On 11 April, healthcare stakeholders and policymakers from different backgrounds, including several Interreg Europe partnerships (see below) as well as key institutions such as the Lombardy Ministry of Health, gathered in Milan, Italy for a workshop regarding some of the major societal challenges facing Europe such as personalised medicine, ageing, use of data, artificial intelligence and modernising health systems. The event sought to build a stable interlink between three health related project communities: IC-Permed, Interreg Europe Projects and the Vanguard/Esther project on medical technologies, which together cover the entire health value chain (research, development and patient experience). Apart from enhancing interregional cooperation the main themes of the meeting were dissemination, investment and sustainability.

Personalised medicine is a cross-cutting field exploring how to use different kinds of data (medical and other) for preventing, diagnosing or treating diseases; explaining for example why there are differences in treatment effectiveness between persons having the same disease, or what a genetic profile can tell about a person’s health risks.

The workshop was organised by the Lombardy Foundation for Biomedical research who is both a member of ICPerMed (International Consortium for Personalised Medicine) and a partner in the Interreg Europe project TITTAN. In addition to TITTAN, four other health and ageing oriented Interreg Europe projects also joined the event: ELISE, ITHACA, HELIUM and the recently approved Medtech4Europe. Further details about the event can be found in a news article prepared by the TITTAN project.

The International Consortium for Personalised Medicine (ICPerMed) was initiated during several workshops organised by the European Commission throughout 2016. ICPerMed aims to provide a flexible framework for cooperation between its member organisations. Together, they work on fostering and coordinating research as a driver of personalised medicine. More information can be found on the ICPerMed.

Addressing different challenges relating to healthcare policies, the various projects took the floor to capitalise upon their experiences on health innovation and share with a wider audience outside the Interreg Europe community.

The project participants were able to disseminate and showcase their experiences and their use of innovative policy approaches and relate them directly to challenges being faced by healthcare professionals:

HELIUM, put the spotlight on the living lab approach and the placement of people (patients) at the centre of the innovation process. 

ITHACA, working on personalised solutions for elderly and dependent people, highlighted issues related to accessibility for patients, education among healthcare professionals, and used the workshop to develop and present ideas regarding proper data usage and ideas regarding co-creation mechanisms with patients;

ELISE, with a life science ecosystem perspective, stressed the value of influential and inspirational leaders for improved cross-disciplinary collaboration and exchanged with the other workshop attendees on the issues related to accelerate and translate medical discoveries into clinical use for medical and patient level innovation;

Medtech4Europe emphasised the theme of connected healthcare and telemedicine, both as an important sector for investments, and from a policy perspective, and used the workshop to exchange concerning the reimbursement for telemedicine services and its integration in national health systems.  

The workshop brainstorming sessions helped partners to identify areas in which they should prioritise their policy cooperation efforts.  These included research and innovation road maps regulatory issues related to personalised medicine, big data, connected health and to highlight and share investment opportunities and new policy tools to be deployed within their Action Plans. Beyond the inspirations given by the Interreg Europe community, the workshop also provided insights into a Vanguard Initiative/Esther pilot on medical technologies, aimed at mobilising joint investments through innovation led interregional collaboration. Learn more here.

By working together, partners argued that they are able to develop a better understanding of the whole health value chain, connect their strengths and to enhance their regional innovation performance and overall competitiveness. This may result in the establishment of joint R&D&I technology road mapping, the alignment of regional polices, and the unlocking of joint investments. Among others, big-data, connected and integrated health, as well as responsible research and innovation were identified as future themes of cooperation. 

The sustainabilty dimension of the workshop aimed to encourage partners to think about the perspective of the creation of an interregional network where exchange of experience, mutual learning models in life sciences are maintained and a common priority agenda on Personalised Medicine is created in the following years.

By working together and across projects, partners are able to discover synergies and seek complementarities with other funding programmes. A Horizon 2020 project proposal for “Interregional coordination for a fast and deep uptake of personalised health” was submitted to turn theory into practice. The core of the proposal consortium builds on the TITTAN project partnership, but partners of the other Interreg Europe health and innovation related projects will be invited to join a high level advisory board to serve as links to the regions.

The workshop attendees also underlined the value of the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform for their activities and noted that “sharing helps people design and implement more complex projects”. The good practice database offers the possibility to find successful models, programmes and solutions and reduce the risk of duplication between partners and projects. “The platform is a “treasure” of structured knowledge developed by European regions and other stakeholders, that can be exploited in interregional coordination of newer challenges like personalised health”, said Mr D’Errico representing the Lombardy Foundation for Biomedical research 

Lastly, partners noted that the strengthening of sustainable relations between the regions will help lay the foundations for joint innovation and co-investment projects, connecting those regions sharing similar challenges.  Such approaches are in line with current policy actions deployed by DG REGIO seeking to accelerate interregional innovation led cooperation and represents the next challenge for these different health related project communities.

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