The European Liquid Biopsy Academy (ELBA) project is an Innovative Training Network (ITN), funded under the European Commission’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Programme, aiming to move the promising technology of liquid biopsies out of its infancy and bring it to the clinic with a further focus on Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) early diagnosis. Liquid biopsies offer a minimally invasive, safe, and sensitive alternative or complementary approach for tissue biopsies, which can be a game-changer in cancer management.
Blood is proven to be a valuable medium of biosources. Blood tests can potentially provide extensive information on the molecular landscapes of cancer. Currently, blood-based biopsy measurements focus on four main biosources.
European Liquid Biopsy Academy’s objective is to expand researchers limited knowledge on what it takes to bring such technology to the market by entrenching and forging the regulatory requirements.
Such purpose demands the widespread recruitment of creative next-generation researchers, from different disciplines and sectors, with an innovative mindset that knows how to circumvent the obstacles on the liquid biopsy development and bring such technology to the commercialization path.
This large integrated project will cover the development and implementation of innovative diagnostics, including assay development, bioinformatics, clinical validation, standardisation and comparison of 4 blood-based biosources and technologies aimed at NSCLC. A fifth innovative ELBA component concerns the development of breakthrough technology for analysis of the 4 biosources: functional assays. The project outputs will tell which blood test or combination of tests based on CTCs, ctDNA, EVs, or TEPs will be technically robust for large-scale validation. ELBA will pursue 5 scientific objectives:
To get comprehensive clinically relevant information out of individual standardised blood-based biosources and pinpoint diagnostic synergy by the combination of biosources.
To identify and validate biomarkers for the detection of stage I-IV NSCLC in a case-controlled study for future liquid biopsy screening programmes.
To identify and validate biomarkers for selection of NSCLC patients for treatment, including PD1-PDL1 immunotherapies, and targeted therapies aimed at the kinases EGFR, MET, ALK, PIK3CA, VEGFR, MTOR, and AKT, amongst others.
To establish novel bioinformatics tools and protocols for the integrative analysis of multi-source liquid biopsy data of DNA and RNA molecules, including data analysis and machine learning aspects.
To develop blood-based assays to deliver scalable prototypes capable of obtaining regulatory approval.
ELBA aims to deliver 15 ESRs with a helicopter-view across fields and disciplines, with in-depth knowledge of diagnostic applications of liquid biopsies. ESRs will draft a personal training and career development plan depending on his/her profile and training needs and wants. To that end, ELBA will pursue 5 training objectives:
To enable 15 ESRs to become front-runners in the field of liquid biopsies, focused on acquiring an understanding of biomarker identification/validation, molecular diagnostics, bioinformatics/biostatistics and beyond-the-state-of-the-art technologies.
To build a solid collaborative network aimed at future alliances that will function as a springboard for new talent, by allowing strong international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral interactions between ESRs and project participants.
To stimulate an entrepreneurial mindset, by training the ESRs in applying transdisciplinary innovation management skills and practices in medical technology, by offering BioBusiness workshops and secondments at industry participants.
To allow ESRs to reach their full potential and maximise employability, with a set of training courses aimed at strengthening transferable skills (e.g. leadership, interpersonal communication, team/network building, ability to work in multidisciplinary teams, can-do mentality, thinking out-of-the-box).
To teach the ESRs how to perform research and development activities with the patient in mind.