Two Days Worth of a LifeTime

On early May 2019, the LifeTime Flagship launched its Opening Conference in Berlin to talk about the goal of revolutionising healthcare together with medical experts across Europe

LifeTime Flagship


Two days of debates. 28 invited speakers. More than 450 participants from 20 European countries and beyond. These are the numbers of the LifeTime Opening Conference that took place in Berlin on 6-7 May 2019. More importantly, it brought together scientists, clinicians, patients and other stakeholders with the mission of revolutionising healthcare in Europe using breakthrough technologies to diagnose diseases earlier and intercept them effectively.


The transparent and clear design of the Berlin Congress Center, where the Opening Conference took place, perfectly matched the LifeTime spirit: an open and integrative initiative where hundreds of researchers across disciplines shared their ideas. The scientific programme of the conference reflected the three disruptive technologies at the core of the LifeTime Initiative: 1) single cell multi-omics; 2) data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning; and 3) experimental disease models. According to the researchers, developing and integrating these technologies will provide the basis for guiding early detection, interception and individualised treatment of diseases.


The key to reaching this goal is to study individual cells at the molecular level and to understand the mechanisms that keep them healthy or cause disease.


“Single-cell multi-omics is revolutionising the model of basic research. We can apply machine learning, artificial intelligence to the molecular data that we generate when we are observing the cells marching through live or progress through disease,” said Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky, head of the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine and co-coordinator of the LifeTime Initiative.


LifeTime has started as a shared vision of leading scientists at over 50 renowned organizations across Europe. “There are new imaging technologies that enable us to follow individual cells and get a picture of how they are functioning. This way we will get an understanding of the situation when they transition into disease and that we can intercept the problem very early,” said Dr Geneviève Almouzni from the Institut Curie, Paris and co-coordinator of the LifeTime initiative.


An important topic at the conference was how scientists interpret the results coming from this new line of research. Technologies like single-cell multi-omics produce vast amounts of data. Only with the help of powerful computers and new computational methods, is it possible to make sense of them and find patterns in a cell’s evolution. “Medicine is turning into a data-based science. In order to understand that, we need computation techniques,” said Fabian Theis from the Institute of Computational Biology, Helmholtz Center Munich.


LifeTime’s mission is earlier diagnosis of cancer, cardiovascular, infectious or autoimmune diseases. Equally important is how clinicians translate the findings into the everyday care of patients. Dr Angelika Eggert Director of the Department of Pediatric Oncology & Hematology, Charité, Berlin summarized how LifeTime’s technologies could be applied into the everyday medicine practice in case of a cancer patient: “We take a tumour biopsy and we do the single cell multi-omics sequencing. We isolate the circulating tumour cells and we develop the models from the initial biomaterial of the patient. While the patient is treated with first line therapy, we can treat the organoid models as avatars of the patient and learn about resistance and what therapies the patient might respond to. Once the patient comes back with drug resistance or relapse we might know from the single cell studies how to treat this patient better.”


The next step for the LifeTime Initiative is drafting the project’s White Paper which will explain the LifeTime vision in depth and provide the best solutions to the current challenges in medicine.


In June 2019, LifeTime launched its call for research institutions to become Associated Partners in the consortium. The Associated Partners can support LifeTime activities, elect two representative members in the Steering Board, and participate in the work packages, working groups, task forces, attend meetings to shape the future of LifeTime and plan this large-scale research initiative.


Photo by Alex Pasarelu on Unsplash