On 11 July, the Horizon Europe-funded eBRAIN-Health project hosted its kick-off meeting online. eBRAIN-Health aims to develop a secure, trustworthy research platform that simulates complex biological phenomena of the brain, including the processes that drive the development of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The project involves 20 partners, including Alzheimer Europe and EBRAINS AISBL, the coordinating body of the EU flagship Human Brain Project. The project will run for four years from July 2022, with a total budget of almost 13 million EUR, and is coordinated by Prof. Petra Ritter, Johanna Quandt Professor of Brain Simulation at Charité University Hospital, Berlin. Petra launched the kick-off meeting with an overview of the vision, structure and objectives of the project. eBRAIN-Health is built around the concept of "digital twins", defined as virtual representations that can serve as real-time digital counterparts of individuals. Based on health data and developed using artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins have the potential to support more accurate and personalised decision-making, for example by allowing clinicians to simulate the possible outcomes of treatment options.
Petra went on to explain that in eBRAIN-Health, a large variety of information will be brought together in a GDPR-compliant research platform, to support the development of digital twins of the brain. This information includes brain imaging studies, behavioural studies and lifestyle surveys, as well as clinical data from thousands of patients and healthy peers. The data is combined with biological information from scientific knowledge databases and made available for research purposes. The resulting "digital twins" of the brain will allow a large number of researchers to conduct innovative research within a powerful digital platform. In addition, the complex, individualised brain simulations have the potential to improve our understanding of brain function and disease; improve diagnosis and risk prediction, and optimise potential therapies. After Petra's introduction to the project, leaders and partners from the ten work packages of eBRAIN-Health described the work they will be undertaking over the next four years. Wide-ranging activities in eBRAIN-Health will span the integration of diverse sources of data; legal and ethical compliance; creation of a cloud-based platform; generation of knowledge graphs for disease mechanisms; development of multi-scale brain simulations; design of clinician and patient interfaces and apps; and activities to support exploitation and dissemination.
Following a presentation from Lukas Faymann (University of Vienna) on the legal and ethical framework for eBRAIN-Health, Daphné Lamirel (Project Officer, Alzheimer Europe) provided an introduction to public involvement in research, showing how public involvement will ensure the needs, perspectives and values of people affected by dementia are reflected in the research being carried out in the project. Dianne Gove and Angela Bradshaw also represented Alzheimer Europe at the meeting. After a discussion session between attendees, Petra closed the eBRAIN-Health kick-off meeting by thanking all partners and wishing them continued success and effective collaborations over the next four years.