University of Galway has recently joined the board of directors of the VPH Institute represented by Prof Ines Thiele. In this interview we will get to know something more about Ines, her research interests and the reasons why she decided to have an active role in driving our Institute.
I am a German-borne scientist who believes that despite all the gadgets and technological advances, a large part of medicine still has to move into our technology-dominated world. I want my science to contribute to an in silico medicine, in which, in contrast to the current dominant “one-fits-all” trial and error approach, a treatment is first tested, and evaluated against other options, in silico on my virtual twin before applying it to me. Consequently, my work focuses on building multi-level in silico model of human, microbiota, and drug metabolism, which describes the underlying network of genes, proteins, and biochemical reactions, and combining these models with models of physiological processes and drug pharmacokinetics. We will then usie these models to predict how dietary changes could be used to positively modulate our health and drug response.
I have studied technical biology at the University of Stuttgart, German. After my bachelor degree (Vordiplom), I moved to Strasbourg, France, for my master degree (Diplom) in Biotechnology/Molecular Biology. I obtained my PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of California, San Diego, in 2009. After graduation, I moved as an Assistant Professor to the University of Iceland to build my own group. At that time, my group was building computational models for biotechnological and biomedical applications. In 2013, I moved to the University of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine as an Associate Professor in Systems Biomedicine. With that move, my research focused exclusively on biomedical applications, most notably on the human gut microbiome and Parkinson’s disease. Just this year, my team moved to the National University of Ireland, Galway, where we will continue to work towards building virtual metabolic models and apply them to neurodegenerative and gastrointestinal diseases.
In a time of waste data availability, let it be through self-tracking, genome sequencing, or, more recently, microbiome sequencing, it becomes indispensable to having tools and models available that are able to transform these data into actionable recommendations for an individual. Modelling metabolism is an excellent starting point. However, immune response, drug metabolism, the mechanistic action of our organs, and many other important processes are missing. This lack also spurred my interest into the activities of the VPH Institute, and its research community, a few years ago. I realized that the molecular level models, which my team is building, need to be connected to the organ and whole body models generated within the VPH community in order to move the predictive potential of the modelling to the next level.
The National University of Ireland, Galway, and my team has decided to become part of the Board of Directors to actively engage into an active dialog with the members of the VPH Institute to understand how we can contribute in the best possible way to advance in silico medicine and realize the common vision of a virtual patient.
Being a Supporting member will help to accelerate the integration of our modelling approach within the VPH research community by creating an awareness that the metabolic modelling exists and by developing a common vocabulary and understanding.
We will actively participate at the activities organised by VPH Institute and offer workshops and courses to the VPH community to introduce our modelling approach and thereby advance the common tool building required for in silico medicine.
It would be great to have meetings, such as the next VPH meeting in Paris, to introduce the metabolic modelling community to the VPH community and vice versa. This will help to identify opportunities and identify research projects overlapping both fields, which will ultimately bring us closer to the virtual patient.