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Events Industrial & Service Transformation Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news

Space Resources Week 2021

The Space Resources Week 2021, organized in Luxembourg, is a 4-day online conference connecting thought leaders from the terrestrial resources sector, aerospace industry, financial institutions, research institutes and academia.

It aims at understanding the technical and economic challenges facing in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) and elaborating recommendations for the future development of this high technology sector.

Organized by the European Space Resources Innovation Center (ESRIC), in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA), the program of the event will include a series of captivating talks and facilitated discussion sessions on the technologies, business models and next steps that will enable space resources utilization in support of sustained and sustainable human presence on the Moon and beyond.

Back to Space Ressources Week 2019

The Space Resources Week 2019 gathered experts from all around the world, working in fields as diverse as oil & gas, terrestrial mining, space, finance, and government.

Visit spaceresourcesweek.lu for more details.

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Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

COVID-19: Survey on the Socio-Economic impacts of the crisis

Phase 2 of the survey examines the long-term impacts on the experiences and expectations of residents and cross-border workers

Within the framework of the Task Force Research Luxembourg, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) and the University of Luxembourg have decided to join their efforts to study the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in Luxembourg and in the Greater Region. This project, supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), began to study in spring 2020 the short-term impacts suffered by individuals and families in the beginning of the lockdown and is now looking at their long-term expectations and concerns.

Similar to the Phase 1 previous survey launched, this large online survey is aimed at all residents in Luxembourg aged 16 and over, whether they are workers, students, retirees, high school students, …because all opinions count and all information is valuable.  The survey is also accessible to cross-border workers, who have also been affected by this crisis.

The survey covers health (physical and mental), employment and working patterns, daily activities, mobility, family interactions, etc.

The responses collected will provide a better understanding of the extent of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, provide a portrait of the people hardest hit, and thus help to inform the important policy decisions that will still have to be taken in the coming weeks and months.

Copyright: LISER

This study is being conducted on a voluntary and anonymous basis, and is carried out in two phases:

The questionnaire, translated into French, German and English, takes about 20 minutes to complete. The more numerous and precise the answers, the more reliable the results of the analysis will be.

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Industrial & Service Transformation Latest news Personalised Healthcare

From lab to startup: LuxAI and QTrobot – a robot to help children with autism

Luxembourg start-up LuxAI, with their socially assistive robot QTrobot, has been making waves on an international level since it was created. Discover here how QTrobot came to be and how parents can now have a QTrobot at home.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates around 1 in 59 children worldwide have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children with autism have trouble communicating, as well as trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it is hard for them to express themselves with e.g. words, gestures, facial expressions, and touch.

LuxAI is a spin-off company that has come out of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) of the University of Luxembourg and offers an innovative approach to therapy for children with autism: QTrobot, a little, visually appealing, talking robot. The 60cm humanoid robot is designed to aid autism professionals in helping children with autism to learn new social, emotional and communication skills.

The robot tells stories, plays games and makes dialogue, through which it teaches necessary skills to children with special educational needs. For instance, using its expressive face and body movement, QT teaches children what emotions are and how to deal with them. There is also a version of the QT robot for researchers.

Born out of interdisciplinarity

Rewind to 2011 – Pouyan Ziafati starts his AFR PhD jointly at the University of Luxembourg and University of Utrecht. The title of the PhD project was ‘Programming Cognitive Robotics’, suggesting that LuxAI CEO Dr Pouyan Ziafati, who completed his PhD in 2015, knew in which direction he wanted his research to go since day one.

Fittingly for Luxembourg, where an interdisciplinary approach to science is a matter of course, it was partly thanks to the different backgrounds of Dr Pouyan Ziafati – a computer scientist specialised in AI – and his wife Dr Aida Nazarikhorram – a medical doctor – that the idea of creating the robot QT came to be.

“Being a couple with two different backgrounds, one in AI and robotics and one in medicine, it was always interesting for us to learn more about each other’s domains. The discussions opened the door to find out that there are many areas in healthcare in which using AI and Robotics can be a game changer.” Aida says.

“At first, it was just an interesting topic of discussion, but gradually it became clear that developing an interdisciplinary venture would be very appealing for both of us. After doing early market research for a variety of health-related AI applications, we came up with the idea of a robot so easy to use that it can be used by every healthcare professional, starting from the domain of autism, which was the one most in need for an urgent solution.” Pouyan adds.

