‘RISE Day’ brought together approximately 130 participants to discuss the impact of clinical research on society.
The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto (FMUP) hosted “RISE Day: The Societal Impact of Clinical Research,” an event that brought together national and international politicians and researchers on October 25 to discuss the impact of clinical research on society.
In the morning session, which took place in the Auditorium of the Medical Research Center of the Faculty of Medicine of U.Porto, Altamiro da Costa Pereira, Director of FMUP, discussed the path taken by the Associated Laboratory, highlighting its “unique” character.
Fernando Schmitt, coordinator of RISE – Health Research Network, stressed the importance of the five thematic lines of the Associated Laboratory “working together” and developing projects that can be presented to funding bodies.
“It’s very important for us to have projects, RISE portfolio projects, that have been built up over time in the Scientific Council so that they can be presented to funding agencies and promote integration between different topics,” he explained.
The presence of multidisciplinarity
Inês Falcão Pires (UnIC@RISE), a researcher at the Cardiovascular Research Center (UnIC), recalled that cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of death worldwide and how biobanks could be a solution to these pathologies. To develop them, the researcher intends to integrate samples and reduce the use of animals for experimental purposes, namely by investing in human and animal biobanks, highlighting the need to develop databases.
Nuno Vale, a researcher at the Center for Health Technology and Services Research (CINTESIS@RISE), presented “Optimus 2030,” a program aimed at developing the use of personalized medicine in healthcare. “The studies we’ve done in recent years clearly show that efficacy increases when personalized medicine is used,” he said.
According to the researcher, this form of medicine “could stimulate innovation and economic growth,” which, according to Nuno Vale, could be an asset for the Associated Laboratory.
Susana Constantino (CCUL@RISE), a researcher at the Cardiovascular Center of the University of Lisbon, presented one of RISE’s anchor projects to promote health literacy. To achieve this goal, the researcher says it is necessary to create proximity with the educational community, health care providers, and civil society.
“We need to do more, and what I’m proposing is training for teachers, accredited training courses that cover the north, center, and south of the country. With few resources, we can reach many people because we reach teachers, children, and families,” she said.
The development of educational kits, workshops, and immersive experiences are also part of the proposals of the researcher from the Cardiovascular Center of the University of Lisbon (CCUL).
Technology and Complementary Research
Luís Azevedo (CINTESIS@RISE) focused on health technologies, digital technologies, and personalized medicine. According to the researcher, the creation of multidisciplinary teams and community initiatives could improve access to care, patient engagement, and disease management.
“This continuity of care also promotes the integration of different levels of care and even the social sector. We believe it will promote access to health care,” he said.
Digital health technologies, remote monitoring, and telemedicine could “enhance both the patient’s ability to self-manage and the healthcare professional’s ability to achieve their goals,” the researcher said.
Elisa Keating (CINTESIS@RISE) proposed the development of “a platform for monitoring and evaluating micronutrient supplementation in pregnant women, which would allow us to study at a scientific level the adherence of health professionals to supplementation recommendations and to understand the impact and metabolic and neurodevelopmental effects on the offspring,” she explained.
Research open to the community
In the afternoon session, Altamiro da Costa Pereira welcomed all participants to “RISE Day: The Societal Impact of Clinical Research.” In the opening speech, the Director of FMUP, where RISE is located, highlighted the importance of the Associated Laboratory in the panorama of clinical research.
Nuno Sousa, vice president of the Agency for Clinical Research and Biomedical Innovation (AICIB), stressed the need for clinical research to be supported by good foundations, adding that this is “a form of economic sustainability for healthcare institutions.”
On behalf of the European Commission, MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho pointed out that Europe’s involvement in research goes far beyond financial support, but also includes “cooperation with countries, exchange of ideas, mobility, experience in other laboratories and other countries.”
In her speech, the MEP recalled the financial support provided by the European Research Council Grants, aimed at “young researchers of great excellence and senior researchers with a long track record,” she explained. Maria da Graça Carvalho also recalled that the development of consortia and public-private partnerships are also part of the European Commission’s support initiatives.
RISE’s coordinator, Fernando Schmitt, is clear: “Our ambition is to be one of the biggest players and mobilizers in changing the landscape of clinical research in Portugal. To this end, the Associated Laboratory has proposed the creation of anchor projects for which RISE will apply for funding.
According to Fernando Schmitt, the future lies in “developing a culture of cooperation” between the different units of RISE, as well as in securing funding, infrastructure, and technology, coordinating communication, and ensuring that personal goals are aligned with those of the associated laboratory.
From the United States, David Zielinski, Executive Director of Harvard Catalyst, spoke on “The Role of Collaborative Support Infrastructures in Spreading Clinical Research.”
