On Friday 17 December, the Flemish government decided to allocate 1 million euros on top of the annual EWI subsidy of 3,946,00 euros to ITM. Thanks to these additional funds, ITM can invest in research professors in the areas of 'One Health', (re-)emerging infectious diseases and healthy ageing, involving vulnerable groups in Flanders and worldwide. The grant also gives ITM the opportunity to offer a research professor position to talented scientists with a grant from the prestigious European Research Council (ERC).
Global Population Data Science Hub
ITM will invest in research infrastructure tailored to digital transformation. The Hub shares the expertise and data of ITM, combines data from various contexts and disciplines and stimulates collaborations within Flanders and beyond. This data is extra valuable because it documents hard-to-reach or vulnerable population groups. Their health problems often remain under the radar, with the result that infectious diseases spread unnoticed and also threaten other population groups across borders. For example, ITM researchers are currently involved in studying COVID-19 epidemiology in Antwerp, Brussels, Kinshasa, Maputo and Lima. The expertise of the Hub offers new insights in these contexts.
“ITM is delighted with the additional support. Thanks to the grant increase, we can invest in excellent research professors and in a new Data Science Hub for the new research areas. This will strengthen the position of ITM and Flanders in ambitious, innovative and groundbreaking research and will help us understand and prevent pandemics. We are therefore grateful to Flemish Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation Hilde Crevits for her support in solving globally shared health challenges," says Dr Marc-Alain Widdowson.
Sustainable health and pandemic preparedness
In recent years, ITM has invested, with the support of Flanders, in a multidisciplinary Outbreak Research Team (ORT) that investigates outbreaks of infectious diseases worldwide. Besides COVID-19 research, the ORT is involved in research on vector-borne diseases, Ebola, Monkeypox and Cholera.
In addition, ITM set up a Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) with the support of Flanders. This enables the institute to coordinate and support clinical studies under its own management. These range from new medicines to vaccines, diagnostics and pesticides against infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, rabies, COVID-19, leprosy and worm infections.
Finally, ITM is further developing an insectary that allows to understand, predict and combat the spread of insect-borne infectious diseases in the context of climate change.
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