On December 21st, the Virtual Human Twin initiative of the European Commission was festively launched in Barcelona.
The European Virtual Human Twins (VHT) Initiative is a flagship initiative of the European Commission to foster and accelerate the development of integrated, validated digital representations of the human body. These VHTs hold substantial potential for medical research and healthcare delivery, contributing to a deeper understanding of human physiology, pathology, and disease aetiology, as well as facilitating personalised, patient-centric medicine. This Initiative includes the envisaged European VHT platform, enabling the pooling of resources and assets to further develop the science and technology required for building advanced VHT-based solutions in health and care.
The VHT Initiative was officially launched on the occasion of the inauguration of the MareNostrum 5 supercomputer at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, on December 21st 2023. During the launch event, we heard from high level representatives of the European Commission (Thomas Skordas), the Catalan and the Spanish government about the expectations and the current investments made in the VHT. Next, Alfonso Valencia (BSC) introduced the VHT Manifesto “A Statement of Intent on Development, Evidence, and Adoption in Healthcare Systems”. This Statement of Intent serves the purpose of promoting collaboration in the current VHT ecosystem, by bringing together various ecosystem stakeholders to demonstrate their support for the European VHT Initiative, while also facilitating the context for further collaboration. The Manifesto has already been signed by over 75 organisations including small and large companies, universities, civil society organizations, practitioner organization. If you want to read the Manifesto or you want your organization to join, please visit the website (http://www.virtualhumantwins.eu – going live end of December, or contact email@example.com for instructions).
To wrap up the event, the floor was given by the different stakeholders in a Round Table, including speakers from discussing big industry (Elisa Gastaldi – Siemens Healthineers, Joland Rutgers – Philips), from innovative start-ups (Luca Emili – InSilicoTrials), from academia (Irène Vignon-Clementel – INRIA), healthcare providers (Frank Rademakers – KU Leuven) and patient organisations (Elisabeth Kasilingam – European Multiple Sclerosis Platform & European Patients Forum). Together they discussed the importance of the VHT for EU’s healthcare and competitiveness, the factors allowing to build and sustain trust in it, and, finally, the critical next steps for the realisation of the VHT’s full potential. At the end of the Round Table, the moderator (Liesbet Geris – VPH Institute, ULiège, KU Leuven) summarized the discussion in 3 main concepts: inclusion, sustainability and harmonization.
Together these points form a high level agenda for the VHT ecosystem, setting interesting challenges for the future in order to realise the potential of the VHT. Something that can only be realised when supported by a coherent vision, the necessary funding and infrastructure, and driven by a collaborative ecosystem.
If you want to be informed of the next VHT event, please register on the EDITH mailinglist. If you want to contribute to the development of the roadmap, please join us in Paris on the 18th and 19th of January (https://www.edith-csa.eu/vht-ecosystem-meeting/). If you want your application, models or data sets to be included in the EDITH repository, please visit the call for use cases.