues associated with and emerging from LifeTime and proposed concrete measures during the implementation of the initiative. On Education and Training, the work package leaders reported the mapping of the existing education and training programmes. This was a necessary step in order to set up a framework for the LifeTime Academia and comprehensive training programmes.
The final part of the agenda was the LifeTime Forum, an open discussion around the Science and Technology Roadmap, the Cell Centers and the funding strategies.