Coordinating Action Systems Medicine: Systems Biology Application Across Europe

Establishing a systems medicine approach within FP7 project

Within the FP7 project entitled Coordinating Action Systems Medicine (CASyM), funded by the European Union, clinicians, researchers, companies and funding organisations from across Europe work together to bring basic life science research and everyday clinical practice together. Their effort is based on the rapid development of a young scientific field called Systems Biology, which analyses and describes biological entities such as cells, organs and whole organisms in an all-encompassing or systems level.

CASyM’s ultimate goal is the efficient application of Systems Biology approaches in medical research and practice leading to what is called Systems Medicine. To achieve this goal, the CASyM partners are developing a road map, which is planned to guide the European efforts in establishing Systems Medicine for the benefit of public health.

CASyM was started at the end of 2012 involving 22 international partners. It is not a stand-alone project but aims to incorporate and complement existing Systems Medicine initiatives across Europe and to integrate new partners during its four-year funding period.

Why is CASyM important?

Clinicians always have integrated clinical observation, empirical knowledge and information from medical tests in order to diagnose and treat patients. This is a proven and successful concept. However, the success of this approach is challenged by the steep increase in the amount of different pieces of information to integrate and the sheer size and complexity of large datasets, such as genome sequences.

Computational and mathematical analysis and modelling methods used in Systems Medicine offer a unique and effective opportunity to fill this gap. These methods open new horizons and will extend medicine´s ability to help by harnessing an enormous amount of patient and disease relevant information that is available and will become available in the future.

Systems Medicine provides a systematic and tractable approach that is reproducible, scalable and evolvable, ensuring that the increasing volume of highly complex patient data will be accessible and intelligible. Systems Medicine will give clinicians a new tool that will step change the capabilities of the clinician to diagnose and treat patients faster, better and more effectively. Thus, the novelty of Systems Medicine does not lie in the concept but in the outcomes applicable in the clinic. 

The CASyM, as a multidisciplinary European consortium, joined forces to develop an implementation strategy (road map) for Systems Medicine. The CASyM road map is driven by clinical needs. It aims to identify areas where a systems approach will address clinical questions and solve clinical problems. Key components of this strategy are:

  • Engagement of all relevant stakeholders
  • Development of multidisciplinary training concepts
  • Assessment of methodological and technological challenges
  • Strengthening innovation activities
  • Professional dissemination concepts
  • Analysis of instruments for the implementation of research programs

Creating and shaping a sustainable European community of Systems Medicine

During the project, the CASyM consortium will assist the medical community in creating the foundation for a new prospective in medicine that will be personalised, predictive, preventive and participatory (4P medicine).

CASyM is not a conventional research project but deals with the challenges of coordinating the integration of different stakeholders’ interests such as:

  • Teaching and training of Systems Medicine to produce a new generation of medical doctors and scientists having interdisciplinary thinking,
  • Translation of innovation into devices, services and products usable in clinical practice by specifically engaging small and medium-sized enterprises,
  • Triggering national funding bodies to develop proactive policies in support of a subsequent research and technology development phase, and
  • Building and maintaining a solid networking structure among different stakeholder groups to disseminate broadly the achievements of CASyM’s strategic concepts and results.