R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos de Doenças Crónicas - CEDOC [HESC-LVT-Lisboa-715] visitada em 24/04/2008

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
This research Unit « Centro de Estudos de Doenças Crónicas » (CEDOC) has acquired a formal status recently (2007). It has as banner « research in chronic diseases » with an epidemiological strong dimension, encompassing a wide range of disease categories including mental, cardio-vascular, respiratory; rheumatological and chronic viral diseases. The Unit’s strategy is to bridge the gap from basic level research to the clinical.and epidemiological levels. Further, the Unit houses also a Medical Education research group.
Among such a diverse fan of research issues it is not easy to identify a research focus. The recent appointment of senior researchers who have made career in foreign institutions as the Unit’s coordinator (José Caldas de Almeida who was at the WHO office for Mental Health in Washington for several years), Miguel Seabra (Cell and Molecular Biology; Molecular Genetics, professor at Imperial College, London) and José Delgado Alves (Clinical internal medicine with a special interest in vascular disease and autoimmune diseases, Hon Senior Lecturer, University College, London) has opened up new perspectives of international collaborations.
Taking into consideration that only recently several groups joined the Unit it is understandable that in the Unit quite diverse research lines are being pursued. If the Unit wishes to have the desired critical mass to make a significant contribution in the research field of chronic diseases as the name suggests, an effort at streamlining research programs focusing on a smaller number of research questions has to be made in the near future. The Unit has a number of groups that have the potential to make such contributions. The Panel recommends that the Unit should formulate a “mission statement” to give more body and visibility to its objectives.
The main strengths of the Unit may be summarized as follows: - the fact that leading scientists have made scientific careers abroad in excellent research institutions; - the constitution of the Unit represents a commitment of the Medical School that is supporting the Unit as much as possible; - the intention of the Unit to focus in a small number of research questions, although this has still to be further concretized; - the potential to attract new people and especially young researchers; - the building of new laboratory facilities.
The main weaknesses are: - the handicaps presented by bureaucratic hurdles; - the fact that the Faculty is not associated with one dedicated Academic Hospital (a diversity of hospitals associated may offer also some advantages); - within the Faculty until recently the Departments were too close on themselves and there was no tradition of intensive collaborations, although some groups have been working together for several years; - no tradition in a comprehensive training program for PhD students.
Nonetheless the Unit has the plan to set up PhD courses in 3 main areas: Biomedical research; clinical research and mental health research. It is recommendable to make such a general plan more specific in order to attract the best candidates.
Overall evaluation of the Unit is good with some very good elements.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Basic research and experimental models [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-715-1445]
The group was constituted in the past two years around the personality of the PI, a high profile researcher, who has an excellent scientific track record and bibliometric indices. This group has a plan concentrated on 4 scientific questions (role of adenosine/ATP in inflammatory responses to hypoxia, nutraceuticals against chronic disease, role of sialic acid in the immunobiology of dendritic cells, and molecular mechanisms in Malaria infection), but list also 2 additional projects that will start in 2008. The 4 project singled out above have one PhD as project leader and the contribution of a reasonable number of junior researchers. Furthermore the projects are carried out in collaboration with foreign laboratories. The group has the aim of attracting about 4 new investigators to strengthen these project groups. This planning offers excellent perspectives to make significant contributions with impact in the field. Whether this will be reflected in real translational research remains to be assessed later. The group has a mouse facility in operation and is planning to extend its laboratory facilities regarding molecular biological, microscopical and bioinformatics techniques. In general the performance of the PI, with his activity in London, is excellent but the group has still to develop in the context of the Portuguese situation. Therefore the current evaluation is Very Good with the potential of becoming Excellent.
Clinical Based Research [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-715-1086]
The group assembles a number of researchers (6) specialized on different medical fields, and carries out research on several topics of respiratory and vascular medicine and infectious diseases. The publications in journals with higher impact refer to a clinical drug multi-center collaborative trial (Circulation) and a therapeutic study with respect to AIDS. The group plans to establish a centre for clinical trials and to facilitate the formation of what is named “a research continuum” linking epidemiological, clinical and basic research (experimental models)”. This is a valid desideratum but it is not yet clear how this may be achieved in practice. The same considerations regarding the necessary adjustments of the research plans that takes into account the necessity of focusing on a smaller number of scientific/clinical themes in relation to an optimal critical mass of researchers, as pointed out above, apply also to this group. Two projects appear to end in 2008, what gives an optimal opportunity to re-arrange the research program around a smaller number of main projects that should form the core of the group’s activities. This does not mean that group should not collaborate on satellite projects if considered opportune, but always giving priority to the core. Also as with the previous group this one has the potential of developing to a Very Good level if the operational conditions sketched above would be met.
Research in Epidemiology, Health Policy and Services [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-715-1085]
The group has been active in Epidemiological research of chronic diseases, mainly respiratory, cardiac, articular and psychiatric. The selected publications of the group, however, are mainly in the psychiatric (epidemiological) domain and in articular diseases. Some of these publications are in good specialized journals with one exception in a high ranking clinical journal (JAMA) where a collaborative study of a psychiatric theme is reported. The group refers that it is planning a considerable number of projects with a relatively small staff of graduated PhD’s. The Panel is of the opinion that the group would benefit from concentrating on themes where it has gained already international visibility, and strengthen collaborations around these themes. The fact that some projects are ending in 2008 gives an opportunity to stream line the group’s research programming. The group has the potential of reaching a Very Good level but to achieve this, it has to take measures to set up priorities and to avoid too much dispersion.
Research in Medical education [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-715-1566]
The PI was not present at the site-visit but the group’s activities were adequately presented by Amália Botelho. It became clear that the Faculty is making a considerable effort to invest in medical education what is very commendable. There are also a number of publications in the field of medical education, reporting activities on different kinds of interventions and in how monitoring of teaching experiences must be made. Notwithstanding the merit of this activity it was not clear what is the specific role of this group regarding the research carried out by the other groups. It appears that these activities in medical education belong rather to the main activity of the Faculty than to a research Unit focusing on Chronic diseases. Therefore the Panel does not give a formal classification to this group since it does not appear to fit the main body of the Unit.