A pan-European initiative led by the University of Plymouth designed to train the next generation of brain tumour researchers, has received funding of almost €3.7 million from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 – Research and Innovation Framework Programme.
Together with partner organisations in China, the initiative is called AiPBAND and will train a new generation of entrepreneurial and innovative early-stage researchers in the early diagnosis of brain tumours.
The four-year initiative will focus on gliomas, a range of devastating and progressive brain tumours affecting around 25,000 people each year in Europe and responsible for the majority of deaths from primary brain tumours.
The potential for this project to boost research into brain tumours is significant – currently in the UK around one per cent of the total research spend on cancer is spent on brain tumours, yet they are the biggest cancer killer of children and young people under the age of 40. The creation of a new, skilled and entrepreneurially-minded generation of brain tumour researchers bodes well for the future of research into brain tumours and offers hope to millions around the world.
Some 14 fellows will be trained by experts in nine academic and three non-academic organisations participating in AiPBAND, belonging to five EU member states and six partner organisations (four in the private sectors and two international academic), with fields ranging from neuroscience, engineering (including big data science), healthcare to economics.
AiPBAND aims to address four key objectives. The first is to identify new blood biomarkers from patients with gliomas. Secondly those involved with the initiative will design three types of multiplex biosensor - plasmonic-based (which uses surface plasmons to achieve optical properties not seen in nature), graphene-based, and digital ELISA assay-based (a biochemical technique used mainly in immunology to detect the presence of an antibody or an antigen in a sample).
Third and fourth are the development of a big data-empowered intelligent data management infrastructure, and cloud-based diagnostic systems.
Accuracy, sensitivity and specificity will be assessed through clinical trials. Individual research projects under the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (which supports those undertaking a doctorate, are a member of research staff, pursuing an academic career or thinking about applying the skills developed during their PhD in another career) will be carefully arranged into local training courses, network wide events, secondments, personalised career development plans and with strong involvement of the private sector.
This approach will ensure exploitation of AiPBAND's achievements, maximising the abilities of early-stage researchers in creative and innovative thinking, knowledge transformation, while encouraging a business-orientated mind-set and entrepreneurship.
AiPBAND includes participants from the UK, Sweden, Italy, The Netherlands and Belgium, as well as partnerships with organisations in China, Germany and The Netherlands.
Leading the project is Dr Xinzhong Li, Lecturer in Medical Statistics and Bioinformatics at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. He said:
"This is an exciting bringing-together of a wide range of international inter-professional and inter-discipline expertise with one aim in mind – to futureproof research into brain tumours by creating a whole new generation of researchers. We are very grateful to the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 – Research and Innovation Framework Programme for this funding. We are looking forward to working with our partners on this game-changing project."