BRCCH Early-Career Programme 2022

Join the BRCCH's Early-Career Events 2022

The BRCCH endeavours to foster the development of aspiring young researchers who will pioneer the next frontiers in global paediatric medicine and health. The BRCCH’s Early Career Programme aims to provide unique opportunities for its community members to gain know-how in research areas at the heart of the Centre’s mission and to grow their global network.

This year, the BRCCH invites its early-career community members to join local and international speakers in a series of interactive workshops on topics across the Centre’s mandate.

Events Schedule

Understanding Key Needs in Global Paediatric Health

Tuesday, May 24th 2022 (main lecture 14.00-15.45; roundtable 16.00-17.15 pm CET)

Basel Biozentrum, room U1.191

Main Speaker: Prof Yvonne Maldonado, Stanford University, USA

Moderator: Prof Julia Dratva, Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) & University of Basel, Switzerland

Panel members: Prof Alan Stein, University of Oxford, UK; Dr Marc Birkhölzer, University of Basel, Switzerland; Prof Thomas Berger, Secretary and Chief Medical Advisor at NEO FOR NAMIBIA

Participants will learn about the particularities and challenges of conducting translational research in paediatric health. Participants will also gain perspective on the biggest medical gaps in paediatric health today across high-, middle- and low-income countries. The lecture will be followed by an interactive debate with a panel of experts on the topic: How the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected Global Paediatric Health. The discussion will mainly focus on: i) mental health in young people, ii) disruption to life-saving paediatric health services such as immunisation and antenatal care.

Find out more about our speakers below

For more information and registration, contact Dr. Amandine Bovay, BRCCH Scientific Officer and Development Manager (amandine.bovay@brc.ch)

Programme Speakers:

Prof Yvonne Maldonado
Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics
Department of Epidemiology and Population Health                                 Stanford University School of Medicine, USA

Yvonne Maldonado is Professor of paediatrics, epidemiology, and population health, and Chief of the division of paediatric infectious diseases at the School of Medicine, Stanford University. She also currently serves as Stanford Medicine’s Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Diversity. Prof Maldonado's research focuses on the epidemiology and prevention of viral infectious diseases such as paediatric HIV, polio, measles and Ebola. Her work on mother-to-child transmission of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is credited for preventing hundreds of thousands of newborns from acquiring HIV. She also leads research on the development and implementation of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.

Visual: Stanford University

Prof Julia Dratva
Institute of Public Health, ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland
Medical Faculty, University of Basel, Switzerland

Prof Julia Dratva is a public health expert with a focus on child and adolescent health and early life factors of health and disease. She is the Head of the Public Health Research Unit at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and an Assistant Professor in the Medical Faculty at the University of Basel.

Prof Dratva is a medical doctor by training with a background in internal medicine. She also holds a Master degree in Public Health and a Specialist Certification (FMH) for "Prevention and Public Health". She has a particular interest in the life course approach to health and disease in research and teaching, addressing vulnerable groups and vulnerable time spans. She also has research interests in cardiovascular health, health monitoring, health literacy and digital health.

Prof Alan Stein
Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK

Alan Stein is Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, Honorary Professor in the School of Public health at the University of Witwatersrand and a member of the faculty of the African Health Research Institute, South Africa. His main area of research concerns the development of children and adolescents in the face of adversity. Ultimately the priority is to develop interventions. He has led three Lancet series on: i) The mental health of internally displaced and refugee children, ii) Perinatal mental health, iii) The communication of life-threatening conditions to children.

Prof Thomas Berger
Secretary and Chief Medical Advisor at NEO FOR NAMIBIA - Helping Babies Survive

Prof Thomas Berger is a paediatrician specialised in neonatology and intensive care. With more than 25 years of experience in neonatology in various high-income countries, he decided to share his knowledge with physicians and nurses in less privileged countries. Therefore, he and his wife founded the non-profit organisation NEO FOR NAMIBIA – Helping Babies Survive in 2017. The team has just launched their 14th mission in Rundu State Hospital to improve neonatal and paediatric care in Namibia.

Dr Marc Birkhölzer
Psychiatrist, University of Basel, Swizterland

Dr Marc Birkhölzer is currently a senior physician at the Juvenile Forensic Department of the Psychiatric University Clinics of Basel (UPK). His research focuses on personality disorders. Over the years, he has built an extraordinary network of collaborators in countries all over the world.

A New Frontier in Diagnosing Gut Health

A New Frontier in Diagnosing Gut Health

Every year, more than 200 million children worldwide do not reach their developmental potential. This is primarily due to infectious diseases as well as malnutrition and related disorders. Normal gut development and function are critical for determining a child’s development and health throughout life. Despite this, diagnostics that can measure the health status of the gut are severely lacking.  As part of the BRCCH’s Multi-Investigator funding programme, Prof Randall Platt (ETH Zürich), Prof Andrew Macpherson (University Hospital Bern) and fellow consortium members seek to develop a non-invasive, microbe-based diagnostic that is capable of sensing and recording the status of the gut.

In a new groundbreaking study published in Science*, Prof Platt, Prof Macpherson and co-authors have achieved the first critical steps towards making this ambitious idea a reality.

Behind this work is the innovative Record-seq technology pioneered by Prof Platt in 20181. The technology is based on CRISPR-engineered bacteria that can sense and create a molecular record of changes in their surrounding environment over time. These bacteria, or ''transcriptional recorders'' can then be analysed via sequencing approaches to reveal the history of events that they encountered. This technology holds enormous potential to provide real-time information on the status of the gut environment, which could then be harnessed to guide personalised therapeutic interventions.

In this new study, the researchers first set out to understand how the transcriptional recorders behave in a real-life gut environment and what they are able to report on whilst travelling through the intestine. The team demonstrated that these bacteria survive and traverse through the gut of mice, and that they can be successfully collected from faecal samples for further analysis. Importantly, the study revealed that the transcriptional recorders are able to capture important biological information throughout all regions of the gut. This represents a major advance over current omics-based technologies that are used to study the gut, as they are unable to provide insights into intestinal regions that are more difficult to access, such as the proximal colon.

The CRISPR-engineered bacteria (or transcriptional recorders) create molecular records of information about their surrounding environment as they transit through the gut. These bacteria can then be retrieved via faecal samples and their molecular records analysed through sequencing and computational methods. Image courtesy of Prof Randall Platt

 

Following these exciting results, the team then embarked on testing if the transcriptional recorders can reliably report on two elements which are critical for determining gut health: nutrition and inflammation.

To do this, mice were fed with different diets and the transcriptional recorders were collected from faecal samples over time. A Record-seq analysis revealed that these bacteria record unique molecular signatures that are diet-specific and are retained by the bacteria, even following a dietary switch. Therefore, not only are these transcriptional recorders capable of reporting on the real-time dietary status in vivo, these findings also suggest that they can provide a window into the nutritional history of the gut.