Developing with the user

In 2015, the SnT team around QTrobot successfully applied for a grant from the National Research Fund’s Proof of Concept programme (now called JUMP) and by the end of that year, the prototype of QTrobot was ready.

Pouyan and Aida explain that a rule they had set from the beginning was to ‘develop with the user’. Thus, the prototype was immediately put in use in pilot project in autism centers, as well as autism research projects in Luxembourg.

Researchers at the University who used the robot with children, such as Dr Andreia Pinto Costa, observed that children with autism look at the robot longer than they look at a person, suggesting the children are more comfortable with the interaction with the robot than with a person. The researchers explain that children with autism often suffer because they do not get specialised interventions – a missing element the robot can fill. The robot is not intended to replace therapy, but to improve and customise it.

Fewer disruptive behaviours, better concentration

Educators at a therapy centre for children with autism in France, who worked with the prototype, have seen a direct impact on the children’s learning abilities, which also indirectly leads to better relationships with their parents. The children show fewer disruptive behaviours, and are able to maintain concentration for much longer periods – they need fewer breaks and find it easier to focus.

The educators also realised they could extend the use of the robot to educate children with any disability. They easily managed to integrate QTrobot into their daily routines, such as speech, behavioural and occupational therapies – the traditional treatments they use on a daily basis can simply be adapted to QTrobot. Key is also the intuitive programming of the robots, one of the educators explains that once you know the basics, it more or less programmes itself.

Dr Pouyan Ziafati and Dr Aida Nazarikhorram (copyright: LuxAI S.A.)

LuxAI: A fast rise, much more to come

After some time working with the QTrobot prototype, researchers and educators, Pouyan Ziafati and Aida Nazarikhorram launched their company LuxAI S.A. in May 2016 – and immediately got attention: within months of launching their company, they won awards such as the first prize at Mind&Market, the best healthcare facility award. Then came more than 10 international prestigious awards, including the top 10 best ideas from Europe by EU commission, one of the Best social innovations by European investment bank and winning the award of the Tech for a better world from CES 2019. Pouyan Ziafati also won an FNR Award for Outstanding Research-Driven Innovation in 2017.

“The most important achievement is that now we are shipping our robots globally, from US to China, and every day QTrobot is working hand in hand with autism therapists and human robot interaction researchers to create a better world,” Pouyan and Aida explain.

Pouyan explains that LuxAI imagines QTrobot as the first in a row of products: “For us, QTrobot is an introduction to the market. There is great potential in using AI in healthcare that allows us to see a variety of products, both hardware and software that can be added to our portfolio.”

QTrobot now available to have at home

After several years of experience in offering QTrobot to schools and research institutes, LuxAI now aims to support parents by offering their robot to families: in April 2021, LuxAI announced QTrobot for Home enables children to receive a learning experience that, quite literally, speaks directly to them – at home.

“We are launching the parent version of QTrobot after a highly successful pilot with our beta testers. We are delighted to see we can help parents to continue their children’s education during the Covid-19 closure of schools.

LuxAI has developed a full ecosystem to assist parents in actively participating in their child’s education with QTrobot and to further conduct supporting activities to encourage the application of the skills learnt from the robot to new environments.

Following our successful work in research and education, we have gone to great lengths to minimize costs and make this advanced robot as affordable as possible.

Pouyan has benefitted from the FNR’s funding programmes since he began his research career in Luxembourg. His PhD was funded by the FNR’s AFR programme

“The AFR project is a great scheme, allowing innovative young researchers to develop their own research project and allowing universities to attract new researchers who are not necessarily the best fit for the existing projects, but can initiate new possibilities and new spectrum.”

Soon after the completion of his PhD, it was a grant from the FNR’s Proof of Concept (JUMP) programme that enabled the creation of the QTrobot softwre prototype. The JUMP programme helps scientists bridge the technical and funding gap between research-driven discoveries and their commercialisation, thereby enhancing the impact of Luxembourg’s research on economy and society.

“Proof of Concept [JUMP] is an incredibly valuable programme, targeting the most important barrier in transforming academic results to commercially viable solutions. It enables access to the hard to obtain financing for early stage research-driven innovations to advance them in stages suitable for funding from customers and private investors. It also provides a great support in terms of transforming as a researcher to an entrepreneur with a commercial and business mindset,” Pouyan explains, adding:

Sources: Luxembourg National Research Fund

More information:

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About Luxembourg Latest news

Diversity and Multilingualism in Luxembourg

With almost 50% of its population, Luxembourg is the EU Member State with the highest share of non-national citizens. This mix of languages and cultures from all these communities is rewarding for life in Luxembourg and gives it a cosmopolitan characteristic.
© Frank Weber & binsfeld, all rights reserved

A small but open society

Today, Luxembourg has a population of 626,000 people. Albeit small, it boasts an incredible diversity. In fact, almost 47% of the population doesn’t have Luxembourgish nationality which makes Luxembourg the EU Member State with the highest share of non-national citizens (in relative terms).

And this does not take into account the 185,000 cross-border employees who work in Luxembourg, commuting everyday from France, Germany and Belgium to work and contribute to the country’s economy.

Nationalities in Luxembourg

Take a stroll in any street of a Luxembourgish town or city and you will hear it: Luxembourg hosts large foreign communities, including descendants of 19th and 20th Century migrants, expats, and people who decided to stay when they visited Luxembourg. 170 nationalities have been recorded across the country.

Here is a list of Luxembourg’s 5 largest foreign communities, as a percentage of the total population:

Portuguese15.6%
French7.6%
Italian3.7%
Belgian3.3%
German2.1%
source: https://luxembourg.public.lu/en/society-and-culture/population/demographics.html

In terms of the proportion of foreigners in the population, the city of Luxembourg has the highest number of foreigners with 70.8%.

Multilingualism in Luxembourg’s DNA

Growing up with a host of languages is normal for every child living in Luxembourg. Students learn German, French and English at school as mandatory languages and have the choice of learning other languages as well. Moreover, children encounter many other languages as part of their daily lives, through friends with different backgrounds and taking part in society in general.

Luxembourgish, French, German, English and Portuguese are among the most popular languages, but Italian, Spanish, Polish, Swedish, Finnish, Romanian and many other languages enrich the country’s society every day.

This showcases Luxembourg as a country whose society is open to many different cultures and nationalities and incorporates this multiculturalism like few other societies do.

83% of residents speak three or more languages

(Eurobarometer, “European and their languages” 2012)

Multilingualism is also a prominent feature of Luxembourg’ s economy, and has enabled the country to grow over the decades, from an agricultural society in the 1800s, to an internationally renowned financial and research and development hub in the 21st century.

Companies from all over the world have established their global or European headquarters in Luxembourg, enriching Luxembourg’s already multicultural society with Indian, English, American and many other expat communities.

This multilingual environment might be a challenge at first, but many employers encourage employees to learn new languages, an investment which presents an opportunity in the long term.

Sources:

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Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

COVID-19: CON-VINCE study enters homestretch

Originally launched in April 2020 under the aegis of the Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce, the CON-VINCE study aims to evaluate the prevalence and dynamics of the spread of COVID-19 within the Luxembourgish population, with a specific focus on asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic individuals. The last round of testing of the CON-VINCE participants is due to start in April 2021, approximately one year after the first set of visits upon inclusion in the study. The final wave will provide a comprehensive insight into the evolution and transmission of the disease over an extended timeframe, particularly from an immunity perspective.     

Under the leadership of Prof Rejko Krüger, Director of Transversal Translational Medicine (TTM) at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), CON-VINCE aims to detect asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic (oligosymptomatic) carriers by testing a panel of over 1,800 individuals, representative of the Luxembourgish population, for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and monitoring them over 12 months through a series of follow-up visits.

The annual follow-up testing phase under the project will begin on April 19th and is set to run over 5 to 6 weeks. As with the previous rounds of testing, all participants will be subjected once to a nasopharyngeal swab. Blood and stool samples will also be collected once as part of these follow-up visits, with the support of the laboratories Ketterthill, Laboratoires Réunis, BioneXt Lab, as well as of LIH and Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS) as associated partners for biospecimen collection. Biological sampling will be complemented by collecting additional information on confinement measures and vaccination through short follow-up questionnaires.

“From an operational perspective, participants will be asked to fill out the questionnaire provided through our partner TNS-Ilres. Upon completion, they will receive a voucher for sample collection at one of our partner laboratories. Collected samples will then be sent to the Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg (IBBL) for further analysis and storage”, explains Prof Rejko Krüger, coordinator of CON-VINCE.