According to the director of Harvard University’s Clinical and Translational Science Center, the role of Harvard Catalyst as a “collaborative space between institutions, where individuals can talk and exchange ideas” and how the entity has ensured “bilateral relationships” allows it to ensure “a constant flow of information” and respond to one objective: “to ensure the advancement of human health by supporting innovation in clinical and translational research,” he said.
For the future, David Zielinksi advised the Associated Laboratory to “identify research partners,” “gather information, and use that information as a guide for the growth of RISE,” something that will allow the projects developed by the Associated Laboratory to “take root.”
From the lab to the community
Adelino Leite-Moreira (UnIC@RISE), Head of Thematic Line 1 – Clinical and Translational Research in Cardiovascular Sciences and Coordinator of the Cardiovascular Research Center (UnIC), focused his presentation on the impact of clinical research in cardiology, presenting some clinical studies that have changed clinical practice.
For example, he cited the Framingham Study, an initiative launched in the 1940s that focused on the cardiovascular system, which “has grown and now has a much broader scope,” showing that it is still essential today for understanding the epidemiology of hypertensive or cardiovascular disease.
“When we talk about the impact of trials on cardiovascular disease, look at the temporal relationship between each of them and what we have in terms of the evolution of the mortality rate, which has fallen dramatically precisely because of clinical research,” he pointed out.
The researcher also recalled that “mortality from cardiovascular disease continues to rise, due to the major challenge of an aging population,” adding that cardiovascular pathologies account for “almost one-fifth of health care spending.”
Carmen Jerónimo (CI-IPOP@RISE), Head of Thematic Line 2 – Clinical and Translational Research in Oncology and Director of the IPO Porto Research Center, focused on the impact of clinical research in oncology. According to the researcher, despite the emergence of new treatments, the number of tumors has increased at the European level. To address this problem, CI-IPOP aims to develop new diagnostic, prognostic, and biomarker monitoring mechanisms, identify new therapeutic targets for cancer treatment, and improve bioinformatics and bioimaging tools within RISE.
At the end of her speech, the researcher pointed out that most cancers are inherited and recalled that “research driven by clinical needs has a strong impact on improving the care of cancer patients.”
The leader of Thematic Line 3 – Clinical and Translational Research in Inflammatory and Degenerative Diseases, Fernando Magro (CINTESIS@RISE), reflected on the impact of clinical research in inflammatory and degenerative diseases. “In Crohn’s disease, it is possible to standardize, objectify, and realize that you can induce histological endoscopic remission in the ileum and colon,” he said, noting that patients in this type of remission had “less need for corticosteroids and fewer hospitalizations.”
Luís Azevedo (CINTESIS@RISE), leader of Thematic Line 4 – Health Policy, Technology, and Digital Transformation, addressed the impact of clinical research on health policy, technology, and digital transformation in his second presentation.
For the researcher at the Center for Health Technology and Services Research (CINTESIS), clinical research is “patient-centered and where there has to be a direct interaction between the researcher and the individual,” stressing that the scope of clinical research “is not limited to clinical trials, but has a lot to do with the development of new technologies and behavioral studies,” he explained.
Elisa Keating (CINTESIS@RISE) focused on clinical research and community health. According to the researcher, who was speaking on behalf of Conceição Calhau (CINTESIS@RISE), leader of Thematic Line 5 – Community Health and Societal Challenges, community health is a “great opportunity” because we currently have “a highly motivated community that will learn by participating.” “We’re on the right track, but we can always improve,” especially concerning sustainability work.
Announcing an innovative scholarship
“RISE Day: The Societal Impact of Clinical Research” concluded with the formal presentation of the Pepe Scholarship, an initiative sponsored by Pepe, the Portuguese national soccer team player, which aims to “attract scientific talent to contribute to RISE’s scientific production and research results.”
According to António Soares (CINTESIS@RISE), RISE’s Executive Director, the initiative is aimed at “early career researchers” working on at least two of the Associated Laboratory’s thematic lines, and its “objective is to promote research in the scientific areas” of RISE.
In this new scholarship, which opens for applications on November 1, “there is an innovation compared to the usual funding in these cases,” he said.
The closing session was also attended by Pedro Rodrigues, Vice-Rector of the University of Porto, who highlighted the role that RISE – Health Research Network, the first large Associated Laboratory specifically dedicated to clinical and translational research in Portugal, and its multidisciplinarity could play in national clinical research.
“I am sure that the research that will continue, with little or lots of funding, will make a critical contribution to the future and well-being of our community,” he concluded.
In addition to speeches by experts from CINTESIS, UnIC, CCUL, and CI-IPOP, the event also featured interventions by ten doctoral students whose research work falls within the five thematic lines of RISE.