The researchers then took one step further by studying the transcriptional recorders in a mouse model of gut inflammation, to mimic the local environment in the presence of gastrointestinal disease.  Remarkably, the team discovered that the molecular signatures recorded by the bacteria could be used to distinguish healthy mice from those with gastrointestinal inflammation. Moreover, they could also provide a read-out for measuring the severity and biological indicators of inflammation within the gut.

Following this landmark work, we asked Prof Randall Platt about where the consortium plans to take Record-Seq from here:

''This highly collaborative and interdisciplinary project lays the groundwork towards realising the technology’s true potential for improving human health. The consortium is now focusing on translation, which primarily includes further rigorous testing in animal models of human conditions as well as ensuring robust safety and environmental containment of the genetically engineered bacteria''.

 

*Read the paper: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abm6038

Schmidt F, Zimmermann J, Tanna T, Farouni R, Conway T, Macpherson AJ, Platt RJ: Noninvasive assessment of gut function using transcriptional recording sentinel cells. Science, 12 May 2022, doi: 10.1126/science.abm6038

About the researchers 

Professor Randall Platt is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) at ETH Zürich and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Basel.

Professor Andrew Macpherson is Professor and Director of Gastroenterology at University Hospital Bern.

Professors Platt and Macpherson, together with fellow consortium members, lead the BRCCH Multi-Investigator Project: Living Microbial Diagnostics to Enable Individualised Child Health Interventions.

1 Related articles

Recording device for cell history (ETH News 03.10.2018)

Bacteria with recording function capture gut health status (ETH News 12.05.2022)

 

 

Conversation with Prof Alexandar Tzankov

A Cell Fitness Marker for Predicting COVID-19 Outcomes

COVID-19 is unpredictable. Identifying which COVID-19 patients are likely to develop severe disease versus those at lower risk of complications remains a major clinical challenge. In a recent collaborative study*, BRCCH-funded investigator Professor Alexandar Tzankov (University Hospital Basel) and co-authors discovered a novel biomarker that could be used to predict the prognosis of COVID-19 patients more accurately. In this conversation, Prof Tzankov joins journalist Irène Dietschi to discuss          the consortium’s exciting new findings.

 

Assessing a patient’s risk of developing severe disease is difficult. Usually, individuals who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 are referred to their physician and sent home to isolate. Which patients will develop severe symptoms and require hospitalisation is largely unknown at this point. In a study published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, Prof Alexandar Tzankov and co-authors have now uncovered a means to predict the prognosis of COVID-19 patients more precisely: by using a genetic marker called hFwe-Lose, or simply Flower lose.

Behind this discovery is a relatively recent finding: cells constantly compare their fitness with each other in the body. Collaborators of Prof Tzankov, Prof Eduardo Moreno (Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Portugal) and Prof Rajan Gogna (University of Copenhagen), previously identified that the human flower gene (hFwe) can be expressed in different forms, which mark cells as either winners or losers. Fit or 'winning' cells express a form of the flower gene called hFwe-Win, whereas unfit or 'losing' cells express hFwe-Lose. This allows the body to identify unhealthy cells that need to be eliminated.

''The balance of expression of these flower genes is very important physiologically'' says Alexandar Tzankov. ''Their correct expression is critical in embryo and organ development, as well as in diseases such as cancer. hFwe-Lose is a kind of lifetime document for the whole body.'' It can provide insights into how fit a person’s body is at a given moment: What a person’s biological age is, how much cumulative toxicity they have been exposed to during life, if they have pathological obesity, how well does their body handle high blood sugar and hypertension.

In May 2020, Prof Tzankov had just published an autopsy study of 21 deceased COVID-19 patients, the first major observational cohort of its kind. Professors Morena and Gogna suspected that flower genes might play a role in the progression of COVID-19 and decided to reach out to Prof Tzankov. ''They suggested examining the tissues of deceased patients for hFwe-Lose, and that's what we did'' says Alexandar Tzankov. The team also examined hFwe-Lose in patients with co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The results confirmed the researchers' original idea: ''In healthy lungs, the expression of hFwe-Lose is very low. In the lungs of patients with co-morbidities, its expression increases. In patients who died of COVID-19, it is very high'', Alexandar Tzankov explains.

hFwe-Lose is a genetic marker than can be used to predict outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Source: EMBO Molecular Medicine (2021) 13:e13714; https://doi.org/10.15252/emmm.202013714

 

The researchers then decided to go one step further: They analysed hFwe-Lose levels in nasopharyngeal swab samples collected from 283 COVID-19 -at that time unvaccinated - patients in Wisconsin, USA during the early waves of infection. The team discovered that the higher the hFwe-Lose level was in the nasal sample, the more likely the patient went on to develop severe disease and to undergo hospitalisation and/or die of COVID-19. Remarkably, using computational modelling, the team uncovered that hFwe-Lose levels could be used to predict the risk of hospitalisation and death with a high degree of accuracy. ''For about 85% of people for whom the level of hFwe-Lose predicted hospitalisation, they actually had to go to the hospital. For virtually no one who died, mathematical modelling predicted that they would not have died'' explains Alexandar Tzankov.

hFwe-Lose is relatively straightforward to analyse via the same nasal swab used to test for SARS-CoV-2 infection. ''This makes hFwe-Lose a very useful biomarker for COVID-19 patients'' says Alexandar Tzankov. So what could this mean for clinicians? ''You could potentially identify at-risk COVID-19 patients early, instruct these patients to pay very close attention to symptoms and keep the threshold for hospitalisation lower. That way, emergency situations could possibly be avoided.''

''I admit that this is an optimistic scenario for the use of this marker - but it has the potential.''

 

Interview: Irène Dietschi

Research article: https://www.embopress.org/doi/10.15252/emmm.202013714

MORE about the BRCCH-supported COVID-19 research by Prof Alexandar Tzankov and consortium.

MORE about COVID-19 research by the pathology team at University Hospital Basel.

 

Architecture Vision for BRCCH New Home

Architecture Vision for BRCCH New Home

visual: Guerra Clauss Garin Architekten

 

In a press release by the City of Basel, the firm Guerra Clauss Garen Architekten is announced the winner of the anonymous project competition from a selection of 48 entries. The canton, over the course of the next few years, will restructure the building on the corner of Schanzenstrasse and Spitalstrasse in Basel. Located strategically next to the life sciences campus Schällemätteli, the building will be the home to 4-5 research groups of the BRCCH.

Read the press release (in German) on Kanton Basel-Stadt's website.

