Harnessing the power of RNA therapeutics in treating ischemic heart failure: the TRAIN-HEART story

Alba M. Albert, Deepak Balamurali, Evangelia Beslika, Ileana D. Fernandez, Hussein H. Genedy, Reyhaneh Babaei Khorzoughi, Francesca Cecilia Lauta, Panagiotis Peppas, Isabella Ragone, Giorgia Rizzari, Marida Sansonetti, Joana Silva, Giulia Spanò, Kinga M. Wrona

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Ischemic heart disease (IHD) is one of the world's foremost killers, accounting for 16% of all deaths worldwide. IHD is the main cause of heart failure (HF), as it leads to pathological changes in the heart, improper pumping function and eventual death. Therapeutic interventions usually follow a systemic general strategy for all heart failure subtypes due to the lack of a deep understanding of the disease mechanisms. Hence, HF and IHD therapeutics need groundbreaking concepts to guide the development of a new therapeutics class that tackles the disease at a molecular level. The TRAIN-HEART consortium, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN) funded by the European Commission, was established with the goal of filling that gap and developing RNA-based cardiovascular therapeutics. Created in the context of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, TRAIN-HEART comprises three key work packages (WPs) focusing on the pathogenesis of heart disease (WP1), the therapeutic potential of RNA therapeutics (WP2), and the development of new efficient delivery systems (WP3). Fifteen international early stage researchers (ESRs) from multiple complementary scientific disciplines were recruited to collaborate with a network of PIs from nine academic and eight non-academic partners in various disciplines to fully harness their collective potential for the betterment of HF treatment. This article provides an overview of the benefits of being part of an MSCA-ITN, with its different training and networking opportunities, maximizing ESRs' potential and broadening collaborative research possibilities. Finally, it describes what was like to do a PhD during the COVID-19 pandemic, with all the uncertainty and concern attached to it. Luckily, TRAIN-HEART stood out as a proactive network, finding new initiatives and alternatives to promote scientific and personal development. By bringing together leading academic teams, (biotech) companies, and highly motivated researchers, TRAIN-HEART is expanding scientific horizons and accelerating future development of effective RNA-based therapies to treat IHD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1228160
JournalFrontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine
Volume10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
2024 Albert, Balamurali, Beslika, Fernandez, Genedy, Babaei Khorzoughi, Lauta, Peppas, Ragone, Rizzari, Sansonetti, Silva, Spanò and Wrona.

Funding

The TRAIN-HEART consortium, funded by the European Commission, aims to find novel treatment methods for HF and other CVDs based on RNA therapeutics. Considering the high relevance of the topic, TRAIN-HEART comprises top European Universities, well-known Principal Investigators, and extraordinarily motivated PhD students from various biological, medical, and non-medical backgrounds. The main focus of the consortium is to investigate the pathogenesis of HF through the use of innovative high throughput technologies, analyzing the therapeutic benefits of existing RNA-based therapies and developing novel drug delivery systems. Although within TRAIN-HEART, every PhD project is unique and original, a common goal stimulates fruitful collaboration among the participants. Divided into the three WPs, the fellows had the assignment to design a new product to be introduced in the market. For this exercise, any intent of creativity was welcome, even beyond the research topic of the program. After six months of preparation, supported by comprehensive market research, intellectual property rights management, and a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analysis, as well as a reasonable realization and funding plan, the product was presented to the experts within an Elevator Pitch Competition. The winning team was awarded a travel grant to attend a conference or visit a research institute.

FundersFunder number
H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions813716
European Commission
Horizon 2020

    Keywords

    • ITN
    • RNA therapeutics
    • cardiovascular diseases
    • heart failure
    • innovative training network, consortium
    • nanomedicine
    • ncRNA

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