Scientific Identity of the Institute and its Distinctive Character
The Institute of Applied Biosciences at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (INAB|CERTH) is at the forefront of research and applications in Life Sciences, placing Biomedicine and Agri-biotechnology as the main research pillars and aiming at a holistic approach of Well-being within the context of One Health.
In more detail, INAB|CERTH is conducting multidisciplinary Biomedical Research with a particular focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), while it is also very active in eHealth and personalized medicine. Moreover, INAB|CERTH has a leading position in Agri-biotechnology, emphasizing on -omics applications, molecular biotechnology and ‘breeding by design’ approaches to achieve high quality agri-food and non-food products.
INAB|CERTH is producing Big Data across all domains in Life Sciences due to its significant expertise and extensive experience in Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) studies extending from microbial communities to plants and livestock to nutrients and large-scale clinical cohorts.
Real-world evidence (RWE) biomedical research is an increasingly important component of the activities at INAB|CERTH. This emphasis is grounded on our firm belief that RWE also has the potential to improve the quality and delivery of services (e.g. in medical care or the food industry), reduce overall costs and improve outcomes by accelerating the understanding of how best to incorporate new interventions and technologies into everyday clinical practice.
INAB|CERTH also has a leading position in Agri-Food research, emphasizing on omics applications, molecular biotechnology and ‘breeding by design’ approaches to achieve high quality agri-food and non-food products. Moreover, it participates actively in steering scientific and policy-making groups for sustainable development of value chains locally but also extending to the entire Mediterranean.
Priorities, targets and perspectives for 2019-2023
The business plan brought forward encompasses the up-scaling of multidisciplinary, multilevel and multiscale activities of INAB|CERTH themed around wellbeing – perceived as improved health, improved nutrition, improved environment.
Biomedical Sector – Realizing Precision Medicine
Realizing that Precision Medicine (PM) is no longer a promise but rather a reality that will transform how we prevent, diagnose, treat and predict the prognosis of disease, INAB|CERTH intensifies its efforts on becoming an internationally renowned center of excellence for PM in cancer. This aim is fully aligned with the recently launched initiative of the Department for Research and Innovation of the Division for Research and Innovation of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs for establishing the Hellenic Precision Medicine Network in Oncology with a view to integration into the public health system in order to provide modern, high quality and efficient health services to citizens. INAB|CERTH serves as the coordinator of the Network.
Overall, the 5-year plan for INAB|CERTH is to position the Institute among the leading centers of PM in Greece and Europe, on the one hand tailored to the specificities of our healthcare system and, on the other hand, exporting expertise to the widest possible audience; such strategy has already payed off, as evidenced by the pre-eminent role of INAB|CERTH in the field of molecular biomarker profiling and harmonization of detection methodologies in hematologic cancer.
The second target of INAB|CERTH for the next 5 years is to assist in setting up a national PM framework promoting health while also enabling scientific and technological innovation, sustainability and economic growth. Keys to reaching this target include the involvement of relevant enterprises and industries as well as networking and close ties with similar PM programs running in other European countries. The Institute has already taken steps in this direction by gradually expanding its collaboration with the pharma industry (from Greece but also globally), establishing links to Genomic Medicine Sweden and extending invitations for collaboration that were met by approval by researchers and the authorities in several neighboring countries.
Agri-Food Sector – Valorizing Greek Biodiversity
INAB|CERTH has a strategic plan to engage in research aimed at the mapping, management, and promotion of Greek biodiversity. In close cooperation with producers, businesses and academic institutions, we will (i) identify through omics-based methods, species and varieties of Greek flora and fauna and food products from these species and varieties; (ii) continue to steer the development of improved varieties and develop new foods with particular nutritional characteristics; and, (iii) utilize various microorganisms and plants as “factories” to produce high-value materials in an environmentally friendly manner. These specific research activities hold great promise for ameliorating the dire effects of climate change while also creating innovations contributing to the development of Greek Agriculture based on Greek propagative material, with lesser dependence on imports. Within this overall frame, the main focus areas and objectives include:
Multi-omic Applications in the Agri-Food sector
INAB|CERTH is the leading Greek Institute on applying multi-omic methodologies to chart important Greek plant species, varieties and animal breeds. Capitalizing on our experience, we will expand the number of species and samples analyzed in order to understand the biological mechanisms underpinning important quality traits and provide detailed biochemical and genetic identity to the Greek products, including emblematic Olive and Vitis varieties and fruit trees. Moreover, we will extend our studies for characterizing at the genomic/metagenomic level microbes from fermented foods, marine ecosystems and even human commensals.
Exploitation of Big Data in the Agri-Food Sector
INAB|CERTH will invest on the development of strategies for capitalizing on big data throughout the agri-food chain. The ultimate aim concerns the creation of an integrative, intersectoral knowledge platform to better inform and monitor the entire ecosystem, starting from the primary sector to the final consumer, eventually providing a framework to address complex social issues at the nexus of agriculture, nutrition, health, economy and sustainable development.
INAB|CERTH will further its work on plant natural product biosynthesis focusing on aromatic and medicinal plants and also expand on marine and microbial biosynthetic pathways. Focusing on the plant biodiversity of Greece, we will further isolate, characterize and reconstitute the complex modifications taking place in plants which give rise to an immense variety of structures.
In parallel, we will continue contributing to the field of metabolic engineering through methodological innovation that will upscale our planned studies, where we aim to dissect and reconstitute biosynthesis of complex bioactive natural products in red algae and marine actinobacteria.