Webinar: Community-based COVID-19 Testing in Lesotho and Zambia

Webinar: Community-based COVID-19 Testing in Lesotho and Zambia

Visual: SolidarMed & Swiss TPH

 

Description:  The BRCCH cordially invites you to join us online for a webinar looking at Community-based COVID-19 testing in Lesotho and Zambia. This event will highlight research progress of the collaborative project between Dr Kwame Shanaube (Zambart) and Dr Klaus Reither (Swiss TPH) on the effects of community-led interventions in mitigating the COVID-19 epidemics in Lesotho and Zambia. The BRCCH and the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) partnered on a joint initiative to support multi-national collaborations for research to mitigate COVID-19, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

When: Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 from 15:30-17:00 CET

Where: Online, Zoom seminar

Registration: HERE

Schedule:

      • Welcome by BRCCH Director Prof Georg Holländer
      • Keynote lecture by Dr Kwame Shanaube (Zambart), Dr Klaus Reither (Swiss TPH) & their research teams:
              1. Overview of the joint BRCCH-EDCTP project: Improving Access to SARS-CoV-2 Screening and Testing through Community-based COVID-19 Case-Finding and the Use of Digital Solutions in Lesotho and Zambia
              2. Comparing different approaches of community-based SARS-CoV-2 testing in Lesotho and Zambia
              3. Barriers and facilitators to SARS-CoV-2 testing at community-based testing sites
              4. Evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 tests and testing approaches
      • Plenary discussion
      • Closing

Keynote Speakers:

 

 

Dr Kwame Shanaube

Zambart & School of Public Health, University of Zambia

Dr Kwame Shanaube is Deputy Director of Research (Quantitative) at Zambart, a multidisciplinary research organisation that conducts a range of studies including clinical trials, epidemiological studies and laboratory-based diagnostic studies. She is a clinician with a Master’s degree in public health and a PhD in TB clinical epidemiology. She is also an honorary lecturer at the University of Zambia School of Public Health. Her research interests cover a wide range of disciplines, including TB/HIV epidemiology, community-based cluster randomised trials, operational research through evaluation of field diagnostics and adolescent health. She is also the country’s Principal Investigator for a large international TB consortium (the TREATS Project) and the overall Principal Investigator for the TREATS-COVID study, both funded by the EDCTP.

 

Dr Klaus Reither

Clinical Research Unit, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

Dr Klaus Reither is Head of the Clinical Research Unit and the leader of the Clinical TB Research Group at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH). He oversees and coordinates clinical research projects conducted by Swiss TPH and his research responsibilities comprise the set-up, implementation, coordination and supervision of clinical research projects, with an emphasis on TB clinical trials at Swiss TPH’s international partner organisations such as the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, the National Centre of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases in Georgia and SolidarMed in Lesotho.

Dr Reither is Lead Investigator of the BRCCH COVID-19 project: MistraL - Mitigation Strategies for Communities with COVID-19 Transmission in Lesotho Using Artificial Intelligence on Chest X-rays and Novel Rapid Diagnostic Tests. Together with Dr Kwame Shanaube, he also co-leads a BRCCH-EDCTP collaborative project on Improving Access to SARS-CoV-2 Screening and Testing through Community-based COVID-19 Case-Finding and the Use of Digital Solutions in Lesotho and Zambia.

 

Impact of COVID-19 on Global Paediatric Health – Interactive debate

Impact of COVID-19 on Global Paediatric Health

Join us during an interactive debate with a panel of experts on the topic: How the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected Global Paediatric Health. The discussion will mainly focus on: i) mental health in young people, ii) disruption to life-saving paediatric health services such as immunisation and antenatal care.

Tuesday, May 24th 2022 (16.00-17.15 pm CET)

Moderator: Prof Julia Dratva, Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) & University of Basel, Switzerland

Panel members: Prof Yvonne Maldonado, Stanford University, USA; Prof Alan Steiner, University of Oxford, UK; Dr Marc Birkhölzer, University of Basel, Switzerland; Prof Thomas Berger, Secretary and Chief Medical Advisor at NEO FOR NAMIBIA

Find out more about our speakers below

The event is taking place in a hybrid format:

The number of seats at Basel Biozentrum is limited, please register here.

Interested in joining virtually? Sign up here!

For more information, contact Dr Amandine Bovay, BRCCH Scientific Officer and Development Manager (amandine.bovay@brc.ch)

Programme Speakers:

Prof Yvonne Maldonado
Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics
Department of Epidemiology and Population Health                                 Stanford University School of Medicine, USA

Yvonne Maldonado is Professor of paediatrics, epidemiology, and population health, and Chief of the division of paediatric infectious diseases at the School of Medicine, Stanford University. She also currently serves as Stanford Medicine’s Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Diversity. Prof Maldonado's research focuses on the epidemiology and prevention of viral infectious diseases such as paediatric HIV, polio, measles and Ebola. Her work on mother-to-child transmission of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is credited for preventing hundreds of thousands of newborns from acquiring HIV. She also leads research on the development and implementation of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.

Visual: Stanford University

Prof Julia Dratva
Institute of Public Health, ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland
Medical Faculty, University of Basel, Switzerland

Prof Julia Dratva is a public health expert with a focus on child and adolescent health and early life factors of health and disease. She is the Head of the Public Health Research Unit at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and an Assistant Professor in the Medical Faculty at the University of Basel.

Prof Dratva is a medical doctor by training with a background in internal medicine. She also holds a Master degree in Public Health and a Specialist Certification (FMH) for "Prevention and Public Health". She has a particular interest in the life course approach to health and disease in research and teaching, addressing vulnerable groups and vulnerable time spans. She also has research interests in cardiovascular health, health monitoring, health literacy and digital health.

Prof Alan Stein
Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK

Alan Stein is Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, Honorary Professor in the School of Public health at the University of Witwatersrand and a member of the faculty of the African Health Research Institute, South Africa. His main area of research concerns the development of children and adolescents in the face of adversity. Ultimately the priority is to develop interventions. He has led three Lancet series on: i) The mental health of internally displaced and refugee children, ii) Perinatal mental health, iii) The communication of life-threatening conditions to children.

Prof Thomas Berger
Secretary and Chief Medical Advisor at NEO FOR NAMIBIA - Helping Babies Survive

Prof Thomas Berger is a paediatrician specialised in neonatology and intensive care. With more than 25 years of experience in neonatology in various high-income countries, he decided to share his knowledge with physicians and nurses in less privileged countries. Therefore, he and his wife founded the non-profit organisation NEO FOR NAMIBIA – Helping Babies Survive in 2017. The team has just launched their 14th mission in Rundu State Hospital to improve neonatal and paediatric care in Namibia.

Dr Marc Birkhölzer
Psychiatrist, University of Basel, Swizterland

Dr Marc Birkhölzer is currently a senior physician at the Juvenile Forensic Department of the Psychiatric University Clinics of Basel (UPK). His research focuses on personality disorders. Over the years, he has built an extraordinary network of collaborators in countries all over the world.

