Together for research in Luxembourg

The public research institutes in Luxembourg are committed to personalised medicine, an innovative medical approach that aims to customise healthcare to patients’ individual needs. Over the past year, IBBL has continued advancing research in personalised medicine by working hand in hand with national partners in areas such as cancer, diabetes, microbiome and Parkinson’s disease.

Launch of the first Luxembourg Society for Microbiology

Study shows a link between microbiome and diabetes

583 donors support Parkinson’s disease research

Colon cancer collection leads to 2 scientific publications

Zooming in on the microbes in humans

Luxembourg has a long-standing tradition in microbiology, having rapidly translated the principles of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch into its medical practice at the turn of the previous century. 2016 marked a new milestone, with the launch of the Luxembourg Society for Microbiology (LSfM).

« The overall ambition of the society is to provide a forum for interaction and exchange of knowledge and expertise in microbiology. The LSfM has the aim to become a first national point of contact for any questions relative to the broad field of microbiology. »

Conny Mathay
Team Leader Biospecimen Processing at IBBL and Board Member of LSfM

The decision to bundle and consolidate the activities of all the local actors was made at a time when microbiology was undergoing a true renaissance. Microbes are absolutely everywhere and through the advent of modern analysis methods, scientists are now able to study them directly in their native habitats, for example the human body. In this regard, researchers from the Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch (CHEM), the Centre Hospitalier du Luxembourg (CHL), the LCSB and IBBL elucidated the link between the bacteria present in the human gut and type 1 diabetes. Their results were published in Nature Microbiology and showed clear differences between the way bacteria function in healthy and diabetic individuals.

Fostering synergies between clinicians & researchers

This diabetes research study was one of the first projects funded by the Pump Prime Fund. Initiated by the Personalised Medicine Consortium of Luxembourg (PMC), the grant was set up to help researchers undertake pilot projects to collect the results necessary to apply for national and EU funding. Every year, the institutes behind the PMC – the LCSB, the LIH and IBBL – select up to three projects for funding. Priority is given to the projects that foster new synergies between clinicians and researchers from Luxembourg. The 2016 winners have the ambition to solve unmet medical needs in the fields of inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and therapy-driven resistance.

« Each year a retreat is organised to give feedback on funded projects and to facilitate the networking of researchers and clinicians. The next edition will be hosted by IBBL. »

Angela Hogan
Project Manager at IBBL in charge of the PMC

Keeping on track for Parkinson’s disease

Within the National Centre of Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s Disease, shortly NCER-PD, just over 580 patients and healthy donors were recruited in 2016. Their biological samples, such as blood, urine and saliva, were handled with the greatest care by the biobank, which also set up quality control tests to ensure that researchers receive fit-for-purpose samples of uniform quality and to maximise donors’ contribution to research.

« The participation rate is impressive. In just two years, we managed to reach about 50% of the target. It is the result of an active collaboration between research institutions, hospitals and patient associations, and of a strong interest and will of the Luxembourgish population. » Estelle Sandt
Project Manager at IBBL in charge of NCER-PD

Redoubling efforts against cancer

The so-called SOCS project reflects the value of the samples donated, in this particular case, by colon cancer patients. The collection now holds about 17,000 samples, including tissues, urine and blood. Stocked under strict conditions at IBBL, they are made available to researchers looking into the development and progression of colorectal cancer. Based on this established collection, researchers from the University of Luxembourg were able to highlight the importance of low oxygen in the regulation of colon cancer initiation, as well as identify a potential new tool to test patients for therapies that overcome drug resistance. Three new research studies are likely to begin in 2017.

« Having the opportunity to work with fresh human material makes a big difference for researchers. It enables them to test their findings for a potential new treatment in a clinically relevant setting. »

Christelle Bahlawane
Project Manager at IBBL in charge of SOCS

Setting the ground for a large-scale collection

In close future, the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS), all Luxembourgish hospitals and IBBL will gather their forces to extend this collection to all types of cancer. Any cancer patient that receives health care in Luxembourg will thereby have the opportunity to contribute to science. The establishment of such a large-scale collection of biological samples, organised within the National Cancer Plan, will be a great asset to the national fight against cancer.

Keep on reading our 2016 annual report: