After a two year cross-disciplinary consultation process the Coordinating Action Systems Medicine (CASyM) published its European implementation strategy (roadmap) for Systems Medicine. The vision of this roadmap is to develop Systems Medicine into a practical framework that assists clinical decision making and the design of personalised prevention and treatment plans. Central to this is a systems approach that addresses clinical questions and provides solutions to the most pressing clinical challenges such as the results of an ageing population, increased needs for social care and a growing burden of curing and caring for patients with cancer. This results in a huge cost burden of the healthcare systems. The reasons for why we have not yet overcome these challenges are manifold, but most importantly they lie in the intrinsic complexity of the human body and its diseases. Building on the achievements in Systems Biology over the last decade, systems medicine now offers the most promising approach to these challenges and employs a truly integrated path which holds huge potential for a more comprehensive understanding of human health and disease.
The CASyM roadmap process was the result of a broad stakeholder consultation and reviewing process across many disciplines that included clinicians, scientists, funding bodies, Industry/SME as well as regulators and patient organizations with the aim to draft the first strategic implementation plan for a European Systems Medicine. The CASyM roadmap is thus an invitation to all interested stakeholders to specify a destination and set out on a journey with a new over-arching conceptual framework to turn information into action, to inform about the future of healthcare and medicine, to prevent diseases in populations as well as individuals, to predict the effectiveness of drug development and improve drug trials and other therapeutics interventions. But it will also personalize medicine to the needs of a person.
The roadmap identifies four core priority actions and asserts that (i) investment in proof of concept and demonstrator projects is needed to help to precipitate a paradigm shift in the way medicine is practiced. This shift will be supported by (ii) a strong Systems Medicine community, (iii) new multidisciplinary training programmes and (iv) the development of new European-wide practices in clinical data access, sharing and standardisation. These actions are outlined along with ten cross-cutting key areas and specific recommendations over a period of two, five and ten years.
In addition, and based on the recommendations of the CASyM roadmap, the European Commission launched the first Systems Medicine oriented ERA-NET under Horizon 2020 – a consortium of 15 European funding bodies with suppport by the European Commission (co-fund scheme), that agreed on a common research agenda. The ERA-NET “Systems medicine to address clinical needs” will start in January 2015 with the aim to specifically fund demonstrator projects that identify areas where a systems approach addresses a clinical questions and provides solution strategies to clinical problems.
By building on current national and international efforts in Systems Medicine, and the coalescing of the many stakeholder groups, it is anticipated that CASyM and the new ERA-NET will bring significant and sustained benefits to the European citizen.