Webinar: Future of COVID-19 Research

Webinar: Future of COVID-19 Research

**Update October 28th, 2021 ** Thank you to everyone that attended our webinar! We had a great turnout-- in case you missed the presentations or you would like to watch them again, you can now stream them below or on our YouTube channel.

visual: background image courtesy of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

 

Description: The BRCCH cordially invites you to join us online for a webinar looking at The Future of COVID-19 Research. This event will highlight significant research progress and the roadmap ahead related to immunology, epidemiology and bioengineering. Gain insights from our keynote speakers and engage with them during the Q&A panel discussion.

When: Thursday, October 21st, 2021 from 15:00-17:00 CET

Where: online, livestream Zoom seminar

Schedule:
Welcome by BRCCH Vice Director Prof Sai Reddy
Keynote lecture by Prof Teresa Lambe OBE (University of Oxford)
     "Development and testing of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine"
Keynote lecture by Prof Benjamin Murrell (Karolinska Institutet)
     "Neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 variants"
Keynote lecture by Prof Sai Reddy (ETH Zurich and BRCCH)
     "Identifying prospective variants of SARS-CoV-2 by deep mutational learning"
Q&A Panel Discussion
Closing

Webinar Archive

Prof Teresa Lambe OBE (University of Oxford) presents "Development and Testing of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19/AZD1222 Vaccine" originally webcast on October 21st, 2021.

 

Prof Benjamin Murrell (Karolinska Institutet) presents "Neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 Variants" originally webcast on October 21st, 2021.

 

Prof Sai Reddy (ETH Zurich and BRCCH) presents "Identifying Prospective Variants of SARS-CoV-2 by Deep Mutational Learning" originally webcast on October 21st, 2021.

Keynote Speakers:

Prof Teresa Lambe OBE
The Lambe Group for Emerging Pathogens
The Oxford Vaccine Group and the Jenner Institute Laboratories
Dept of Paediatrics, University of Oxford

Assoc Prof Lambe will share her research insights into the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and its vaccine. Her research group is part of the Covid-19 vaccine trial in the UK and has co-designed the vaccine and led the development and testing of the immune response after vaccination.

Prof Lambe’s research investigates the establishment of protective immune responses following vaccination and the formation of adaptive immune memory. She is particularly interested in delineating the immune response post vaccination and also post natural infection to help develop vaccines and define correlates of protection. At the University of Oxford, her group uses platform technologies to develop vaccines against emerging and re-emerging pathogens. The group is currently developing vaccines against a number of outbreak pathogens including Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus, Lassa virus, Nipah virus, Influenza, Ebolavirus and coronaviruses.

Visual: John Cairns/University of Oxford

Prof Benjamin Murrell
Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology
Karolinska Institutet

Prof Murrell will speak about his work on the H2020 CoroNAb project, studying antibodies and isolating nanobodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Prof Murrell's previous research interests surrounded the evolution of the HIV envelope protein, and antibodies against it. Recently, he has applied this expertise to SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. Together with colleagues, he has identified nanobodies from immunized alpacas that may be potential SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics, and has conducted preclinical immunization studies attempting to boost responses to SARS-CoV-2 variants. This work is part of the CoroNAb consortium research project, funded under Horizon2020 as part of the EU’s emergency funding call for COVID-19.

Visual: Karolinska Institutet

Prof Sai Reddy
Laboratory for Systems and Synthetic Immunology
Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, ETH Zurich
And Vice Director BRCCH

Prof Reddy shares his recent work on developing a simultaneous diagnostic and genomic surveillance method for SARS-CoV-2 based on targeted deep sequencing. He will also present new data from his group related to identifying variants of SARS-CoV-2 using a novel method called deep mutational learning. 

Prof Reddy’s research is focused on the emerging field of systems and synthetic immunology, with an aim towards developing technologies relevant to immunotherapy and biotechnology. He has developed a number of methods in systems immunology to improve our understanding of adaptive immunity, with a particular focus on immune repertoire sequencing. Recently, he founded two spin-off companies, deepCDR Biologics and Engimmune Therapeutics, which are both based on technologies developed in his research group on engineering antibodies or T cells.

5 Early Career Researchers Selected for Postdoctoral Excellence Programme

Postdoctoral Excellence Programme (PEP)

The BRCCH announces five research projects within its new initiative, Postdoctoral Excellence Programme (PEP). The programme aims to foster the next generation of scientific leaders who will pursue interdisciplinary and step-changing research to address critical unmet needs and challenges in global paediatric health. Together with established Host Principal Investigators and Collaborators, PEP Fellows will implement highly translational and ambitious research proposals over the next three years.

Patch-IT: Multi-Sensor Sensor Nodes for Continuous Vital Sign Monitoring to Identify Novel Digital Biomarkers for Sepsis Detection in Neonatal Intensive Care
Neonatal sepsis has a high incidence globally and is a major cause of mortality worldwide. The project Patch-IT proposes a solution for improved neonatal sepsis monitoring and management. The team aims to develop a multi-sensor electronic epidermal system that incorporates wire-free, battery-free, non-invasive and autonomous monitoring of multiple vital signs continuously and in real time. The device will also employ in-sensor data analytics powered by state-of-the-art sensor-fusion algorithms to enable personalised patient monitoring. PEP Fellow Kanika Dheman (currently Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, ETHZ) will join the lab of Dr Michele Magno (Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, ETHZ).

Developing Novel Drug Strategies for the Treatment of Fragile X by Functional Screening of Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Models
Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability. FXS occurs due to epigenetic silencing, or non-expression, of a specific gene, FMR1. The goal of this project is to identify and test new drugs using human stem cells with the ability to induce re-expression of FMR1 and reverse FXS symptoms and effects. This proposal has 3 aims: 1. Establish baseline levels of FMR1 expression and downstream targets in normal and FXS stem cells 2. Screen novel categories of drug compounds and 3. Establish organoids, a type of tissue culture, from FXS stem cells to perform anatomical validation of drug efficacy. A PEP Fellow will conduct this work in the lab of Prof Verdon Taylor (Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel). The consortium also involves international collaboration with Prof Nissim Benvenisty (Department of Genetics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel).

Bioinspired, Low-Cost Device for Minimally Invasive Blood Sampling
More than 70% of medical decisions depend on laboratory results and blood sampling is the most prevalent route for disease diagnosis and monitoring. The researchers propose to develop a versatile microsampling device for the collection of blood with minimal invasiveness, low manufacturing costs and sufficient volume retrieval for point-of-care tests or laboratory analysis. This device may be particularly suited for children where traditional blood draws using needles can cause distress. A prototype will be manufactured by 3D printing and validated pre-clinically ex vivo, in vivo and in combination with a commercially available point-of-care test for the detection of malaria. PEP Fellow Dr Nicole Zoratto (currently Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) will join the lab of Prof Jean-Christophe Leroux (Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETHZ).

Electronic Clinical Decision Support and Machine Learning to Improve Care Quality and Clinical Outcomes of Sick Young Infants in Low-Resource Settings
Almost half of all deaths in children in the first five years of life occur in the neonatal and early infant period. Electronic Clinical Decision Support Algorithms (eCDSAs) can help guide health workers in appropriate and evidence-based patient evaluation and management, and have demonstrated benefit in improving clinical care for children. However, no such tool has been validated or tested for managing sick young infants in outpatient care settings in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The researchers will evaluate the effects of an eCDSA for neonates and young infants on the quality of care delivered and clinical outcomes among young infants in five LMICs. The investigators aim to enhance the prognostic and diagnostic performance of the algorithm using machine learning methods. PEP Fellow Dr Gillian Levine (currently Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Household Economics and Health Systems Research Unit, Swiss TPH) will join the research group of Dr Tracy Glass (Department of Medicine, Swiss TPH).

Harnessing Machine Learning and Mechanistic Modelling for Personalised Radiotherapy of Paediatric Diffuse Midline Glioma
Diffuse midline glioma, a primary tumor within the most sensitive part of the brain, is a fatal disease primarily affecting children between 4-7 years of age. The project proposes to develop a digital health tool to guide doctors in designing optimal treatment strategies for affected children and their families. The overarching aim of this project is to build a treatment decision support platform facilitating personalised radiotherapy (RT) optimisation based on MRI for afflicted paediatric patients. The researchers will develop an analytical pipeline bridging mechanistic modelling and data-driven machine learning to refine patient stratification, discover imaging biomarkers, and inform RT scheduling and dosing by an individualised radiosensitivity score. PEP Fellow Dr Sarah Brüningk will continue to work in the lab of Prof Karsten Borgwardt (both of Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, ETHZ), in collaboration with Prof Javad Nazarian (DMG Research Center, University Children’s Hospital Zurich).

image: Joachim Pelikan, SwissTPH

    About the Call: The initial call for applications was launched in Fall 2020. 15 proposals were submitted with a combined total requested budget of 5’010’747 CHF. Following an external evaluation by a committee of international experts, 5 projects were recommended for full funding. The BRCCH Board approved these recommendations in May 2021.

    BRCCH Supports Travel Fellowships for Computational Biology Conference

    BRCCH Supports Travel Fellowships for [BC]2 Basel Computational Biology Conference

     

    The BRCCH provides three travel fellowships (1’666 CHF each) to PhD students and early career scientists aiming to attend the [BC]2 Basel Computational Biology Conference. Early career researchers involved in paediatric research and those from low- and middle-income countries are encouraged to apply.

    More information and APPLY at the [BC]2 website.

    The [BC]2 Basel Computational Biology Conference, September 13-15, 2021, will be more interdisciplinary than ever this year, with sessions on cancer and precision medicine, machine learning, clinical population genomics, pathogens and immune system, single-cell biology, evolutionary biology and ecology.  

    The conference will offer many opportunities for interactivity including the ELIXIR Innovation and SME Forum to learn about solutions for preventive medicine and the whole learning ecosystem of health, as well as tutorials and workshops providing an informal setting to discover and discuss about the latest bioinformatics methods.  

     

     

    BRCCH Physical Home by 2025

    BRCCH Physical Home by 2025

    visual: Kanton Basel-Stadt

     

    In a press release by the City of Basel, the canton shares news of its plans to build a new research building next to the life sciences campus Schällemätteli. The building, which will be completed by 2025, will host 4-5 research groups of the BRCCH. There is now an open anonymous project competition for a general planning team.

    Read the full press release (in German) on Kanton Basel-Stadt's website.

    Conversation with the Directors

    "We want to be measured by impact in global child health."

    It’s only a little more than two years since the BRCCH started operations. Since then, the research centre has already achieved important milestones, launched major research initiatives and sharpened its focus. In this conversation about the first two years and the future of the BRCCH, the centre's two directors, Georg Holländer and Sai Reddy, talk with journalist Felix Müller.

     

    Georg Holländer and Sai Reddy, it’s only a little more than two years since the BRCCH started operations. What would you call your biggest achievement during this initial phase?

    Georg Holländer: I'm delighted that we succeeded in putting together and starting a couple of aspirational and important programmes. First and foremost, I’d like to mention the Multi Investigator Programmes – we call them MIPs. Under their umbrella, we managed to draw together highly competitive research groups from different institutes to work on questions that otherwise could not be addressed in this fashion. The second achievement is that within these first two years, we have been able to successfully engage with our two partner universities in creating paths toward professorial posts as well as defining new areas that would align with the Centre’s research focus and benefit from further academic strength.

    Indeed, you came out of the starting blocks very fast …

    Sai Reddy: … which was not self-evident at all! ETH Zurich, University of Basel and our two additional partners, UKBB and Swiss TPH, have different philosophies, perspectives and historical strengths. This could have been a challenge for us, but we were able to pull together a very broad coalition of researchers from both universities in this short time. In a lot of ways, it's an extremely constructive and balanced constellation; we truly feel both interdisciplinary and inter-institutional. Both universities have embraced us and we, likewise, feel embedded in them.

    GH: And, thanks to the openness of these two universities and all four partners, we can count on an ongoing dialogue to underpin what we're trying to achieve.

    If you are embedded within the universities though, what about your own identity as the BRCCH?

    SR: Yes, since our current projects come from existing research groups at both universities, we are really part of them. With the recruitment of new professorships, it will help to establish a more unique identity over time.

    GH: My wish is that we will always be understood as a partner of equal standing. And that this applies to all our partners.

    When the founding of the BRCCH was announced in autumn 2018, another partner played a prominent role – Fondation Botnar, the Centre’s main donor. Was there ever any confusion about who was who?

    GH: In the beginning, we sometimes received communications that were clearly addressed to and meant to be for the foundation rather than the BRCCH. But over time it became easier for people to differentiate between the two entities. Especially the local community has embraced our BRCCH identity and our role as an independent research centre.

    COVID-19 has disrupted many organisations. How did the pandemic affect your activities?

    SR: When Fondation Botnar contributed a significant sum to a BRCCH fast track call for COVID-19 research projects, in just two weeks we received almost 80 applications.

    Two weeks? That’s an incredibly short time span to come up with a scientific research proposal.

    SR: The speed was driven by the motivation of the science community to respond swiftly. Science can move quickly if people collaborate and pull together. It is really amazing to look at what has already been learned and the data gathered about the virus to date. While not directly related to child health research, it is nevertheless critical for global health – and that means it’s critical for children’s health as the pandemic impacts families and society. Because the BRCCH also has a keen interest in supporting global health in low- and middle-income countries, areas where COVID-19 is going to continue due to lack of vaccine supply, we aim to stay on top of this and remain involved.