Specifically, the collected nasopharyngeal swabs will undergo PCR testing to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while blood samples will be analysed for antibodies (serological testing) to assess whether the participants have mounted an immune response following exposure to the virus or after vaccination.

We are expecting to obtain crucial information from this annual follow-up, particularly as pertains to the persistence of the antibody response over a full year. Moreover, this last visit will also allow us to analyse cell-based immunity, thereby giving us a more complete picture of the global immune response against the novel SARS-CoV-2”, adds Prof Krüger.

“For this reason, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our partners, and specifically to the diagnostic laboratories and TNS-Ilres, for their unfaltering support and seamless collaboration throughout the past year, as well as to all volunteers who agreed to participate in the study. I take this opportunity to stress again the importance of their renewed participation, particularly in the context of this final wave, without which we would not be able to generate meaningful data and research outcomes for patients and the population in general”, he concludes.

About CON-VINCE

CON-VINCE was launched in April 2020 as one of the several initiatives put in place under the aegis of the Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce to help contain the current pandemic. By screening a statistically representative panel of volunteers for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, CON-VINCE will identify asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic individuals and follow them up for a year. Ultimately, the study aims to generate accurate data on the prevalence and transmission of the disease within the Luxembourgish population.

CON-VINCE is led by a consortium of Luxembourgish research institutions, including LIH, its Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg (IBBL), the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg and the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS), with the support of the market research company TNS-ILRES for the selection of participants and of the national diagnostic laboratories Ketterthill, Laboratoires Réunis and BioneXt Lab as associated partners for sample collection. The study is co-funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) with an amount of EUR 1.4 million and by the Fondation André Losch through a financial commitment of EUR 800,000.  

Learn more on the CON-VINCE study

Scientific Contact:
  • Prof Rejko Krüger
  • Luxembourg Institute of Health
  • Tel: +352 26970-800 (8am – 5pm)
  • con-vince@lih.lu
Press Contacts:

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Industrial & Service Transformation Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Personalised Healthcare

Stimulating collaborative R&D projects through public-private partnerships in Luxembourg

To facilitate the emergence of projects and support the process of preparing joint projects, a new dedicated digital platform has been set up. It is being tested with this first pilot joint call in the field of health technologies.

A new dedicated digital platform, www.research-collaboration.lu, has been set up by Luxinnovation, and the three stakeholders have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in order to formalise their collaboration. The objective of the call for projects is to stimulate collaborative R&D projects through public-private partnerships (PPPs).

This is the first time in Luxembourg that such a joint call for projects is launched within the research, development and innovation ecosystem. Common objectives have been defined by the National Research Fund (FNR) and the Ministry of the Economy to meet the sector’s development needs, while Luxinnovation plays a facilitating role by providing a digital platform to encourage networking.

A coordinated process

The objective is to facilitate the emergence of collaborative research projects aimed at demonstrating the performance and safety of digital health tools. The development of such new products and services for the benefit of patients requires the combined skills of public research, hospitals and companies. Collaborative projects will be evaluated in a coordinated process. Funding decisions will also be taken jointly by the partners.

“The development of digital tools in health technologies is of crucial importance for the Luxembourg economy. It is part of the implementation of our strategy for data-driven innovation that contributes to the evolution of personalised medicine in Luxembourg.

Franz Fayot, Minister of the Economy

“We want to bring together public research institutions, companies and health sector actors around research and innovation projects designed to accelerate the digital transformation in the health sector” 

Marc Schiltz, Secretary General of the FNR

Maximum transparency

To facilitate the emergence of projects and support the process of preparing joint projects, Luxinnovation, the national innovation agency, has initiated the setting up of the www.research-collaboration.lu platform. Companies, public research organisations, hospitals and healthcare providers are invited to submit project ideas. Luxinnovation’s role will be to follow up on the ideas, in particular by bringing together public and private partners interested in participating.

The call for projects is planned in two stages, with feedback provided to the consortia at the end of the first stage. Only projects relevant to the objectives of the call will be invited to prepare a full application. Finally, the approved consortia can use the platform for preparing the technical documentation required to submit individual applications to the Ministry of the Economy and the FNR.

“Thanks to this platform, we will help researchers and clinicians gain better knowledge of all the innovations in digital health developed by private companies. It will also provide them with new financial opportunities for getting involved in personalised medicine with a real economic impact for the country.

