Imperial, France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the University of Lille are setting up a major project into metabolic diseases.
Diseases linked with metabolism, such as diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity affect millions of people around the world. This new collaboration will aim to 'fast-track' treatments for these conditions.
The Integrative Metabolism International Research Project (IRP) aims to use artificial intelligence, machine learning and other methods to improve understanding and develop potential drugs and treatments for these conditions.
One of the key parts of the project will be to develop a ‘Google Earth’ of metabolism, to understand the distribution of metabolites across the body and how they interact with other organs.
The team will also use cutting-edge AI and machine learning to predict disease trajectories for patients to enable clinicians to make better and faster decisions. They also aim to help accelerate drug discovery for microbiome based therapeutics and enhance precision medicine.
The project is led at Imperial by Professor Mark Thursz, from Imperial’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, and Professor Marc-Emmanuel Dumas at the University of Lille’s and CNRS’s European Genomic Institute for Diabetes (EGID).
Professor Mark Thursz said: “There are still many unknowns related to the impact of what we eat and its effect on the gut microbiome. Joining forces with the CNRS and University of Lille will bring new insights and help to answer broader questions around diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
“We hope to better understand metabolism, the role it plays across the whole body, and the impact it has on various diseases. This project will develop tools to enable clinicians to make better decisions around treatments for patients, based on metabolic profiling.”
Professor Marc-Emmanuel Dumas said: “This project aims to deepen our understanding of metabolism and fast-track innovation for new treatments.
“To tackle these challenges in human metabolism, there is a crucial need for effective integration of multimodal and multiscale omics technologies with artificial intelligence and functional mechanistic exploration in cellular and animal systems, which can only be achieved through deep integration of international teams.
“We will also explore the interactions between human genetics and factors such as environment, lifestyle and the microbiome.
“These new discoveries will enable us to build better models to predict disease trajectories, how patients respond to treatments, and develop microbiome-based treatments and drugs.
“The project will foster interdisciplinary research and capitalises on key funding from the Isite foundation and the National Reference Centre for Precision Medicine, Precidiab.”
European leaders in Metabolism research
The partnership will lay the foundations of a strong collaboration between CNRS and Imperial in Integrative Metabolism as a European leader in the field.
Imperial’s Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise) Professor Mary Ryan, said: “Metabolic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity affect millions of people in the UK, France and around the world. They can be life-changing and life-limiting for the individuals and represent a significant burden on global health services.
"This ambitious new project brings together some of the world’s leading experts to find new ways to improve understanding and accelerate treatment of these conditions.
"This partnership demonstrates Imperial and CNRS's ambitions to collaborate together and with partners to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges in health, medicine, data and other areas of science.”
CNRS’s Deputy CEO for Science Alain Schuhl said: “The scientific collaboration between CNRS and Imperial has a long-standing history. The creation of this ambitious international project on metabolism, at the heart of the CNRS-Imperial joint research centre, represents a new opportunity to strengthen an efficient and powerful framework to tackle global challenges.”
Imperial and CNRS
The project is the first formal CNRS collaboration mechanism that now sits within the larger CNRS-Imperial International Research Centre (IRC) for Transformational Science and Technology, launched in April 2022.
The CNRS-Imperial International Research Centre for Transformational Science and Technology (IRC) will work on a broad range of research areas – and major European-funded projects.
The Centre – one of only four such structures in the world (with the universities of Tokyo, Chicago and Arizona) and the only one in Europe – will also see the two institutions collaborate on early-career researcher training such as PhD programmes, research funding and proposals including with Horizon Europe, as well sharing facilities, laboratories, infrastructure and data.
This article was first published on 18 January by Imperial College London.