    GH: We have also started to see that the disease changes its face and that the causative virus mutates under selective pressure. With emerging new variants new questions also arise. And we see more and more young people, amongst them children, being affected. This area of research will clearly keep us engaged and challenged for an extended period of time.

    Indeed child health is a broad field. How do you keep the BRCCH focused?

    GH: There is so much that could and should be done in child health. But the impact and the sustainability of the BRCCH will come from the fact that we can look at and focus on a number of very relevant issues in global child health. These we can analyse in depth. The first two years of the BRCCH have focused on areas where we think, collectively with our partners, substantial step-changing contributions can be made. Even with the very generous funding available to us, we will only effectively contribute to change if we don't spread our activity too broadly and thus too thinly. We know it is important to stick to an overall strategic plan in order to deliver on our remit, but that doesn't mean the programme pursued is static – as we've just seen with COVID-19 research. We need to regularly check whether our priorities are still the correct ones; we are currently undergoing our first evaluation process as part of such an effort. After two years, this is a good time for external experts to review our research strategy and structure.

    How exactly will the external evaluation support your activities?

    GH: I hope it will provide us with a critical reflection of the focal scientific areas we have chosen and where we believe we can make a difference. The evaluation is expected to enable us to go forward in the correct direction and in a focused manner to deliver on what is needed.

    SR: This is difficult to say since it is an independent evaluation. But feedback about how to ensure our work is sustainable would be welcome, about how to build a sustainable centre that can grow as well – not simply keep to our path, but how we can be creative and adapt to that path as it unfolds.

    “Focus”, too, is a word you emphasise. So what is the BRCCH’s focus for the rest of 2021?

    SR: Soon a decision will be made on applications for a postdoc excellence programme in support of young researchers who are trying to find, and make a transition to, independent careers in child and adolescent health research. We also plan to roll out a principal investigator initiative, which is funding related to slightly smaller projects than our MIPs. Furthermore, we hope to start recruiting for three, out of a total of six, planned professorships by the end of the year.

    In which fields are the professorships?

    GH: One is in molecular diagnostics, and affiliated primarily with ETH and the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering. The second professorship is related to digital medicine and health at University of Basel, Faculty of Medicine. And then we have a third one that is going to look at the ethics of childhood digital health and data. It too will be hosted by ETH and associated with the Department of Health Sciences and Technology.

    If we look to the future, to the end of your first 10 years in 2028: What headline would you like to read about your work?

    SR: I would hope to see a headline that would relate to our early MIPs – these are the ones that have the longest possible time to achieve their goals and make a clinical or translational impact.

    GH: I fully agree. We want to be measured by impact. But more than that – in 10 years when we look back, I hope we can say it was a good idea to bring these two universities together in the context of the BRCCH, and that through this collaboration we could make real contributions to global child health and well-being.

    To make an impact requires collaboration on local and global level. What about your networks and their growth in the past two years?

    GH: Given the design of the Centre, we largely depended on the competencies and contributions of researchers based at our partner institutions. This meant drawing on a broad network via our partner institutions at the beginning. But as we move into new and paediatric-related domains, we need to broaden and establish additional networks to complement existent expertise locally. So it’s gratifying that after only two years, we have a research portfolio that involves international collaborators from 18 countries – this augurs well for future outreach.

    Sai, Georg – final words: What were your most uplifting moments during the past two years?

    SR: For me it’s been the positive support received from all stakeholders around us – especially all our partners, our Board, Scientific Advisory Board, and clearly Fondation Botnar. Each step of the way has been met with positivity and enthusiasm. The trust we’ve been given has been really great.

    GH: Since Sai looked outside and commented on the interface with our partners, let me look inside. I'm particularly delighted to have a very collegial, hard-working team that shares a set of core values and goals that we wish to collectively achieve. I am happy to say that we are all pulling on the same strings, and singing from the same hymn sheet. That makes our endeavour so much more fun because it demonstrates a very deep common understanding about what we want to achieve.

    Thanks for your time. All the best.

     

    Interview: Felix Müller

    BRCCH and EDCTP Start a New Joint Initiative

    The BRCCH and EDCTP
    Start a New Joint Initiative

    The BRCCH and the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) are to support three multi-institutional, multi-country collaborations for research to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Three collaborative projects are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with research to improve the surveillance and management of COVID-19. The projects are a result of a synergistic Collaboration Initiative by EDCTP and the BRCCH to drive interdisciplinary efforts to combat global health challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Collaboration Initiative:

    In 2020, each organisation launched its own emergency mechanism to support research in COVID-19. The EDCTP mechanism focused on efforts in sub-Saharan Africa to manage and/or prevent the spread of COVID-19 and targeted four thematic research gaps: therapeutics, diagnostics, serological testing, and understanding of the natural history of infection. The BRCCH Fast Track Call initiative focused on research within diagnostics, immunology and medical interventions that will help mitigate medical and public health challenges in the short term, and to also contribute solutions that will lead to better preparedness and reduced global disease burden in the long term.

    Realising the potential for collaborative efforts, the EDCTP and the BRCCH initiated dialogues between Principal Investigators (PIs) in their respective programmes. BRCCH-EDCTP consortia that wished to pursue a potential future collaboration were then invited to submit formal applications for external peer-review. The applications underwent evaluation in November 2020.

    This joint BRCCH-EDCTP Collaboration Initiative will support three projects that range from immunology to diagnostics and health screening strategies for COVID-19 in low- and middle-income country (LMIC) settings. The projects, which are a complementary extension to the ongoing research activities being funded by BRCCH and EDCTP, will launch in early 2021 and will be supported with 900,000 CHF in total funding over a period of two years. Involved BRCCH researchers are based in the centre's partner institutions: ETH Zurich, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the University Hospital Basel.

    Researchers do community outreach in remote areas in Lesotho in order to increase access to essential health services. Image: SolidarMed & Swiss TPH

     

    The Research:

    Improving Access to SARS-CoV-2 Screening and Testing through Community-based COVID-19 Case-Finding and the Use of Digital Solutions in Lesotho and Zambia
    In a collaboration between teams in Lesotho and Zambia, Dr Klaus Reither (Swiss TPH, BRCCH grantee for the MistraL project) and Dr Kwame Shanaube (Zambart, EDCTP grantee for the TREATS-COVID project) will investigate the effects of community-led interventions, rapid point-of-care diagnostics and swab self-collection in mitigating the COVID-19 epidemic in these African nations. The project will be carried out by 14-member consortium, including collaborators based at  the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, SolidarMed, FIND and KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation.

