Improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine

Improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine

Improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine

Key points:

  • The LifeTime initiative has published two articles presenting its vision for the application of cutting-edge scientific technologies to revolutionise healthcare.
  • The Initiative has published a perspective article in Nature and set out a detailed roadmap in its Strategic Research Agenda, which provides a roadmap for implementing cell-based medicine in Europe within the next decade.
  • The LifeTime strategy and roadmap sets out how to advance personalised treatment for five major disease classes: cancer, neurological, infectious, chronic inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases.
  • LifeTime brings together more than 100 institutions and medical centres, 80 companies and is supported by patient organisations as well as scientific societies and research funding organisations across Europe and the UK.

Hundreds of innovators, research pioneers, clinicians, industry leaders and policy makers from all around Europe are united by a vision of how to revolutionise healthcare. In two publications – a perspective article in the journal Nature and the LifeTime Strategic Research Agenda – they now present a detailed roadmap of how to leverage the latest scientific breakthroughs and technologies over the next decade, to track, understand and treat human cells throughout an individual’s lifetime.

The LifeTime initiative, which includes the Babraham Institute, has developed a strategy to advance personalised treatment for five major disease classes: cancer, neurological, infectious, chronic inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases. The aim is a new age of personalised, cell-based interceptive medicine for Europe with the potential of improved health outcomes and more cost-effective treatment, resulting in profoundly changing a person’s healthcare experience.

Earlier detection and more effective treatment of diseases

To form a functioning, healthy body, our cells follow developmental paths during which they acquire specific roles in tissues and organs. But when they deviate from their healthy course, they accumulate changes leading to disease which remain undetected until symptoms appear. At this point, medical treatment is often invasive, expensive and inefficient. However, now we have the technologies to capture the molecular makeup of individual cells and to detect the emergence of disease or therapy resistance much earlier. Using breakthrough single-cell and imaging technologies in combination with artificial intelligence and personalized disease models will allow us to not only predict disease onset earlier, but also to select the most effective therapies for individual patients. Targeting disease-causing cells to intercept disorders before irreparable damage occurs will substantially improve the outlook for many patients and has the potential of saving billions of Euros of disease-related costs in Europe.  

A detailed roadmap for implementing LifeTime

The perspective article “LifeTime and improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine” and the LifeTime Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) explain how these technologies should be rapidly co-developed, transitioned into clinical settings and applied to the five major disease areas. Close interactions between European infrastructures, research institutions, hospitals and industry will be essential to generate, share and analyse LifeTime’s big medical data across European borders. The initiative’s vision advocates ethically responsible research to benefit citizens all across Europe. 

According to Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky, scientific director of the Berlin Institute for Medical System Biology at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine and coordinator of the LifeTime Initiative, the LifeTime approach is the way into the future: "LifeTime has brought together scientists across fields – from biologists, to clinicians, data scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and physicists – to enable a much improved understanding of molecular mechanisms driving health and disease. Cell-based medicine will allow doctors to diagnose diseases earlier and intercept disorders before irreparable damage has occurred. LifeTime has a unique value proposition that promises to improve the European patient’s health.”

Dr Geneviève Almouzni, Director of research at CNRS, honorary director of the research center from Institut Curie in Paris and co-coordinator of the LifeTime Initiative believes that the future with LifeTime offers major social and economic impact: “By implementing interceptive, cell-based medicine we will be able to considerably improve treatment across many diseases. Patients all over the world will be able to lead longer, healthier lives. The economic impact could be tremendous with billions of Euros saved from productivity gains simply for cancer, and significantly shortened ICU stays for Covid-19. We hope EU leaders will realise we have to invest in the necessary research now."

Professor Wolf Reik, Babraham Institute Acting Director, commented: “LifeTime has created an amazing European initiative to identify and tackle the beginning of diseases during the human life course through the use of the most advanced single cell and artificial intelligence methods. Applying the latest scientific technologies in this way means that we can start to detect the earliest deviations towards disease, which to date has been impossible.”


Notes for Editors

Publication references:

  1. Rajewsky, N. et al. LifeTime and improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine. Nature
  2. LifeTime Strategic Research Agenda

Press contacts

For the Babraham Institute: Dr Louisa Wood, Babraham Institute Communications Manager,, +44 (0)1223 496230

For LifeTime: Valentin Popescu, Communication manager for the LifeTime Initiative

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)

+49 30 9406-2136,  

Image description

Magnification of miniature chips: Cells isolated from tissue are channeled into miniature chips for processing of individual cells. Image copyright Felix Petermann, MDC/LifeTime.

For available media resources, please refer to the media kit on the LifeTime website.

Research funding

The LifeTime Initiative began as a consortium with a vision to transform European healthcare over the next decade as a Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship. The European Commission awarded the initiative a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) to develop its vision and a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).

Additional/related resources:

News, 15 January 2019: Europe looks to cells for a healthier future

LifeTime website

About the Babraham Institute

The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.

About LifeTime

The LifeTime Initiative is a growing community of more than 100 leading European research institutions and hospitals, together with international advisers and over 80 supporting companies. LifeTime includes the preeminent European laboratories developing multi-omic strategies, scientific infrastructures, bioimaging and computational technologies, as well as world-renowned laboratories in the area of personalized disease models, bioethicists and a core group of leading clinician scientists. Many of the involved institutions include or are linked to translational/clinical research facilities and hospitals, ensuring that LifeTime discoveries can be rapidly translated into clinical practice.