Aims and Strategy – Towards Personalized Medicine

Cancer, metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, disorders of the nervous system, lung and infectious diseases are characterized by a complex interplay of changes in DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites. Advances in technology offer the possibility to observe underlying molecular changes in unprecedented depth, to identify spatial and temporal patterns of molecular abnormalities, and to link them to individual clinical outcomes. As a consequence, molecular diagnostic studies at the patient level are beginning to guide therapeutic decisions.

Expertise in molecular high-throughput methodologies (next-generation sequencing, epigenomics, proteomics, metabolomics and imaging) is indispensable for molecular diagnostics, patient stratification and monitoring of both treatable and currently non-treatable diseases. Bioinformatic analysis of such patient data and disease modeling incur tremendous challenges related to logistics, content width, information processing and personal data protection. These challenges exceed the abilities of any single institution and can best be met through a network of highly competent partners with a broad range of complementary expertise as well as the development of joint technology and platforms.

Through technologies developed within iMed, comprehensive diagnostic methods will provide in-depth information on the molecular state of the disease of individual patients. This will lead to the generation of data at a large scale. Concurrent reductions in price per analysis will eventually allow routine clinical application of these new methods for better prediction, diagnostics, therapy and management of disease. Within iMed, a Systems Medicine and IT platform will focus on methodologies to model important causal processes of complex diseases such as cancer, infection, metabolic, cardiovascular, lung and neurodegenerative diseases as well as environmental influences. By systematically integrating heterogeneous data sources into mathematical models, it will create new insights into the molecular networks influencing cellular fates and disease processes.

Combining the complementary research strengths and technological expertise of participating Helmholtz centers and local partners from university medicine, iMed will generate considerable added value for each research program. In cooperation with university hospitals and translational centers, large patient cohorts in many disease areas have already been recruited and are being further developed, with in-depth phenotyping and standardized sampling and banking of relevant biomaterials. The German National Cohort with its nationwide sample size of 200 000 participants will provide unique opportunities to develop activities in the area of personalized prevention for the general population.

iMed will further seek to develop risk adjusted programs for prevention and early diagnosis, enabling targeted interventions even prior to manifested disease.

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