Sasha Baillie, CEO of Luxinnovation

The platform is being tested with this first pilot joint call in the field of health technologies. It is already open for the “ideation” stage (the creative process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas). It will then open up for the proposal submission period, which will last from 4 May to 30 June. For projects whose ideation component has been validated by the Ministry of the Economy and the FNR, a more complete proposal must be submitted by 15 October, which will then be examined by a panel of external experts. The results will be communicated in January 2022 and projects can start in February 2022.

A webinar presenting the functionalities of the platform will be organised by Luxinnovation on 4 May.

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21st Century Education Industrial & Service Transformation Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Personalised Healthcare Sustainable & Responsible Development

5 new strategic research and innovation projects made in Luxembourg

The INITIATE programme supports the initiation and development of strategic research and innovation project ideas that will help make Luxembourg internationally competitive in priority domains. Five INITIATE projects have been granted so far.

Through INITIATE, the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) wishes to back and guide the early-stage development of high-risk/high-reward strategic project ideas, up to the point where a solid project proposal is formulated that can potentially be submitted to other strategic programmes, a dedicated one-time call, or a bespoke “package” of funding  instruments.

Five projects have been granted so far: round-up.

NATIONTWIN (Responsible AI for a NATION-wide and privacy preserving Digital TWIN)

The objective of this proposed project is to investigate the feasibility at the Luxembourg scale of a future strategic programme associated with the research and the implementation of a testbed and a living lab related to  a “Nation-wide and privacy preservation digital twin” enabled by “responsible AI”.

Main coordinating institution:  Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)

Education 21

Education plays a central role in our lives. It shapes our future and lays the foundations of cultural and technical innovations. Education also makes us resilient to crises and allows us to thrive in an uncertain, rapidly changing world. It is now urgent to update Education for the 21st century, to empower people in lifelong learning and offer equality of educational opportunities in a multilingual and diverse society.

To meet this national research priority, the project will unite specialists from Education, Psychology, Sociology and Computer Science and design an innovative, interdisciplinary research initiative that aims to establish Luxembourg as a frontrunner in 21st Century Educational Research.

Digital technologies and large-scale data hold the potential to dramatically improve Education; but they also comprise serious risks of dehumanization and data privacy breaches. The goal is to develop and scientifically validate human-centric, digitally enhanced learning solutions. Putting people at the centre of the efforts, these solutions will be directly usable by the learners and advance the understanding on how humans of all ages and backgrounds learn best. More specifically, the project will develop four flagship projects that revolve around personalized education: a digital learning assistant, a digital teacher assistant, a lifelong learner pass and a skills market dashboard.

Main coordinating institution: University of Luxembourg

Henriette and André Losch Centre for Childhood Disorders

The aim of the proposed “Henriette and André Losch Centre for Childhood Disorders” (hereinafter “Losch Centre”) is to carry out fundamental, translational and clinical research to understand the underlying mechanisms of childhood diseases and to develop new methods for their prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Losch Centre’s research will focus on rare childhood disorders of the brain, metabolism and the immune system and the interaction thereof.

Main coordinating institutions: Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB/University of Luxembourg) & National Health Laboratory (LNS)

Automation and personalisation in complex financial systems – a concept for a national Centre of Excellence in Research in Financial Technologies

Investigating the feasibility of creating a national Centre of Excellence in Financial Technologies. Focus, from a business perspective, on automation and personalisation in complex financial systems. Hub of excellence in financial technology research and innovation, education and training, business development and thought leadership, and strengthening of Luxembourg’s position as an international financial centre. The idea of the centre is driven by the government’s objective to establish Luxembourg as the most trusted “data economy” in the European Union by 2023.

Main coordinating institution: Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT/University of Luxembourg)

Clinnova: Unlocking the potential of data science and artificial intelligence in health care

Health data and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are at the heart of an accelerating digital health revolution. It promises direct benefits for people with or without disease and is expected to become a key driver of the digital economy. Hence, digital health is one of the national priorities of the Luxembourgish government. Clinnova aims at putting Luxembourg into the centre of this emerging arena. To develop integrated, AI-driven healthcare solutions Clinnova will create a data-enabling environment by establishing a data integration centre as well as by developing shared approaches for data integration and data interoperability. Initially, the creation of data-driven health solutions will be supported by three defined medical use cases in chronic inflammatory diseases (inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid diseases and multiple sclerosis). Expanding further into additional patient data, the established infrastructure and workflows have the potential to transform the healthcare system towards personalisation, sustainability and prevention and will be an important resource for further public and private partnerships.

Further, Clinnova’s ability to tie in leading clinicians across University hospitals and private clinics in France, Germany and Luxembourg around shared patient stratification approaches is at the core of the effort and will be a blueprint for developing integrated, cross-border digital health solutions.

Main coordinating institution: Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH)

More information on the INITIATE programme on the FNR’s website

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Latest news Personalised Healthcare

Babies and their gut microbiome tell a story

Thanks to a long-standing study – called COSMIC – a Research Luxembourg team highlight lasting birth mode-dependent differences and their association with immune function.

In a recent scientific publication, researchers from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and the Department of Life Sciences and Medicine at the University of Luxembourg address the knowledge gaps concerning the lasting effect of birth mode on infants. Thanks to a long-standing study – called COSMIC – they highlight differences in the gut microbiome composition and function that persist throughout the first year of life. These birth mode-dependent alterations are likely to affect the status of the immune system and antimicrobial resistance in the long run. The results of the team led by Prof. Paul Wilmes are published in the open-access journal ISME Communications.

©Linda Wampach

The rate of caesarean section delivery (CSD) is constantly increasing worldwide, especially in Europe where it represents 25% of births. Although several studies, including previous ones by the same team of researchers, have shown that CSD affects both the gut microbiome and the development of the immune system in new-borns, the lasting impacts of birth mode are not well understood.

“Current hypotheses are that caesarean section is linked to different chronic diseases later in life, including metabolic disorders and allergies, or may facilitate the development of antimicrobial resistance,” details Prof. Paul Wilmes, head of the Systems Ecology group at the LCSB.

However, studies over longer periods of time are needed to determine the continuous effect during the first year of life which represents a critical window of development.

The Systems Ecology group has been investigating the impact of vaginal delivery (VD) and caesarean section on babies for several years together with Prof. Carine de Beaufort from the Pediatric Clinic at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL). They have previously identified differences in the structure and function of the babies’ microbiomes. Building on this long-standing interest, they assessed the pervasive effect of birth mode through an in-depth longitudinal analysis ranging from immediately after birth until early childhood.

“We followed VD and CSD new-borns, collected faecal samples at crucial intervals – from 5 days to one year – and performed high-resolution metagenomic analyses of the gut microbiomes of these infants,” explains Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi, co-first author of the study. “We also used PathoFact, a new bioinformatics tool developed in-house, to identify genes that encode virulence factors or antibiotic resistance.”

The results highlight lasting birth mode-dependent differences and their association with immune function.

©Linda Wampach

While the long-term study shows that gut microbiomes of CSD and VD babies become more similar over time, it also points out differences – in terms of composition and function – in one year old infants delivered vaginally.

For example, a bacterium, called Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, is more abundant in the VD group. It is usually associated with healthy human microbiomes and could confer anti-inflammatory properties. A functional analysis of the microbiomes also indicates an increase in the biosynthesis of natural antibiotics for the same group.

“Both results suggest that colonising microorganisms in the gut play a crucial role and that VD children could benefit from early resistance mechanisms against opportunistic pathogens,” co-first author Laura de Nies underlines.

Combining new results with their previous studies on the topic, the LCSB researchers also confirmed that a reduction in early immune system priming in new-borns delivered by caesarean section might lead to persistent effects throughout the first year of life. These may in turn explain the higher rates of immune system-linked diseases observed in CSD infants later in life, including metabolic disorders and allergies.

Next, the team of Prof. Wilmes investigated how birth mode modulates antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and found that caesarean section is associated with genes conferring resistance against synthetic and semi-synthetic antibiotics as early as five days after birth.

He explains: “As mothers undergoing the surgical procedure are administered antibiotics, it is plausible that this enrichment in AMR genes is linked to the hospital environment and the caesarean section.”

Prof. Paul Wilmes

The study also provided some insights into the role of mobile genetic elements – such as plasmids and bacteriophages – in conferring antimicrobial resistance, showing that they are key contributors to the establishment and persistence of AMR throughout the first year of life, irrespective of birth mode.

