Press Release – 22.02.2023.
RSU Implements Ambitious International Project on Cooperation in Research on Autoimmune Diseases Caused by Viruses
Research on autoimmune diseases caused by viruses is one of the research areas of Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU). To promote cooperation and networking with international partners, RSU has been implementing an ambitious project funded by the European Union’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020* under the leadership of Associate Professor Modra Murovska.
Academician and Professor Aivars Lejnieks is Head of the RSU Department of Internal Medicine, chief specialist in internal medicine and endocrinologist at Riga East Clinical University Hospital and is a member of the External Advisory Board of the project. He outlines the progress of the project and the work that has already been done:
‘In the first two years, the project team was successfully moving towards achieving the general goal of promoting research on autoimmune diseases and filling the networking gaps at RSU and in Latvia. A solid consortium was established with leading research institutions in Israel, Italy, and Germany. These partner institutions are world-class centres of excellence with considerable experience and are able to bring about positive change in research as well as to contribute significantly to future developments.
The European Commission assessed the produced results positively already at the interim stage of the project, as all the planned tasks were completed and submitted on time, despite the difficult global situation.
Five international workshops were organised in Latvia as part of VirA. These focused on the role of differential diagnosis in rheumatic and other autoimmune diseases, the latest trends in immunological profiling of autoimmune diseases, the study of viral infections as aetiological factors in autoimmune diseases, and morphology studies in the context of autoimmune diseases. In July 2022, a summer school was held with both young and experienced researchers from four different countries. They learned about the latest developments in the molecular and immunological detection of persistent viral infections. At the end of March, a workshop was held to train researchers and interested parties in the preparation of internationally cited scientific publications.
RSU Professor Aivars Lejnieks
A number of new scientific publications were written during this project; several of them in cooperation with VirA project partners. VirA members also regularly travel to international conferences in Israel, Bulgaria, Greece, and report on the latest results. RSU research excellence in the field of autoimmunity has enhanced, the mobility of qualified scientists has increased, competences have been developed, and existing staff have broadened their experience in immunology, virology, morphology, clinical data management, data analysis, and preparing scientific publications. Additionally, cooperation between local and international research groups has been strengthened.
Working in a team with these three excellent partner organisations will increase RSU’s reputation and visibility in the international research community opening up more opportunities for networking. By participating in and organising international conferences, workshops, networking, and other events, the VirA project contributes to integrating RSU in the European Research Area as well as in international top-level research projects. Drawing on the expertise and best practices of the University’s partners in Israel, Italy, and Germany, the research profile of RSU grows by creating four platforms for multidisciplinary research: immunology, virology, morphology, and clinical data management and modelling.
Research on autoimmune diseases has been highlighted as a priority. This will contribute to the understanding of disease development mechanisms, diagnosis, and development of treatment approaches, which will benefit researchers and doctors, as well as patients and society at large.’
A workshop on Basic aspects of biostatistics, clinical and laboratory data management will be held at RSU on 23 and 24 February as part of the project. Representatives from the Ministry of Health, the National Health Service, the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the Children's Clinical University Hospital, Riga Technical University, the University of Latvia, as well as representatives from cooperation partners from Israel and Germany will participate in the workshop.