May 18th, 2022
Principal Investigator Initiative (PII)
The Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH) is pleased to announce six research projects within its new initiative, the Principal Investigator Initiative (PII). The PII aims to drive interdisciplinary research that addresses critical challenges in global paediatric health and medicine. BRCCH’s PII projects bring together researchers from its four partner institutions and international partners who will deliver step-changing innovations and intervention strategies across paediatric health diagnosis, disease treatment and prevention with global reach. Each project is supported with up to 1 million CHF for a duration of four years. Research activities will start in Summer 2022.
The BRCCH supports the following projects:
Visual Analysis of Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets to Maximise Universal Access
Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) are the mainstay of malaria control. However, more than 50% of people living in endemic areas are currently unprotected because LLINs often develop holes and wear out sooner than their expected lifespan. The consortium led by Dr Sarah Moore, Dr Amanda Ross (Swiss TPH) and Prof Philippe Claude Cattin (UniBas) will develop a digital tool enabling national malaria control programs to improve planning for programmatic LLIN distribution, monitoring of LLIN quality and selection of the best product for use according to contextual settings. Increasing mosquito net lifespan will optimise resource use, increase the protection of children and reduce malaria transmission in LMICs.
Team members: Dr Sarah Moore (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Prof Philippe Claude Cattin (University of Basel), Dr Robin Sandkühler (University of Basel), Dr Amanda Ross (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute); Sumaiyya Thawer (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Prof Fabrizio Tediosi (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Emmanuel Mbuba (Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania), Dr Zawadi Mboma (Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania), Frank Chacky (Ministry of Health, Tanzania).
Alex: Design, Development and Evaluation of a Digital Health Assistant for Paediatric Asthma
Poor adherence to medication and insufficient monitoring are key factors that contribute to inadequate asthma control in children and adolescents. The consortium led by adjunct Prof Edgar Delgado-Eckert (UKBB and UniBas) and Prof Elgar Fleisch (ETH Zurich) aims to improve asthma control in adolescents using a smartphone-based digital health assistant designed for regular and sustained remote disease monitoring and patient coaching. They will also harness digital and AI-based approaches to assess a patient’s health state passively, i.e., minimising the patient’s burden in the process of disease monitoring. Finally, the consortium will assess the feasibility and scalability of the digital health assistant in the socio-economic setting characteristic of low-to-middle income countries.
Team members: Adjunct Prof Edgar Delgado-Eckert (University Children’s Hospital Basel and Department of Biomedical Engineering at University of Basel), Prof Elgar Fleisch (Center for Digital Health Interventions at ETH Zürich), Prof Urs Frey (University Children’s Hospital Basel), Dr Filipe Barata (Center for Digital Health Interventions at ETH Zürich), Prof Nicole Probst-Hensch (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Prof Sorin Man (Emergency Clinical Hospital for Children, Romania).
OptiThyDose: Intelligent Digital Decision Support Tool to Personalise Dosing for Children with Thyroid Diseases
Hypo-/hyperthyroidism manifests at birth or during childhood. Prompt and adequate medical treatment is key to protecting cognitive and physiological development in affected children. Dose optimisation is complex as there is a wide spectrum of thyroid disease severity and activity, developmental pharmacology, and inter-individual variability in drug kinetics and response in these children. As such, there is frequent over- and under-dosing despite international treatment guidelines. The consortium led by Prof Gabor Szinnai and Prof Marc Pfister (UKBB) aims to develop an intelligent decision support tool - OptiThyDose - that optimises and computes personalised dosing for a given child afflicted with hypo- or hyperthyroidism. They will conduct international multi-centre studies to validate the clinical use of OptiThyDose in different socio-economic settings. This innovative research work is supporting families and caregivers with the ultimate goal to enhance cognitive and somatic outcomes in affected children, independent of socio-economic status.
Team members: Prof Gabor Szinnai (PI, University Children’s Hospital Basel), Prof Marc Pfister (Co-PI, University Children’s Hospital Basel); Prof Michel Polak (Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, France), Prof Marco Cappa (Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, Italy), Prof Lusine Navasardyan (Arabkir Medical Centre, Armenia), Prof Johannes Schropp (University of Konstanz, Germany).