    African-European Partnership for Development and Deployment of Rapid SARS-CoV-2 RNA and Antigen Detection Assays
    Prof Janos Vörös, Prof Wendelin Stark (both ETH Zurich, BRCCH grantee for a Rapid Diagnostic Test project and for the peakPCR project, respectively) and Dr Ahmed Abd El Wahed (University of Leipzig, EDCTP grantee for the Suitcaselab project) aim to advance novel and rapid COVID-19 diagnostic technologies tailored for poor-resource and emergency settings. Including partners in France and seven African countries, the 13-PI consortium will co-develop a rapid lateral flow diagnostic assay, a portable PCR device operated in a mobile suitcase lab for use in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The consortium includes collaborators from the Institut Pasteur de Paris, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Institute Pasteur de Madagascar, KNUST, University of Ibadan, INRB, University of Khartoum and Makerere University.

    COVID-19 Antibody Repertoires in Infection and Vaccination
    The project co-led by Prof Andreas Moor (ETH Zurich, BRCCH grantee for a B-Cell Immunity project) and Dr Julie Fox (King’s College London, EDCTP grantee for the COVAB project) aims to investigate B cell-mediated immunity to SARS-CoV-2 infection in different health states. Specifically, the consortium will investigate and compare the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the antibody repertoire in patients who contract the virus through natural means, in COVID-19 patients who also suffer from HIV and in vaccinated individuals. This consortium involves four researchers from institutions in the UK and Switzerland (in addition to the two named above, the University Hospital Basel).

      About EDCTP:

      The mission of the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) is to reduce the social and economic burden of poverty-related diseases in developing countries, in particular sub-Saharan Africa, by accelerating the clinical development of effective, safe, accessible, suitable, and affordable medical interventions for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected infectious diseases, lower respiratory tract infections, diarrhoeal diseases and infectious diseases of epidemic potential, including Ebola and COVID-19 . EDCTP is supported by the European Union under Horizon 2020, its Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

      BRCCH Brochure

      Just over 2 years ago the University of Basel and ETH Zurich, with the support of Fondation Botnar, founded the BRCCH. The Centre hit the ground running and established its identity as a collaborative research center. With this brochure, the BRCCH presents further information and insight into itself and its research areas.

      Webinar: Insights Into COVID-19 Research

      Webinar: Insights Into
      COVID-19 Research

      The BRCCH invites you to join us online for free webinars on COVID-19.

      **Update September 17th, 2020 ** Thank you to everyone that attended our webinars in September! We had a great turnout-- in case you missed the presentations or you would like to watch them again, you can now stream them below or on our YouTube channel

        Description: The pandemic is placing the world in a stress test that is unprecedented. In response, organizations across sectors from research to nonprofit are mobilizing resources and taking action. This 3-part webinar series will highlight the BRCCH's ongoing collaborative research efforts in Switzerland, as well as dip into the global conversation about the current challenges and latest developments in the race to respond to the pandemic, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries.

        Sept 2nd & 9th: We will take an in-depth look into recently launched research projects focused on diagnostics and the immunology of COVID-19, as well as others focused on novel medical interventions for COVID-19. The projects are part of our recent Fast Track Initiative for COVID-19.

        Sept 16th: During the panel discussion, we will hear first hand from international experts about the current landscape of public health and how technology and partnerships spanning borders could meet current challenges in the pandemic.

        Register: closed. In case you missed the webinars, you can now watch them here (scroll down) or on our Youtube channel
        More: Download our programme below for info on the talks and speakers

        Banner image: Produced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), this highly magnified, digitally colorized transmission electron microscopic (TEM) image reveals ultrastructural details exhibited by three, spherical shaped, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) virions.

        Webinar Archive

        Prof Janos Vörös (ETH Zurich) & PD Dr Michael Osthoff (University Hospital Basel) present "A mobile, rapid diagnostic test system for COVID-19 based on lateral flow assays diagnosing SARS-CoV-2 infections at point-of-need," originally webcast on Sep 2nd, 2020.

         

        Prof Andreas Moor (ETH Zurich) presents "B cell immunity in convalescent COVID-19 patients with the aim of identifying high-affinity antibodies against SARS-CoV-2" originally webcast on Sep 2nd, 2020.

         

        Prof Melissa Penny (Swiss TPH) & Prof Roland Regoes (ETH Zurich) present "Modelling and machine learning to optimise medical interventions and health strategies for emergency response to the pandemic" originally webcast on Sep 9th, 2020.

         

        Prof Thomas Erb (University Children's Hospital Basel) & Prof Mirko Meboldt (ETH Zurich) present "The challenge of ventilation in the COVID-19 pandemic - improved patient care with low-cost ventilators based on novel integrated pressure sensors" originally webcast on Sep 9th, 2020.

         

        International Panel Discussion
        Prof Alain Labrique (Global mHealth Initiative, Johns Hopkins University) &
        Dr Solomzi Makohliso (EssentialTech, EPFL) &
        Prof Marcel Tanner (Swiss Academy of Sciences | Fondation Botnar)  &
        Akhona Tshangela (Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) &
        Moderated by Dr Maxine Mackintosh (One HealthTech | The Alan Turing Institute)

        11 Projects for COVID-19 Research

        Fast Track Call (FTC) for
        Acute Global Health Challenges

        The BRCCH is pleased to announce 11 COVID-19 research consortia: The mandate of the BRCCH is to drive the development of innovative and step-changing health solutions for those who are most in need. With the support of Fondation Botnar, the BRCCH launches a new research initiative to address several critical areas related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Initiative’s objective is to both enable research that will help mitigate medical and public health challenges in the short-term, and to also contribute solutions that will lead to better preparedness and reduced global disease burden in the long-term.

        The BRCCH Board approved the FTC external evaluation committee’s recommendation to support 11 projects that seek to deliver immediate impact in the following research areas:

          Rapid and effective consortia among BRCCH’s four partner institutions, University of Basel including University Hospital Basel (USB), ETH Zurich, University Children’s Hospital Basel (UKBB) and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), and in collaboration with research teams worldwide, will aim to address urgent health needs. The following projects start activities this month.

          Each project is considerably supported for a duration of 2.5 years.

          About the Call: The initial call for the FTC circulated on March 27th, 2020. 73 research consortia submitted project proposals on April 8th, with more than 97 (Co-) Investigators involved and total requested budget of approximately CHF 84 million. Applications were evaluated by an external and international panel of reviewers. The panel recommended to support 11 projects (success rate of 15%), which were subsequently approved by the BRCCH Board. The FTC initiative is generously supported by Fondation Botnar.

          Inaugural BRCCH Spotlight Day

          The inaugural Spotlight Day of the BRCCH marked the start of our initiative to build a community, both locally and globally, around the central mission of improving the health and well-being of children and adolescents worldwide. This event was an opportunity for local and international community to meet, start new dialogues and enable fruitful collaborations.

