The FONDAP Advanced Center for Chronic Diseases (ACCDiS) is the first Chilean Center of Excellence for the study of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. ACCDiS is a bi-institutional center involving the Universidad de Chile (UCH) and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC), that is supported by the Funds for Research Centers in Priority Areas (FONDAP) program of ANID, Ministry of Science. ACCDiS goals are to investigate the natural history of CVD and cancer in Chile. The Center includes 6 research lines (RLs) with laboratories located in the UCH and in the PUC. These RLs are:

[1] Metabolic signaling in heart failure (S Lavandero, UCH)

[2] Gender-related differences in heart (P Castro, PUC)

[3] Tumor cell biology and inflammation (A Quest, UCH)

[4] Epigenomic landscapes in gastric cancer (A Corvalán, PUC)

[5] Digestive cancer natural history (C Ferreccio, PUC)

[6] Nanomedicine and chemical science for diagnosis and therapy of cancer and cardiovascular diseases (M Kogan, UCH).

The Center has also an Administrative Office, located on the North Campus (UCH), a Basic, Preclinical and Clinical (BPC) Core Facility, and a Core Epidemiological Study (MAUCO cohort). As the previous years, the main entities involved in directing and evaluating the center are the Academic Council, composed of the 6 Principal Investigators (PIs), the International Scientific Committee and the National Advisory Committee.

During all these years, ACCDiS has developed a stront international and national collaborative network of international and national scientist and aspires to become a reference center in Latin America for research and advanced training in chronic diseases. ACCDiS specific aims are:

  1. To develop a multidisciplinary research initiative that will permit analyzing the natural history of cardiovascular diseases (specifically heart failure) and cancer (specifically digestive cancers) in the Chilean population.
  2. To establish specific RLs in the area of digestive cancers and heart failure covering basic, clinical and epidemiological aspects and their public health consequences.
  3. To set up novel common facilities that provide state of the art support for the basic, clinical and epidemiological research and training units.
  4. To train advanced human resources in chronic diseases in collaboration with our international partners.
  5. To develop scientific and technological, social and educational innovations related to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
  6. To communicate to the general public chronic disease-related information and educate in disease prevention.
  7. To work with the Ministry of Health officials to translate our findings into a public health agenda.

After 8 years in operation, ACCDiS is formed by 6 PIs, 21 Associate investigators, 30 postdocs, 133 undergraduates, MSc and PhD students and 64 professional staff (254 persons) working in the 6 RLs, MAUCO, the two core facilities and Administrative Office.

In Research

a) MAUCO: By December 2021, in the main cohort we had enrolled 9,236 participants, and completed the year-2 and year-4 follow-up of 7,436 and 3,598 participants. We completed a COVID-19 demonstration project funded by ANID, including surveillance of the epidemic, of population antibody levels, a case control study of symptomatic PCR positive cases and population and clinical-based controls, a genotyping of SARS COV2 and the host, viral environmental detection. CDC/USA is funding a 12 months extension of our COVID19 work, to evaluate duration of vaccine protection and identify variants. MAUCO nested a dental preventive intervention, a study of adverse events in infancy and CDs.

b) Publications & Patents: During 2021, the Center published 122 ISI papers, whereby 16 (13.1%) were published in top 10 journals, 88 (72.1%) in Q1 journals, 21 (17.2%) were in collaboration between the RLs. The average ISI impact factor was 6.9. Also, the Center presented a new patent application. The COVID-19 pandemics have delayed some research activities, especially those involved with patient recruitment and follow up. This issue was particularly important on field activities on all RLs and MAUCO.

In synergy and collaboration among RLs. To promote synergy and collaboration, ACCDiS organized: a) Academic Council zoom meetings. b) Scientific meetings with ACCDiS investigators and with invited national and international speakers transmitted by zoom and social media. c) Internal seminars within each RL. d) Annual ACCDiS retreat. e) Mentoring sessions for young investigators. f) Administrative meetings between Director, Executive Director, Accounting Manager and Public Relations personnel. g) Zoom meetings between RL managers and the Executive Director. h) Core Facility Coordination Meetings. i) Meeting with RL Lab Managers. j) ACCDiS WhatsApp groups. To favor the integration of research efforts we adopted the following general strategies: a) To focus research on two main general topics of interest: HF and digestive cancers. b) To have PhD, MSc students and postdocs working on (transversal) problems of interest between two or more groups. c) To create a special fund to promote collaborations between different areas. d) To continue the MAUCO population-based study. e) To provide core facilities; see new Basic, Preclinical and Clinical (BPC) Core Facility.

In Advanced Training of Human Resources

Since 2020, ACCDiS mentored 30 postdocs, 25 undergraduates, 34 MSc, 84 PhD students. Of these, 56.6% of the postdocs, 14% of the PhD and 3% of the MSc students are/were co-mentored between ACCDiS members from different RLs, whereby 14% are foreigners. The first Chilean PhD Program in Epidemiology was initiated in the PUC with an active participation of ACCDiS PI and AIs. Besides, ACCDiS PIs and AIs coordinated and taught in various PhD, MSc and undergraduate courses at both universities. MAUCO included academics and under-graduate students from local universities in the field activities.

In National and International Networking.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected all of our national and international collaborations. Most of the interactions were performed using “online” or “virtual” platforms. We successfully maintained collaborations with outstanding international research centers in CVDs, cancer, epidemiology & nanobiomedicine. Moreover, 57.4% and 69.7% of our ISI papers were published in collaboration with our international and national collaborators, respectively. MAUCO is in the international arena of large prospective cohorts (Director CF is member of the steering committee of the International Hundred K Cohort Consortium IHCC), the largest cohort consortium worldwide Also networking with Latino American Cohorts Consortium of Latin America and the Caribbean (CC-LAC) and the IARC coordinated Agricultural consortium AGRICOH.

In Dissemination and exploitation of results

During this second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACCDiS Innovation Committee (AIC) dedicated all its efforts towards an online Workshop on Innovation. In this period ACCDiS also call for applications in the First Grant for Innovation in Chronic Diseases, which resulted in four selected applications that will also receive training on the Power Pitch Method. A new patent application (PCT/IB2021/054074) related to “Angiotensin-(1-9) analogue based on D-amino acids, pharmaceutical compositions and uses thereof” was presented.

In Outreach to Society

During the last year, ACCDiS members participated in 511 media events and 98 activities that due to the pandemics were carried out, mostly virtual, reaching a total of 57,351 participants. Radio programs to promote healthy lifestyle and the prevention of CDs were also implemented. ACCDiS also hold an Explora North Metropolitan Region (RMN) Program targeted to promote science to preK, basic and high school students, teachers and the community in general. In this period, Explora RMN program achieved a participation of more than 46,000 people in 8 major activities. Moreover, MAUCO also maintained its effective relationship with the society, with 141 appearances in digital media, print and radio, and 18 virtual events. The ACCDiS website reached a total of 56,353 visits to the web and more than 34,000 users were registered. Due to the prolongation of the pandemic, ACCDIS social networks were strengthen reaching until November 2021, a total growth 12%.

In Contributions to Public Policies

Our PIs and AIs are advisers to several national and international organizations such as IARC, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), Pan American Health Organization, Ministry of Health (MINSAL), Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Science, Maule Regional Health Council, and the Antofagasta regional government. Since 2020, MAUCO has been included as a Sentinel Center for COVID-19 Pandemic Management by MINSAL.