UCD joins €16m obesity research consortium

UCD has joined forces with research bodies across 12 European nations to better understand and treat obesity.

While the world is focused on one particular pandemic called Covid-19, a little understood fact is that obesity is also a global pandemic that currently affects 150m people in Europe and 650m people worldwide.

To help fight the obesity pandemic University College Dublin (UCD) has joined the SOPHIA consortium, a new €16m EU and industry-supported research effort.

“Our mission within SOPHIA is to enable healthcare professionals to reliably predict the complications of obesity and who will respond to treatment”

Entitled SOPHIA – Stratification of Obese Phenotypes to Optimise Future Obesity Therapy – the consortium will be coordinated by Prof Carel le Roux, an obesity physician at the UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre.

The €16m in funding for this five-year project has been granted from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a joint undertaking of the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA); JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation); the Obesity Action Coalition; and T1D Exchange.

Meaningful results

While the obesity pandemic affects 650m people worldwide and obesity complications are common, the medical world cannot yet predict who will develop any of the 200 known complications.

Moreover, there are insufficient predictors for who will respond to obesity treatments. SOPHIA will identify, characterise and stratify clinically-meaningful subpopulations of patients living with obesity to match the right treatment for the right person at the right time.

The consortium will also provide evidence-based classification of predictors for obesity complications and response to obesity treatment while also identifying and charting models for sustainably developing treatment pathways that will be valuable for patients, healthcare systems, researchers and clinicians.

“Our mission within SOPHIA is to enable healthcare professionals to reliably predict the complications of obesity and who will respond to treatment,” said Prof le Roux

The voices of people living with obesity will be at the heart of SOPHIA through the establishment of a Patient Advisory Board. It will ensure that patients’ insights, opinions and wishes are placed at the core of SOPHIA and interwoven into the multiple layers of the study.

Methods employed by the consortium will include creating a database, conducting analysis, in-depth qualitative methods with patients and finding a shared value with all stakeholders to ensure better treatment for people living with obesity.

“Obesity is a complex, chronic disease and there is still a lot we do not know, both about the biology of the disease itself and how treatment can improve the lives of patients with obesity,” explained SOPHIA Project Leader Dr Marianne Ølholm Larsen Grønning of Novo Nordisk.

“SOPHIA is an important step towards understanding obesity better. The collaboration between academia, industry and associations promises strong and unique results.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 2 June, 2020