Collectively, these findings suggest that birth mode-dependent effects still remain after a year. The early impact of caesarean section delivery on the establishment of the gut microbiome of new-borns leads to persistent structural and functional differences. They affect the immune system, defence mechanisms against pathogens and antimicrobial resistance.

“This study highlights the importance of following these effects over extended periods of time and paves the way for future interventions aimed at restoring key functional features of the microbiome in CSD infants,” concludes Dr Busi.

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Covid-19 taskforce Latest news

COVID-19: The socio-economic impact of the pandemic and related (de)confinement measures in Luxembourg on individuals and households

Based off the results of Phase 1 of a large-scale survey, two major socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been identified: one related to work and the other one related to daily life.

The Socio-Economic Impact (SEI) project focuses on data collection to support research on the short- and medium-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related (de)confinement measures in Luxembourg on individuals and their households in terms of work and living conditions, daily activities and mobility, and (not directly COVID-19 related) health and health behaviours.

Such a data collection will allow designing appropriate policy measures to avoid or mitigate detrimental wider impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, to combat social inequalities and to tailor policy responses.

An interdisciplinary project team composed of economists, geographers, sociologists and psychologists from the University of Luxembourg and all research departments of LISER, is responsible for the data collection. The project is aligned with the WHO’s ‘Coordinated Global Research Roadmap: 2019 Novel Coronavirus’, which emphasizes the importance of social sciences in this crisis, to be able to understand and act upon the economic, social, behavioral and contextual dimensions of the pandemic’s impact.

A large-scale survey has been developed which forms the basis for monitoring the impact of the outbreak and associated policy measures on (a) work and living conditions, (b) daily activities and mobility, (c) time use and household interactions and (d) health and health behaviors.

Two major socio economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic can be identified: one related to work and the other one related to daily life. First, due to all kind of economic measures the impact of the pandemic on unemployment and financial situation of households was limited. Nevertheless, employees did experience some fear of loss of jobs and of incomes, which might become stronger in future when combatting the pandemic takes more time than the financial situation of the country allows. Working from home became the default work situation for high-educated employees with professions that afford working at home using digital tools. As such, they could protect themselves against the risk of exposure to a COVID-19 infection. However, this was less the case for lower educated employees, which were not able to work remotely.

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Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news

A new agreement to strengthen Higher Education, Research and Innovation ties between Luxembourg and Quebec

An agreement aiming to promote research collaboration and exchange of researchers, as well as cooperation in the field of higher education between the institutions of Luxembourg and Quebec.

On Tuesday 30 March 2021, Luxembourg’s Minister of Higher Education and Research, Claude Meisch, and Quebec’s Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie, Minister of Immigration, Francisation and Integration and Minister responsible des Laurentides, Nadine Girault, signed an agreement in the fields of higher education, research and innovation.

With this agreement, the ministers are hoping to promote research collaboration and exchange of researchers, as well as cooperation in the field of higher education between the institutions of Luxembourg and Quebec. Both see investment in research and development as an important engine for increasing collective wealth.

In recent years, links in higher education and research and innovation have continued to grow, as evidenced by the recent agreement between the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) and the Research Funds of Quebec (FRQ) concerning the AUDACE programme, and the various scientific missions carried out on both sides of the Atlantic. An agreement between Luxembourg and Quebec concerning student mobility is currently being renewed.

As part of the signed agreement, Luxembourg and Quebec have agreed to prioritise, among others, the following areas: health (including digital and personalised medicine), information technologies, artificial intelligence, economics, law, urban development and mobility, as well as education. The agreement provides for the creation of a joint Luxembourg-Quebec working group responsible for coordinating and monitoring cooperation activities in areas of common interest.

“I am delighted with the signing of this agreement, which makes Quebec one of our privileged partners in the field of higher education and research and constitutes a framework in which collaborations between Luxembourg and Quebec research institutions can continue to develop and intensify”, underlined Minister Meisch.

“Cooperation between Quebec and Luxembourg in the field of higher education and research and innovation has intensified significantly in recent years. I am happy to sign this agreement which will strengthen this movement from which our two countries benefit. I would also like to underline the excellent work of the General Delegation in Brussels, which has greatly contributed to the development of our relations with Luxembourg”, declared Minister Girault.

The signed agreement is aimed at students and professionals as well as university teachers and researchers and research institutions.