CREATE celebrating 15 years of research

Medicon Village

Twenty years ago, cancer research focused on identifying individual cancer-specific biomarkers. Carl Borrebaeck, professor of Immunotechnology at Lund University, had another idea. He ​​collected massive data that could provide information to improve diagnostics and treatment of complex diseases such as cancer, today a common way of doing research. One result of his efforts is CREATE Health Translational Cancer Centre in Lund, this year celebrating its 15th anniversary.

With funding from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, Carl Borrebaeck and colleagues in 2006 founded CREATE Health translational Cancer Centre in Lund, a strategic organization for translational cancer research focusing on the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

15 years later, CREATE engages scientists from four different faculties; medicine, engineering, natural sciences and social sciences, hosted by LTH and located at Medicon Village. CREATE brings together researchers from such diverse fields as bioinformatics, nanotechnology, proteomics, transcriptomics, cancer genetics and tumor cell biology with clinical oncologists from Lund University Hospital, thereby creating a unique integrative environment highly qualified for solving complex clinical problems.

In line with the original idea, the centre has brought clinical problems into advanced laboratory environments to solve these challenges using cutting-edge technology. In 2006, this was the first endeavour with a clear focus on bringing advanced technology into cancer clinics, introducing the first steps towards what later became known as precision medicine.

An integrative approach to cancer

The vision of CREATE was, and still is, to use an integrative approach to develop novel diagnostics and therapeutics based on identified markers and molecular signatures. Furthermore, to create a substantial impact on patient health through direct application of research for selection of an optimal, individualized cancer treatment.

An expression of this is the CREATE Resilience Program focussing on the body and mind bridge, where physiological resilience for the first time is investigated on a massive molecular level focussing on converting low resilient patients into high resilient patients, leading to an improved disease outcome.

An offspring of CREATE is the EU-MSCA-COFUND CanFaster doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship programs, focussing on educating young scientists on how to successfully combine cancer research with entrepreneurship, leading to increased awareness of how innovations can be implemented much faster into society. During coming years, a large number of international young talents will be part of the program and continue to contribute to innovations.

15 years and counting

Today, CREATE Health has evolved into an internationally recognized cancer centre attracting collaborative projects with world renowned scientists. One example is the L2 Cancer Bridge Program, an immuno-oncology program in co-operation with Swiss Cancer Center, that focusses on novel strategies to activate an effective anti-tumor attack orchestrated by the immune system. These therapies contain the patient´s T-cells, the ninja warriors of the immune system. Other strategies seek to disrupt faulty signalling pathways that drive tumour growth or use antibodies to kick-start and strengthen a patient’s natural immune response. The program has already delivered understanding on how discovered immune targets can deliver massive and lethal attacks towards a tumor, which will be implemented into the clinic.

One outcome of the CREATE research is that it is now, for the first time, possible to explore how differences in molecular profiles and proximity between immune and tumour cells affect the outcome of patient therapies. This will lead to novel disease mechanistic insights and subsequently novel therapeutic concepts. With multi-omics becoming more feasible huge amounts of data are created when applying i.a. genetics, epigenetics, transcriptomes and metabolomics in human samples or engineered 3D cellular models.

Consequently, there is a need to develop computational models to enable integration of the different analytical approaches, and there is now a true paradigm shift where health science merge with digitalization and AI into big data driven life science, representing a true paradigm shift. CREATE is driving this area following the vision to use big data for more robust clinical decision-making.

Research is all about novel discoveries, but the value is measured by the impact on society, which requires joint long-term inter-disciplinary commitments. Therefore, CREATE is teaming up with old and new partners from academia, industry and health care providers, nationally and internationally – for the benefit of the patients.

Staying in the forefront

Future precision medicine will require a more holistic view encompassing all parameters affecting patient compliance, possibility to take part in clinical trials or more advanced treatment schemes. How can quality of life or psychological resilience be considered in patient stratification? And how to prolong survival not only for the young and fit, but also optimize treatment for the elderly and frail?

The team at CREATE will keep striving to develop novel therapeutic targets/strategies, advanced precision diagnostics and clinical-decision tools for patient stratification, all of which require further deciphering of the molecular and cellular interplay in cancer. To enable this, they will have to exploit current technological breakthroughs that are driving the development within biomedicine.

Recently, CREATE has entered the ongoing revolution within spatial-omics, a multi-omics technique enabling studies of different components, such as gene and protein expression, as well as their cellular localization, in patients’ cancer tissue.

Today, as in 2006 when CREATE was inaugurated, the key to make a difference for the patient is the concept of translational research – “from bedside to bench and back again” – based on disruptive technologies to solve scientific problems defined by clinical needs. Thus, as CREATE celebrates 15 years, the core of its research focus remains as strategically important as ever – not for future generations but for today´s.

CREATE has been a success based on the contributions of all the leading scientists founding the centre 15 years ago. Today, the primus motor and director of CREATE is still Carl Borrebaeck, working parallel on several platforms to optimize use of the research on cancer he started back in 1990. To bring innovations to patients the steps needed involve commercialization, since it involves pharma development beyond academic abilities. Consequently, Carl is active as chairman and board member in Immunovia, SenzaGen, Ocean Capital and PainDrainer. Furthermore, he co-founded the immuno-oncology companies Alligator Bioscience and Bioinvent. He is a permanent member of the Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences in 2003.