An overview of the important achievements of the Policy Affairs Working Group of the Institute.
Since its incorporation back in Spring 2011, the VPH Institute has been constantly active in building recognition of the value of the VPH research at political level. In early 2012, a workgroup on Policy Affairs (PAWG) was created to specifically concentrate on these activities. The WG is chaired by Prof Liesbet Geris – University of Liege, and it sees the participation of a number of the VPH members. The WG primary focus is to engage with the European Parliament and the European Commission, stressing the importance of in silico medicine and the need for support for VPH in European Policy.
The first important goal of the WG was achieved in June last year, when the VPH Institute organized a workshop at the European Parliament in Brussels, that was co-hosted by two influential Members of the European Parliament: Seán Kelly and Vittorio Prodi. The event titled “Towards personalised and in silico medicine: eHealth Action Plan and VPH” had the aim to introduce the concept of in silico medicine, reaffirming the importance of research funding at a time when the entire Horizon 2020 budget was being called into question and presenting VPH as an example of a successful eHealth solution. From the speakers' presentation came out clearly that VPH can be used to facilitate personalised medicine in the Europe, reduce public health costs and improve diagnosis and prediction. Mr. Sean Kelly, in his concluding remarks stressed that the deployment of eHealth technologies such as VPH is an "economic imperative" which could help stem the tide of chronic diseases and control spiraling healthcare costs.
In the coming months the European Parliament stood their ground on the budget for Horizon 2020, called for the budget to be increased to 100 billion euro and would not accept the Council’s proposal of a budget of 56 billion. In January 2014, the European Parliament in an overwhelming majority voted in favor of policy that specifically endorsed VPH as an example of a successful eHealth solution. Through the adoption of text suggested by the PAWG, in the European Parliament’s Motion for Resolution on the eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020, the Parliament unambiguously called for the continued funding of VPH research activities in Horizon 2020 work programme, urging the Commission and the Member States to continue working through pilot projects, such the Virtual Physiological Human initiative, in order to develop pan-European interoperability, and to continue to support innovative solutions for person-centred care, including advanced modelling and simulations, needed to achieve the aims of predictive and personalised medicine.
With this important achievement in our hands, in July 2014, three Members of the European Parliament representing the three largest political groups in the European Parliament (Seán Kelly - PPE, James Nicholson - ECR, Claudiu CiprianTănăsescu - S&D), backed up the VPH Institute and tabled a joint written question to the European Commission on how they would respond to this political demand, specifically asking: “…What steps they would take to ensure that Parliament’s request for a greater focus on in silico methods in the creation of predictive and personalised medicine will be adequately represented in the next Horizon 2020 Work Programme for Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing?”
This question was tabled in advance of a key meeting with some Commission officials to address this very issue. Just days after presenting to the European Commission on how VPH could be supported, on 29 August 2014, an official response from the Commission was submitted where the Commission confirmed: “…For the Work Programme 2016-2017 the Commission intends to further support development of ‘in silico’ models and methods.”
And this promise has recently become a reality. In the draft H2020 SC1 Work Programme 2016-17, a number of calls appear to be specifically dedicated to VPH research:
This document constitutes a draft, and as such it may be subject to changes, however, this represents a significant boost for VPH, not only because it shows that in silico medicine is higher in the political European agenda, but because it crystallises the work being done by the Institute to ensure funding for in silico medicine by further supporting the development of ‘in silico’ models and methods.
In addition to these activities, the PAWG is also very active in scanning the EU policy scenario and producing position statements on different hot research topics, highlighting the value of VPH research in solving some major economical and societal problems. Just to name some:
Further documents are available in the document session of our website.
We conclude this overview with a big "Thank you" for the hard work done by the PAWG members so far. Without their help all of this would not have been possible!
The WG is currently looking for new members, so in case you have an interest in Policy Affairs and you would like to play an active role in the activities of the Institute, you are very welcome to jump on board.
Requests can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!