EU tackles global health problems with KI as coordinator

Global health challenges are the focal point of two collaborative projects coordinated by KI: WISDOM and Changemaker. Under its pillar II “Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness” programme, Horizon Europe has awarded the projects a total grant of EUR 14 million, of which KI controls the equivalent of just over EUR 3 million.

The two KI-coordinated projects, Wisdom and Changemaker, both focus on important global health challenges in two different fields. They are being financed by Horizon Europe, the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation.

Professor Ingrid Kockum is the chief coordinator for WISDOM, which comprises 13 partners. The Changemaker project is being coordinated by docent Kristi Sidney Annerstedt, and it too has 13 partners.

To be eligible for a grant, research projects funded by Horizon Europe’s pillar II must be collaborative, which means that they should also engage people from the business community, public administration, patient organisations and other important stakeholders.

Carolina Kristell. Photo: Camilla Svensk.

“Basically, it’s about EU tax-payers’ money, so the Commission is pushing hard to ensure that their investments will be of benefit to EU citizens, and for this to happen, Horizon projects must communicate with the wider community,” says Carolina Kristell, EU funding and policy advisor at the KI Grants Office.

Gaining the confidence of the EU to lead such large, complex projects is important to KI and its researchers.

Apart from leading the project, the coordinator is the spokesperson in all dealings with the wider community and the EU Commission.

Predicting disease with the aid of AI

Roughly ten per cent of the EU population have some form of chronic disease. The WISDOM project focuses on some of these diseases, particularly multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and myasthenia gravis (MG).

The project will be using AI to convert complex biological information from existing databanks into clinically applicable models.

Ingrid Kockum. Photo: Creo Media Group.

“The earlier we can identify and treat patients with chronic inflammatory diseases, the greater the chances of slowing the disease progression and reducing symptoms and episodes,” says Ingrid Kockum, professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

Building these models requires a huge amount of personal data, which must be processed in accordance with the GDPR.

The project will also be identifying solutions that can contribute to greater and safer data sharing both within organisations and across national boundaries.

Three KI departments are involved in the KI-coordinated project, which engages partners, including universities, companies, patient organisations and legal experts, from nine countries.

Changemaker for adolescent health

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), some 70 per cent of premature adult deaths are related to behaviours that emerge in adolescence.

Changemaker focuses on developing and evaluating a sustainable intervention programme about health, diet and environment in order to prevent obesity and other lifestyle diseases in the young.

The project is based on the principle of co-design, which entails active collaboration with the target group to find solutions to a problem.

Kristi Sidney Annerstedt

Kristi Sidney Annerstedt. Photo: Maja Rudolphson.

“In this case, the problem is one that many African countries face, namely a double-burden of disease, with both under-nutrition and malnutrition as well as rising overweight and obesity rates,” says Kristi Sidney Annerstedt, assistant professor and docent at the Department of Global Public Health at Karolinska Institutet. She continues:

“The project will bring researchers together with young people, school personnel, parents, society and so on to tackle this growing problem.”

The project is being conducted in three urbanising towns in Burkina Faso, Kenya and Tanzania.

Changemaker centres on four interventions that will be adapted and refined through co-design: urban cultivation in schools and communities; classroom modules on sustainable health; health advice with motivating conversations; and a mass-media health campaign.

The nine-person KI team has joint responsibility with the University of Bonn in Germany for coordinating the project, which also engages universities, businesses, research institutes and public authorities from seven different countries.

WISDOM in short

The Wisdom project has a budget of EUR 10 million, of which KI has disposal of EUR 2.3 million as coordinator. The project started on 1 December 2023 and will continue for five years. There are 13 parties involved in the project, including:

  • University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Technical University of Munich, Germany
  • Copenhagen University, Denmark
  • Veilai OY, Finland
  • YoutHealth AB, Sweden
  • University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

Changemaker in short

The Changemaker project has a budget of approximately EUR 4 million, of which KI has disposal of EUR 800,000 as coordinator. The project started on 1 January 2024 and will continue for four years. There are 13 parties involved in the project, including:

  • University of Bonn, Germany
  • Aga Khan University, Kenya
  • Tampere University, Finland
  • Harvard Global Research and Support Services Inc., USA
  • Technical University of Kenya, Kenya
  • Kenya Medical Research Institute Kisumu, Kenya

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