Today we celebrate the consolidation of the Barcelona Medical Photonics Network that promotes the research and development activities carried out in and around Barcelona through long-standing collaborations between ICFO and its numerous clinical partners. The partner institutions initially participating in this network include 8 health institutions in Barcelona, together with their research institutes and ICFO. Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) are part of it.
Because of its exceptional versatility, precision, and non-invasive nature, photonics is playing an increasing role in medical techniques and practices, to the extent that today it is considered a key enabling technology in developing healthcare in Europe. Researchers at ICFO have extensive expertise in the development of photonic-based technologies for clinical use, in collaboration with doctors around the world, and especially in the Barcelona area.
Successful ‘bench-to-bedside’ translation of new technologies require the collaborative efforts of experts in different fields, ensuring that research around medical technologies is continuously aligned with the needs of citizens and society at large. After over a decade of close collaboration with hospitals and health care specialists in the Barcelona area, the formalization of the Barcelona Medical Photonics network enables the solidification and expansion of the reach, scope and impact of these critical relationships. This network is part of the Light for Health program at ICFO, an initiative that was launched and took root thanks to the impetus of the Cellex Foundation, and continued to grow through the continuous support from the ”La Caixa” Foundation, Barcelona City Council, as well as state and European funds.
“Research and innovation in Health, from the perspective of the person or patient, must generate innovative solutions emerging as sparks from the collision of talents from multiple disciplines and sometimes very di erent worlds, adding added value”, explains Dr. Marco Inzitari, head of the group Research on Aging, Frailty and Transitions in Barcelona del VHIR and one of the researchers in the initiative. For her part, Dr. Maria Antònia Poca, head of Section of Neurosurgery at Vall d’Hebron Hospital and researcher at the Neurotraumatology and Neurosurgery Unit at the VHIR, affirms that “for years, we have worked with ICFO to better understand the pathophysiology of complex pathologies such as severe head trauma, malignant heart attacks and various pathologies in children. This has allowed us to advance in the use of non-invasive monitoring systems of various intracranial parameters”.
A Network with impact on society
The Network aims to have an impact on society at many levels:
- Sharing and contrasting of best practices for technology use, adoption and dissemination of results amongst care centers
- A formal structure that will allow for increased focus on a wide-range of patient scenarios that ultimately improves patient outcomes.
- Flexibility to participate as a block in international initiatives and projects, primarily from the European Union, to expand the common research goals of the network partners
- Preparedness for engagement in emergencies, such as COVID, to rapidly and effectively test new technologies to meet emerging requirement for critical patient care.
- An expanded range of data points from around Catalonia (age, geography, pathologies) for testing technologies providing reliable and insightful analysis.
The main established joint endeavors to date have spanned initiatives in disciplines such as neurology and neurosurgery, neonatal care, ophthalmology, oncology, intensive care monitoring, dermatology, rapid clinical analysis, rehabilitation, sports medicine, wellbeing, sleep disorders and anesthesiology, among others.
The partner institutions initially participating in this network include: ICFO, Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron, Vall d'Hebron Institut de Recerca (VHIR), Vall d’Hebron Institut d’Oncologia (VHIO), Fundació Institut de Recerca de l'Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Institut d’Investigació Biomèdica Sant Pau, Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, Institut d’Investigació i Innovació Parc Taulí, l’Institut d’Investigació en Ciències de la Salut Germans Trias i Pujol, Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili, Fundació Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques (IMIM).The initiative is open to the participation of other entities that may contribute to its goals.
As Lluis Torner, Director of ICFO,highlights “It is incredibly rewarding to watch our science and technology, often based on very frontier physics, move into hospitals where it can help doctors better care for their patients. This journey requires a lot of perseverance and sustained support. Fortunately, for the past decade we have had this thanks to visionaries from the Cellex and ”La Caixa” Foundations, Barcelona City Council and the DGR of the Government of Catalonia. We thank everyone for their support and the doctors for their participation”. Turgut Durduran, leader of the Medical Optics research group at ICFO, comments “Our goal is to see technologies enabled by advanced photonics in clinical practice. We will do that by working together with clinicians and biomedical researchers of this network, with industry and ultimately with governments. Barcelona area is a world-class place to achieve this goal with its diverse array of hospitals, research centers and companies as well as the support infrastructure.”
From the City Hall of Barcelona, Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor for Agenda 2030 and Digital Transition, also stresses out the importance of science and technology development by stating that “Barcelona needs scientific and technological collaboration spaces to promote research and innovation. Areas of collaboration between public and private sectors, between research centres and companies, and also between administrations. The Barcelona Medical Photonics Network is one of the best examples of this. An example of applied research and new technological solutions put to the service of improving health, using new techniques that will have a concrete effect on advancing healthcare solutions in the city's hospitals. From the City Council we will collaborate with the Network on everything we can, as we have done to date with the ‘Light for Health’ program.”