Investigating Early Signs and Developmental Course of Personality Disorders in Young People
Personality disorders (PDs) are frequent mental illnesses that have devastating effects on both afflicted individuals and society. Until recently, PDs were primarily diagnosed in adulthood, although it is now well-established that their onset begins in childhood and adolescence. With the introduction of the Levels of Personality Functioning (LPF) in Section 3 of the DSM 5 in 2013 a new concept to diagnose PD was proposed. A very similar approach was adapted for the ICD 11, previous age restrictions for diagnosing PDs have been lifted. The consortium led by Dr Marc Birkhölzer (UniBas) aims to investigate if this new concept is valid and useful to diagnose and assess personality impairments in children and adolescents, in the same way as it does in adults. Through multi-site longitudinal studies, they will also develop approaches to investigate early signs and the progression of PDs in an equivalent way across different cultures, age groups and socio-economic settings.
Team members: Dr Marc Birkhölzer (University of Basel), Dr Kirstin Goth (University of Basel), Prof Hojka Gregoric Kumperscak (University Medical Center Maribor, Slovenia), Prof Natalia Zvereva (Moscow State University, Russia), Prof Sylvia Kaaya (The Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania), Dr Delia Birle (University of Oradea, Romania), Prof Rasa Barkauskiene (Vilnius University, Lithuania), Dr Moises Kassin (Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México, Mexico), Prof Eva Möhler (Saarland University Hospital, Germany), Prof Carla Sharp (University of Houston, USA), Prof Diane Purper-Ouakil (University of Montpellier, France), Prof Kathrin Sevecke (Innsbruck University Clinic for Psychiatry, Austria), Dr Lea Sarrar (MSB Medical School Berlin, Germany), Dr Sefa Cosgun (Private Clinic Istanbul, Turkey), Dr Felix Euler (Juvenile Forensic Department, Zurich), Dr André Della Casa (Psychiatric University Clinic, Zurich).
Feasibility and Economic Evaluation of Improved Child Deworming
Parasitic worm infections are still very common, particularly among children living in areas with limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Moreover, children are at the highest risk of morbidity associated with chronic worm infections. The consortium led by Prof Jennifer Keiser, Prof Fabrizio Tediosi and Prof Peter Steinmann (Swiss TPH) will evaluate the introduction of a new combination therapy for soil-transmitted helminth infections into routine neglected tropical disease control activities in Uganda. The consortium will assess the feasibility, acceptability and cost-effectiveness of this deworming treatment, develop delivery toolkits for effective child deworming tailored for local settings and support policy change at national and international levels. This project will contribute directly to the advancement of worm infection management affecting poor and marginalised children in LMICs.
Team members: Jennifer Keiser (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Fabrizio Tediosi (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Peter Steinmann (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute); Adriko Moses (Ministry of Health, Uganda).
New Tools for Early Diagnosis and Decentralised Treatment of Buruli Ulcer
Buruli ulcer (BU) is a chronic necrotising skin disease, caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. BU primarily affects children in West and Central Africa and most infections occur in remote, rural areas where patients have limited access to appropriate interventions. The consortium led by Prof Daniel H. Paris (Swiss TPH) and Prof Janos Vörös (ETH Zurich) aims to develop a simple point-of-care diagnostic test and a simplified, rapid treatment for BU that can be implemented at the primary healthcare and community levels. This project will enable rapid diagnosis and early treatment of BU, preventing long-term suffering, stigmatisation and permanent disabilities in afflicted children.
Team members: Prof Daniel H. Paris (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Prof Janos Vörös (ETH Zürich), Prof Gerd Pluschke (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Dr Alexander Tanno (Hemetron AG).
About the Call: The initial call for applications was launched in Summer 2021. 23 applications were submitted on November 5th 2021, with 53 (Co-) Investigators involved and a total requested budget of 20.2 million CHF. All applications were evaluated by an independent, international review panel. The panel recommended six projects for funding (success rate of ∼26%). The BRCCH Board approved these recommendations in Spring 2022.