A personal Digital Twin for every European citizen – the DigiTwins initiative will make it happen
DigiTwins, a European research initiative, aims at revolutionizing healthcare and biomedical research in Europe through the creation of individual Digital Twins for every European citizen. The initiative is seeking the support of the European Commission to become an EU Flagship for Future and Emerging Technologies.
Every individual is biologically and molecularly different. Each has a different genome, a different disease history, lives in a different environment and behaves differently. It is therefore not surprising that everyone also reacts differently (and often unexpectedly) to therapies, disease prevention measures or measures taken to improve their well-being. Today, close to 200,000 patients die every year due to adverse drug reactions in Europe alone and many suffer unnecessarily due to drug therapies they do not respond to, or which have unexpected negative side effects; factors which contribute to the ever-increasing costs of the European healthcare system (currently more than 4 billion euros per day and rising).
But what if the reaction of an individual patient to new drugs and therapies could be predicted? With DigiTwins, this vision will become a reality.
Digital Twins will be accurate computer models of the key biological processes within every individual that keep us healthy or lead to disease. The development of these models is at the core of the DigiTwins research initiative, as Digital Twins will make it possible to identify individually optimal therapies and preventive or lifestyle measures, without exposing individuals to unnecessary risks and healthcare systems to unnecessary costs.
Prof. Hans Lehrach, who is leading the initiative, states: “A significant fraction of the costs of healthcare is due to the fact that we cannot predict how a specific patient will react to a specific drug.” Thus, combined with research for advancing diagnostic and therapeutic technologies, Digital Twins have the potential to revolutionize healthcare and biomedical research, potentially saving millions of lives and hundreds of billions of healthcare costs in the future.
The International Laboratory “Hybrid nanostructuresfor biomedicine” led by Prof. Anna Orlova, ITMO University, Russia, in collaboration with the “NanoMedicine and Molecular Imaging Group” led by Prof.Yuri Volkov, Department of Clinical Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, believes that Digital Twins will radically alter our perception of healthcare for the benefit of each individual as well as for society as a whole. Therefore, the lab “Hybrid nanostructures for biomedicine” contributes to the initiative by development and study of smart nanoplatforms based on bright luminescent semiconductor quantum nanocrystals, super paramagnetic nanoparticles, reactive oxygen generator species for early theranostic of diseases, especially oncology and bacterial infections.
The DigiTwins initiative recently submitted its proposal to become an EU Flagship for Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). FET-Flagships are science- and technology-driven, large-scale, multidisciplinary research initiatives built around a visionary unifying goal that are promoted and financed by the European Commission (EC) under its Research and Innovation Program Horizon 2020. If successful, the initiative could be financially supported by the EC with one billion euros over ten years.
The initiative has also just launched its website (www.digitwins.org) where interested parties are invited to join the DigiTwins community to contribute actively or simply stay up-to-date with the initiative’s activities.
DigiTwins is a large research initiative that aims at establishing a personal Digital Twin for every European citizen. It consists of more than 200 partners from industry, academic and clinical research institutions in 29 different countries. DigiTwins combines a transdisciplinary team of visionary scientists, clinicians, public health experts, policy makers, medical informatics experts, experienced science management professionals, serial entrepreneurs, industry researchers and patient group representatives as well as experts from cross-cutting fields, such as economics, regulation, ethics, health insurance, data security and privacy. The initiative is led by Prof. Hans Lehrach (Charite – Universitatsmedizin Berlin), Dr. Nora Benhabiles (CEA - French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) and Dr. Rolf Zettl (BIH - Berlin Institute of Health).
About The International Laboratory “Hybrid nanostructures for biomedicine”: the lab is a part of the “International Research andEducation Centre for Physics of Nanostructures” led by Prof. Anatoly Fedorov, ITMO University. As a part of that excellent scientific and educational community, the lab has broad access to modern sophisticated research facilities and multiple opportunities to involve highly motivated and talented students, post-graduate students and young postdocs in real research.
Anna Orlova, Dr. Sc., Ph.D,
Head of the International laboratory "Hybrid nanostructures for biomedicine",
Professor of Optical Physics and Modern Natural Science Chair of ITMO University
14, Birzhevaya linya V.O., 199034 St. Petersburg, Russia