Informe anual 2022

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’s goals are to investigate the natural history of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and cancer in Chile. The Center includes 7 research lines (RLs) with laboratories in the UCH and the PUC. 

These RLs are: 

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

[2] Gender-related differences in the 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). 

During this year, a new RL has been included: [7] Inflammatory communication in metabolically healthy and unhealthy obesity (M Cifuentes, UCH). 

The Center also has the 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 7 Principal Investigators (PIs), the International Scientific Committee, and the National Advisory Committee. 

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

  1. To develop a multidisciplinary research initiative that will permit analyzing the natural history of CVD (specifically heart failure) and cancer (specifically digestive cancers) in the Chilean population. 
  2. To establish specific RLs in the area of digestive cancers, heart failure, and obesity 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 CVD.
  6. To communicate to the general public chronic disease-related information and educate them in disease prevention. 
  7. Work with the Ministry of Health officials to translate our findings into a public health agenda. 

After 9 years in operation, ACCDiS is formed by 7 PIs, 59 investigators (21 Associate investigators and collaborators), 32 postdocs, 82 Ph.D., 30 MSc, and 24 undergraduate students, and 60 professional staff (294 persons) working in the 7 RLs, MAUCO, the two core facilities, and Administrative Office. 

Main Results:

In Research. All of our RLs showed important progress, establishing new experimental animal models (RL1), developing new potential pharmacological tools (RLs 1-2-6), and novel research on heart failure and cardiovascular disease in animal models and humans (RL1-RL2). There is progress on new molecular mechanisms in Helicobacter pylori infection related to gastric cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and periodontal diseases, as well as inflammatory mechanisms in gallbladder cancer (RL3), and the role of novel microRNAs, long non-coding RNAs and extracellular vesicles in gastric cancer (RL4). There have been important advances in the development of nanomaterials for the spatial-temporal release of antitumor drugs (RL6), and clinical trials in dogs were initiated to validate the curcumin nanoemulsion previously developed (RLs 3- 6). Regarding the MAUCO cohort, by Dec 2022, we had enrolled 9,462 participants (8,409 assigned to year 2 and 7,463 to year 4 follow-up). The MAUCO+, COVID19 vaccine effectiveness (VE-CDC), and a FONDECYT project to study chronic kidney disease were nested in MAUCO during this period (RL5). 

Publications and Patents During year 9, the Center published 83 ISI and 4 non-ISI papers, 14 of them (17%) in top-ten journals and 58 in Q1 journals (70%). The average ISI impact factor was 12.1. In addition, the Center has 15 patents: 2 have been filed, 3 applications have been issued, and 10 applications are in revision. 

Synergy and collaboration among RLs. 10% and 49% of the total publications in this period are collaborations among inter-RLs and intra-RL, respectively. Synergy is permanently promoted through activities such as regular Academic Council meetings, scientific meetings with national/international speakers (transmitted through social media), internal seminars within each RL, and the annual ACCDiS retreat, held face-to-face in January 2023. Other activities to foster RL collaborations have included administrative meetings between Director, Executive Director, Accounting Manager, Public Relations personnel, core Facility Coordination, and RL Lab Managers.

Advanced training of human resources. During 2022 ACCDIS mentored 32 postdocs and 136 theses, leading to 82 Ph.D., 30 MSc, and 24 undergraduate degrees. Intra- and inter-RLs collaboration has been key, with 22%,13%, and 10% of co-mentoring in the postdoc, Ph.D., and MSc work, respectively. The first Chilean Ph.D. Program in Epidemiology, where ACCDIS actively participates, currently has 4 students and 1 fellowship under the Center’s support. Multidisciplinary Ph.D. programs and 2% of foreign students provide a rich and collaborative environment fostering integral training for new investigators, with access to courses and ACCDIS networking activities such as national and international presentations, seminars, conferences, round-table discussions, symposia, and others. The opportunities provided by ACCDiS members include the joint Ph.D. degrees between UCH and the University of Groningen, Netherlands. As proof of a successful training effort, many Ph.D. graduates have continued as postdocs and/or have become Faculty members or researchers in national/international public and private universities, working in companies, or creating them.

National and international networking. The Center’s National Networking comprises a vast number of institutions and collaborators from many regions of Chile, including several Faculties from UCH, PUC, USACH, UTEM, UNAB, PUCV, UFRO, UDD, and UTA, as well as clinical centers from university, military, and public hospitals in Santiago and other Chilean regions. Key national collaborations relevant to MAUCO include UCM, the Molina Hospital, Molina Municipality, and the Maule Health Service. In International Networking ACCDIS’ PIs and AIs international collaborations include investigators from several institutions in the USA, UK, France, Spain, Brazil, China, The Netherlands, Argentina, and Germany. Importantly, the center is involved in other international institutional and multicenter collaborations, including the National Cancer Institute, National Human Genome Research Institute, and the NIAID, NIH. MAUCO is part of the International 100K+ Cohorts Consortium (IHCC), the largest worldwide. Other collaborations include the Latin American and the Caribbean Code against Cancer Project, the IARC proposal for Organized Cancer Screening, the Cohorts Consortium of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the IARC-coordinated Agricultural consortium AGRICOH.

Dissemination and exploitation of results. The ACCDiS Innovation Committee selected four projects for the First Grant for Innovation in Chronic Diseases within the Center (informed last year), of which two applied to FONDEF IDeA I+D 2022, and one was successfully awarded (the other projects will apply for other funding). The initiative was repeated in Dec 2022, expecting to support four new projects to increase applied science projects within ACCDiS. For this period, the Center has a total of 15 patents at different stages of the process.

Outreach to society. ACCDIS members are continuously present in different activities and media to communicate their work in an accessible language and attractive activities. The Center’s 9th year included 401 media events and 73 scientific outreach activities (57% face-to-face format) involving almost 25,000 participants. The Regional Associative Project Explora Región Metropolitana Norte continues as a forum to develop activities in playschools, elementary and high schools, aimed at students, teachers, and the general public, reaching more than 22,000 participants. The MAUCO project continues to be a key link between the Center and the community, which this year included an intervention phase that involved outreach activities with 44 appearances in digital, print, and radio media. The ACCDIS web page represents the main source of information (in Spanish and English), and a monthly newsletter is sent to an audience of more than 5,000. There is an important and constant presence in social media: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and ACCDiS’s presence in social networks grew 5% compared to the previous year.

Contribution to public policies. The Center’s PIs and AIs actively participate in national and international organizations, where they are important contributors to health-related public policies. Some examples are the American Association for Cancer Research, Pan American Health Organization, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Science, International Association for Research in Cancer, Maule Regional Health Council, Chilean Academy of Science, Chilean Academy of Medicine, and the Antofagasta regional government. One very influential participation has been that of CF in the COVID19 Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Health. In addition, ACCDIS members are actively involved in generating education-related public policy, through their participation in organizations and institutions such as the Municipality of Molina, Municipalities of Independencia, Recoleta, and Macul and their community organizations. The Center also participates in science and innovation policy-making, through SL’s involvement with the Chilean Academy of Science.

Others: Professor Sergio Lavandero was awarded the National Prize of Natural Sciences 2022.