          More than 200 visitors joined the BRCCH at the inaugural Spotlight Day on January 30, 2020 – a great turnout to the Centre's first public event. After inspiring welcome addresses by Andrea Schenker-Wicki and Detlef Günther, four new BRCCH Multi-Investigator Projects showcased their vision for the next 5 years. Three international keynote speakers gave new perspectives on how research can be applied and translated. With this event, the BRCCH welcomed our new research projects at the Centre and the start of their research activities at the BRCCH.

          Watch a summary of the event:

           

          Artist Alex Hughes (Drawnalism) illustrated the event:

             

            The event programme:

            4 Projects Launch in Multi-Investigator Programme

            Multi-Investigator Programme (MIP)

            The BRCCH is pleased to announce its Multi-Investigator Programme (MIP) projects for the 2019 Call, which establish the first cornerstones of the Centre's research portfolio to improve the health and well-being of children and adolescents worldwide. MIP projects bring together researchers from its four partner institutions and therefore represent collaborative and multi-institutional research consortia.  
            The projects will start in early 2020 and will continue for five years. The Principal Investigators will introduce their projects on the inaugural Spotlight Day of the BRCCH on Thursday, 30 January 2020 at the Zentrum für Lehre und Forschung of the University Hospital Basel.

            The BRCCH supports the following Multi-Investigator Projects:

            Digital Support Systems to Improve Child Health and Development in Low-Income Settings
            In many low- and middle-income countries, families living in remote areas often have insufficient access to healthcare and health-related services to adequately support their children in the first years of their life. As a result, children’s early development is often delayed compared to children who grow up without such adversity, limiting their potential to lead a healthy and prosperous life. To address this, a new project led by Professor Günther Fink and Professor Daniel Mäusezahl will assess the extent to which a mobile phone-based interactive app can support the well-being of infants and young children growing up in low-and middle-income countries. Together with the creator of the app, Afinidata, the team will assess this platform through a study involving 2,400 families with young children in San Marcos province, Peru.  Through this study, the research team will not only learn about the potential reach and impact of the app, but will also collect feedback from local communities to further improve the app’s ability to support children’s healthy development.

                 Team members: Professor Günther Fink and Professor Daniel Mäusezahl from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute from Swiss TPH, Professor Ce Zhang from ETH Zürich, Professor Stella Hartinger-Peña from the Cayetano Heredia University (UPCH), Professor Dana McCoy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Andreana Castellanos, CEO of Afinidata.

            Burden-Reduced Cleft lip and palate Care and Healing
            Dr Andreas Mueller and Dr Barbara Solenthaler aim to simplify and optimize the surgical treatment of cleft lip and palate with the use of machine learning algorithms, smartphone-based images of the malformation, and 3D-printing of tailor-made palatal orthopedic plates. Not only will this project leverage on cutting-edge technology, but it will also aim to reduce the burden of surgery from a multi-step to a single-step procedure. The applicability of the proposed research project is especially relevant for children in low-income settings because current treatments are relatively high in cost and burdensome for the patient and his/her family which, in addition, may face challenges in securing the funding for the multiple surgeries presently needed. The project goals also allow the social reintegration of children with cleft lip and palate.
                 Team members: Dr Andreas Mueller from the University Hospital and University Children’s Hospital Basel, Dr Barbara Solenthaler from ETH Zurich, Dr Srinivas Gosla Reddy from GSR Institute of Craniofacial Surgery, Hyderabad, India, Dr Andrzej Brudnicki from the Institute of Mother and Child, Warsaw and Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic Formmed, Warsaw and Prof. Markus Gross from Disney Research.

            Living Microbial Diagnostics to Enable Individualized Child Health Interventions
            Malnutrition, infectious diseases and inflammatory conditions remain leading causes of illness in children living in low-and-middle income countries. In times of sickness and chronic illness, our gut microbes undergo genetic and physiological changes in response to the effects of insults such as infection or disease on the human body. Therefore, the monitoring of the changes in the gut microbiome has the potential to serve as a functional readout of the status of our health. In this project, the team led by Professor Randall Platt aims to develop a CRISPR-based technology involving engineered bacteria which are capable of sensing, remembering, and reporting on the environment within the gut. These bacteria will be utilized to provide an assessment of the nutritional, infection, and inflammation status of the gut and thereby provide a basis for individualizing and improving medical and lifestyle interventions for children and adolescents in the future.
                 Team members: Professor Randall Platt and Professor Uwe Sauer from ETH Zurich, Professor Dirk Bumann from the University of Basel and Professor Andrew Macpherson from the University of Bern.

            Precision Microbiota Engineering for Child Health
            From shortly after birth, the large intestine is colonized by billions of bacteria, which make up the intestinal microbiota. We are only just beginning to understand the extent and the mechanisms by which these bacteria influence child health and development. However, current studies support causal roles of these bacteria in diseases as diverse as allergy and autism. Despite this knowledge, we still have no accurate medical intervention to “fix” the microbiota. This project headed by Professor  Emma Wetter Slack develops novel tools to engineer the microbiota of individuals with inborn errors of metabolism or necrotizing enterocolitis: these conditions currently have high mortality rates, long-term consequences for child development and limited treatment options. The project aims to replace “bad” bacteria in the microbiome of the gut by “desirable” ones. This modification will be achieved with the help of engineered antibodies, and the direct targeting of individual genes in intestine-resident bacteria by employing CRISPR-Cas9 methodology. Moreover, since microbiota engineering can be applied across a wide range of childhood diseases, this effort has far-reaching implications for the future of medicine.
                 Team members: Professor Emma Wetter Slack, Professor Viola Vogel, Professor Ferdinand von Meyenn, Professor Johannes Bohacek, and Professor Shinichi Sunagawa from ETH Zürich, and Professor Médéric Diard from the University of Basel, Professor Matthias Baumgartner, Professor Johannes Häberle and Dr Sean Froese from the University Children’s Hospital Zürich, Dr Johannes Trück from the University Children’s Hospital Zürich and University of Zürich, Professor Giancarlo Natalucci from the University Hospital Zürich, Professor Christian Wolfrum from ETH Zürich, Dr Martin Behe from the Paul Scherrer Institute and Professor Adrian Egli from the University Hospital Basel.

            About the Call: The initial call for Multi-Investigator Projects circulated in Summer 2019. 28 applications were submitted, with more than 90 (co-) investigators involved and requested funding of approximately CHF 105 million. All submitted MIP applications were rigorously evaluated by an external and independent panel of reviewers. The first evaluation round was completed in September, the second round in October 2019. Applicants that  received positive assessments in both evaluation rounds were then invited to an interview-based workshop with our international Project Evaluation Board on 24 October 2019. On the basis of these presentations and all reviews, the evaluation board proposed four projects for funding, which the BRCCH Board accepted at its meeting on 6 December.

            Please see more information on the evaluation process. We look forward to promoting innovative and bold research projects for the health and well-being of children and adolescents worldwide!

            Archive Application Documents