UMCG Cohort Symposium 2024: Enhancing Impact through Collaboration

On March 28th 2024, the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) hosted the first UMCG Cohort Symposium, themed 'Collaborate for Impact'. Approximately 200 researchers, clinicians, and other interested individuals from both within and outside the UMCG attended the symposium.

The symposium focused on how cohorts and biobanks impact patients and society, and how working together can enhance this effect. The attendees were treated to a diverse programme comprising impact use cases, knowledge sessions, and interactive workshops covering aspects of public-private and regional collaboration.  

Part of the UMCG strategy

The symposium closely aligns with the key priorities of the UMCG's Koers 25 strategy, which are promoting healthy ageing and embracing data-informed practices and digitisation. Also, the UMCG aims to drive innovation through regional collaboration. This is exemplified by cohorts such as Mindlines: a real-world cohort of patients within secondary psychiatric care. Mindlines contains big amounts of healthcare data with a specific focus on mental disorders, aligning well with regional projects and networks. During the symposium, Dr. Frederike Jörg shared her experiences as one of the keynote speakers in this field.

As such, the cohorts are an integral part of the UMCG innovation strategy towards a ‘Health Data Valley’ to underpin, monitor and evaluate regional and national health policies. A prime example was showcased by keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Lude Franke, (virtually) discussing how during the corona pandemic the Lifelines Covid-survey provided direct input to policy makers, thus impacting society. 

Cohort and biobank research for improved health outcomes 

Cohort and biobank research plays an important role in advancing our understanding of health and disease. The significance of cohorts and biobanks lies in their ability to provide valuable insights into the complex interplay between genetic factors, environmental influences, and lifestyle choices in shaping health outcomes. By studying large cohorts over time, researchers can identify patterns, trends and risk factors associated with various diseases, allowing for the development of more targeted prevention strategies, diagnostics and treatments.

''Our cohorts and biobanks are the backbone of our ambition to become a 'learning health(care) system'. Collectively, these cohorts provide unique, in depth, real-world data across the health continuum.'' - Wiro Niessen, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Groningen (UG) and a member of the Board of Directors of the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG).

Translating research into practice

The Cohort Symposium showcased practical examples of cohort research. Researchers from AHON, NeoLifeS, and the PIAMA cohort presented how they have created impact using ArtificiaI Intelligence (AI), for example by analyzing video images to detect early predictive movement patterns in vulnerable preterm babies. Representatives from the PREVEND cohort, DUPARC, and the CONTRAST consortium elaborated on how their research has already directly benefited patients. 

The symposium offered the opportunity to attend several breakout sessions. During these sessions, the attendees had the opportunity to join various workshops, such as: knowledge sessions on FAIR data or big data, as well as workshops focusing on enhancing patient involvement in research or establishing clear impact goals. In addition, they could opt to learn more about focusing on regional cooperation or, conversely, on public-private partnerships. 

At the conclusion of the symposium, UMCG cohorts and biobanks had the opportunity to showcase themselves to the attendees by poster presentations. During this session, cohorts outlined their mission and vision, their available collection of data and samples, as well as discuss the results and impact attained thus far.

Pushing boundaries towards a sustainable future for healthcare 

The UMCG's vision is to attain a leading international position in longitudinal clinical and population cohort research. Through utilisation of our cohorts, we aim to push the boundaries towards a sustainable future for healthcare.  


Cohort and Biobank Coordiniation Hub 

The UMCG Cohort Symposium was an initiative of the Cohort and Biobank Coordination Hub (CBCH). The Cohort and Biobank Coordination Hub (CBCH) serves as a central facilitator and linking pin for all UMCG cohort and biobank activities and supports UMCG researchers in the field of cohort and biobank research.