Successful ageing

A great challenge for the 21st century is to deliver effective medical therapies that are tailored to the exact biology or biological state of an individual to enable so-called 'personalized medicine’ or ‘personalized healthcare solutions'. Ideally, this would involve a system of patient evaluation that would tell clinicians the correct drug, dose or intervention for any individual before the start of therapy. A practical approach to this evaluation is the concept of patient stratification in which individuals are biologically subclassified (classically according to some genetic features) and biofeatures modelled in relation to outcome. In principle, such stratification for personalized therapy can be applied to drug safety and efficacy modelling and to more general healthcare paradigms involving optimized nutrition and lifestyle management. One of the major target groups of personalized medicine are older people as they need most medical care and they will form 22% of the world population in 2050. Therefore we will focus on deciphering complex human disease networks that are pivotal in tumor development and cardiac disease.

Regarding bioinformatics and systems biology, the potential for valorization in Flanders is huge. The most prominent examples can be found in the Pharma and Biotech industry. It is generally accepted that having access to all these different sorts of system-wide data will, in the end, accelerate not only drug lead development but will be essential in materializing personalized medicine in the near future. The theranostics approach aims at getting the right drug (therapeutic) to the right patient (diagnostic) and is critically dependent on advances in bioinformatics and systems biology. Having insight into the molecular biological mechanism of cell behavior would facilitate the identification of the most appropriate drug targets. It would also decrease the time and efforts needed for drug lead development. Using toxicogenomics, untoward effects of putative drugs can be predicted from genomics data rather than using tedious and expensive clinical tests in phase 1 and 2 of drug lead development. Besides in the Pharma industry, systems biology is becoming customarily used in many industrial application fields. Nutrigenomics, as an example, can be treated as an extension of toxicogenomics. Our diet is treated as a complex mixture of many possibly bioactive chemical compounds, chronically administered in different compositions, and with a multitude of biological effects. The vast majority of these biological responses are mediated through effector genes, effects on enzyme concentration or activity, and changes in metabolite concentration. Transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics in combination with bioinformatics and statistical methods will become of major importance in unraveling the influence of nutrients on health.