Retrospective 2017: highpoints for LIH

2018 - 02 - 01

LIH made numerous important contributions to biomedical science in 2017. It was a fruitful year during which the institute refined its strategy towards more application-targeted research that benefits the population and patients in particular.  

Scientific achievements

Among the highlights of the year is an article from Prof Dirk Brenner's team at the Department of Infection and Immunity, published in Immunity, the leading scientific journal for the field of immunology. The study sheds light on a molecular mechanism that stimulates the energy metabolism of T lymphocytes and thus promotes the activation of the immune system. This discovery provides starting points for developing new therapeutic strategies targeting, for instance, autoimmune diseases or cancer.

A remarkable advance in understanding of the immune response against tumours was made by the team of Dr Bassam Janji at the Department of Oncology, which managed to reduce the size of melanoma tumours in laboratory experiments by facilitating the action of Natural Killer cells. The ultimate goal of this research work published in PNAS is to develop new strategies for cancer immunotherapy.

Furthermore, Dr Ala'a Alkerwi from the Department of Population Health has participated in several worldwide public health studies published in the medical journal The Lancet by providing data from Luxembourg on obesity, smoking, frailty and mortality. Similarly, Dr Carole Devaux from the Department of Infection and Immunity contributed with national data to global prevalence estimates for hepatitis C virus infection.

With regard to public health reports, Dr Dritan Bejko co-authored the RETRACE report on injuries and accidents in Luxembourg published by the Ministry of Health and also three European reports on injuries published by EuroSafe, a network to which LIH is affiliated since January 2017.
In total, LIH contributed to 287 scientific publications in 2017 of which 31 were published in journals with an impact factor higher than 10.

Major developments

Since October, Dr Ulf Nehrbass, formerly director of the Franco-German translational research centre Ksilink, is the CEO of LIH. He aims to focus on the translation of scientific discoveries into concrete applications with high impact for patients by adopting a "bed-to-bench-to-bed" approach.

In August, Prof Laetitia Huiart took office as the new Director of the Department of Population Health. In close interaction with national health actors, she plans to implement a new public health research strategy that will impact on the population’s health and lifestyle.

LIH obtained important funding as a partner in the European project GLIOTRAIN  (H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions) which studies brain tumors. The institute also got substantial financial support from the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR): an INTER FNR-ANR grant for an project in epigenetics, several CORE grants for multi-year research projects, funding for a "Proof of Concept" (PoC) study to validate an innovation in immunotherapy and a KITS grant to strengthen technology transfer activities. Several new research projects also got support from FNRS-Télévie and from “Fondation Cancer”.

To position itself in the field of personalised medicine, LIH is part of the CLINNOVA consortium, coordinated by the FNR, aiming to establish a Centre of Excellence in Digital Health and Personalised Healthcare in Luxembourg. CLINNOVA, which also includes the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine at the University of Luxembourg and three foreign partners, submitted a proposal for the H2020 TEAMING funding scheme. The application successfully passed the first selection phase of the process, in which 30 out of 208 projects were retained.

Gathering the research community 

Numerous scientific seminars were organised by LIH throughout the year. Four lecture series supported by the FNR made it possible to invite internationally renowned external speakers from different fields.

For the first time, the International Symposium on Molecular Allergology (ISMA) of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), co-organised by the Department of Infection and Immunity, brought together over 300 molecular allergology experts in Luxembourg.

In addition, an international conference on the medical aspects of handball co-organised by the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory at the Department of Population Health was held at the LUNEX University with approximately 150 participants.

Special recognition 

Several LIH researchers were honored for their outstanding work in 2017. Of note, Dr Mahesh Desai from the Department of Infection and Immunity received the “FNR Award for Outstanding Scientific Publication” for having published an article of exceptional quality in Cell reporting on the influence of the consumption of dietary fibre on the gut microbiome.

Dr Carole Devaux from the Department of Infection and Immunity was appointed as the new president of the Luxembourg Surveillance Committee for AIDS, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Moreover, the LIH-based WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Measles Infections was appointed for the fifth time for a period of five years.