Measures establishing systems medicine
e:Med, the new Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) nationwide research program, promotes system-oriented research into diseases, in order to facilitate improved prevention, more comprehensive diagnostics and individually adjusted therapy schemes in individualized medicine. “e:Med” stands for the electronic processing and integration of medically relevant data from diverse levels of knowledge in systems medicine.
Establishing systems medicine in Germany is the objective of researchers who have joined forces in e:Med. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding e:Med with up to 200 million euro since 2013 and now in the second funding period. The concept includes five modules: “Systems medicine research alliances” work on specific issues in module I. “Demonstrators for an individualized medicine”, as pilot projects, are intended to demonstrate the direct benefits of data records from high-throughput research to individualized prevention, diagnosis and therapy in module II. Module III “Promotion of young investigators” covers the funding measures “junior research groups” and “junior research alliances”, as well as the organization of high-quality “summer schools”. e:Med module IV “Future-oriented and cross-cutting issues” will enable a flexible response to the need for innovation and currently represents an interface to other BMBF initiatives, such as de.NBI and i:DSem. The subject of module V “Internationalization” is participation in important international measures, such as ICGC ARGO, IHEC, ERA networks and EASyM. Concurrently, the BMBF funds projects regarding ethical, legal and social aspects of systems medicine.
A complex interaction of individual genetic differences, environment, nutrition and lifestyle determines whether someone is ill or healthy. How do the various systems interlink and how can they be influenced to promote health? Computer scientists and mathematicians network with medical and biological experts at e:Med, with the objective of recording complex processes quantitatively and in chronological order, and understanding correlations on multiple levels.
e:Med scientists examine large quantities of health-related data through an interaction between lab experiments and computer models. This approach, termed “systems medicine”, should contribute to developing innovative therapy and prevention procedures, centered on individual persons. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the implementation of a systems medicine network in Germany through the new e:Med research concept.
Which bio-samples are examined? The basis for the systems medicine examination is an analysis of genomes, proteins or the metabolic products of bio-samples, such as blood, urine or tissue.
Which technologies are employed? Samples are obtained, for example using molecular biology and imaging methods or through tissue examinations. This is primarily carried out using the latest automated “omics” methods in a high throughput process. Several methods are continuously improved and optimized within e:Med.
Rapid technical progress and the ever more accurate analytical methods in medical research contribute to the accrual of increasingly large quantities of data – catchword “Big Data”. e:Med scientists precisely analyze and integrate them, making sure that the decisive part of this data flood can actually benefit the patient.
The “systems medicine” approach applies to major, common diseases as well as rare diseases, with their complex causes, as an opportunity to provide affected persons with improved treatment and prevention.