Review of the year 2018 at the Luxembourg Institute of Health – The Institute publishes its activity report

The Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) and IBBL – Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg publish their 2018 activity report, looking back at a scientifically active and fruitful year.

A year rewarding the scientific excellence of the institute

“If the scientific quality and the originality of the research struck me as soon as I arrived at the LIH, it is now official: the LIH ranks in the international ranking of the leading research institutes (excluding universities) established by the Times Higher Education” states Prof Ulf Nehrbass, CEO of LIH.

The LIH has indeed been ranked 7th in Europe and 15th in the world – an undeniable recognition of the scientific excellence of the institute, which “primarily leads research projects for the benefit of patients”, explains Dr. Frank Glod, Chief of Scientific Operations. This excellence was also confirmed during the evaluation of the research activities and strategy of the LIH, as carried out by an external body at the request of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research.

2018 has therefore been a fruitful year for the institute, which is continuing its development, wishing to meet the challenges facing the world of biomedical research by, for instance, seizing the opportunities offered by the field of digital health… a topic to be followed in 2019!

A review of the latest discoveries of 2018

In parallel with the institute’s strategic development, LIH researchers have been at the origin of many promising scientific discoveries and contributions in 2018, in terms of their impact on healthcare and the health of the general population.

In the field of breast cancer for instance, the elucidation of a resistance mechanism adopted by tumour cells opens perspectives for the development of new therapeutic strategies.

Significant studies were conducted in the area of ​​food allergies, one of which allowed the validation of a new diagnostic test for alpha-gal syndrome, an allergy to red meat.

In terms of public health, a study on frailty in the elderly analysed frailty scores for their predictive value for disease development and mortality. The results show an association between frailty, cardiovascular disease and mortality and will help clinicians choose the most appropriate tool to assess the frailty of their patients and better prevent the associated consequences.

Additional significant findings, as well as new research projects, can be found in the activity report.

Structural developments

In order to further advance translational research, the LIH and the National Health Laboratory (Laboratoire National de Santé – LNS) have created LuxGen, the first national sequencing center. Equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, this new technology platform provides researchers with access to Next Generation Sequencing technology. This term includes a set of powerful sequencing methods that can read quickly and simultaneously large portions of genetic information, and this at a moderate cost. Among other applications, the technology can be used to detect genetic abnormalities that cause diseases.

To strengthen the efforts in the fight against cancer, a new research team has been set up in the Department of Oncology. Dr. Johannes Meiser, a promising researcher, joined the LIH following a € 1.5 million ATTRACT funding from the National Research Fund (Fonds National de la Recherche – FNR) to establish a new line of research on cancer metabolism. The metabolism of cancer cells is distinct from that of healthy cells. Understanding the unique characteristics of this metabolism will help identify the cellular mechanisms or components that could serve as targets for drugs, opening the way to new therapeutic options.

Key events

Lastly, the LIH organised numerous events to bring together the scientific community and to promote its activities to the general public.

IBBL celebrated the 10th anniversary of its creation. Founded in 2008 as part of the National Action Plan “Health Sciences and Technologies”, the biobank has contributed for ten years to the positioning of Luxembourg as an internationally renowned pole of excellence in biomedical research and personalised medicine. To celebrate IBBL’s achievements since its creation and to express its gratitude towards the stakeholders who made its success possible, the biobank’s 10-year anniversary celebration brought together partners and colleagues from Luxembourg’s main medical and research institutions on November 9th, 2018. A dedicated chapter in the activity report highlights a series of major achievements by IBBL.

A major event for the promotion of scientific culture was organised in February 2018, spread over three days: the LIH Science Quest. More than 300 people were able to discover the world of research and the projects carried out at the institute by putting themselves “in the lab coat” of a researcher through a team game inspired by the concept of escape games. The innovative concept of this event was selected for the Young Communicator Award at the European Communication Summit and scored second place.

The year 2018 in figures

  • 271 scientific publications
  • 3 patent applications
  • 13 completed doctorates
  • 23 public-private partnerships
  • > 300 collaboration agreements signed with the academic and private sector
  • > 370 started or ongoing research projects
  • EUR 13,2 million in competitive and contractual funding (excluding ministry funding)

The 2018 activity report is available in English on the LIH  and IBBL websites.