Despite rapid advances in biomedical research, new discoveries do not always find their way to clinical practice, which would improve diagnostics or result in new and better treatments. Bridging this gap, known as the ‘valley of death’, is key to tackling global health challenges such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Physician-scientists, who are medical doctors with a PhD in biomedical research, are uniquely placed to overcome this gap through their clinical insights, scientific knowledge and academic experience, helping identify where innovative research is most urgently needed and expand that knowledge for the benefit of patients.
“We urgently require scientists with a medical background who will play a crucial role in applying advances in omics, big data, artificial intelligence or high-resolution microscopy to address patient needs in the 21st century”, says Michela Bertero, Head of International and Scientific Affairs at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), which is coordinating the training program. “However, the fragmentation of healthcare systems in Europe means that the development of European MDPhD programs has been historically isolated, often lacking in collaboration and cross-border mobility.”
Now seven biomedical research institutes will overcome this challenge by joining efforts to create Emerald, the first European-wide physician-scientist training program of its kind. Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, Emerald will provide medical doctors with unique opportunities to move to a different country to conduct a cutting-edge PhD research project, participate in tailored summer schools, benefit from peer-mentoring and explore and establish new collaborations.
The first call, for a total of 12 positions, opens today. Each position will be based at one of the seven host institutes each with strong experience in research training programs and with most of them having previously run training programs specifically for physician-scientists. Alongside the host institutions, there are more than 30 partners from 10 European countries, including universities, hospitals, patient associations, pharmaceutical companies and publishers, with each partner offering secondment opportunities, collaborations, and bespoke training for the medical doctors.
The host institutions are:
- The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, Spain
- The Institut Curie in Paris, France
- The Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC) at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark
- The Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian - Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC) in Lisbon, Portugal
- The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) in Berlin, Germany
- The Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- The Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) in Ghent, Belgium
The “International PhD program for Medical Doctors”, EMERALD, will train and nurture excellent physician-scientists. The program will recruit medical doctors to carry out a PhD in cutting-edge research in European centers of excellence in life sciences and biomedicine. Coordinated by the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, Emerald brings together 7 biomedical research institutes and 37 partner organizations across ten European countries to deliver its international training program.
Emerald has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101034290. The COFUND scheme aims to stimulate regional, national or international programs to foster excellence in researchers' training, mobility, and career development. The Emerald project received €4,5M of funding to deliver the training program over the next five years.