Partnerships renewed at Harvard Medical School and EPFL

The Bertarelli Foundation has today signed gift agreements with Harvard Medical School and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne that will secure and develop the Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering. The new donations – totalling several million dollars – will fund the continuation of the education, research and knowledge-sharing program that was established in 2010. The signing of the gift coincided with the third annual Bertarelli Symposium, which took place in January at Harvard.

A unique partnership between American and Swiss universities, the Bertarelli Program brings together medics and scientists in neuroengineering to develop new therapies that will have real life-changing outcomes for patients with psychiatric and neurological diseases. It is this aim that really defines ‘Translational Neuroscience’ – marrying our increasing knowledge of the brain and nervous system with advances in neuroengineering to create results that are truly transformative. Among the research that is being undertaken are projects that are looking into cures for congenital deafness, as well as how we might combat paralysis – using electrodes and pharmaceuticals to reawaken the dormant circuitry that controls movement.

A further gift will establish the Bertarelli Catalyst Fund for the Dean of Harvard Medical School, with the goal of “supporting HMS priorities at the discretion of the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.”

Commenting on the renewed partnership with EPFL and Harvard, Ernesto Bertarelli, Co-Chair of the Bertarelli Foundation, said:
“My family’s commitment to life sciences research goes back three generations. That is why we are particularly pleased to have cemented our association with these two world-leading institutions. The scientists on the Bertarelli Program are undertaking work that could herald astonishing and vital achievements – progress that could, potentially, improve the lives of many millions of people. The program also, I believe, serves as an example of what can be accomplished through real and meaningful collaboration.”

Image ©Steve Gilbert

The 2014 Bertarelli Symposium takes place at Harvard Medical School

At Harvard Medical School, 17-18 January, researchers and clinicians from the university joined colleagues from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne for the third annual Bertarelli Symposium.

This year’s meeting coincided with the formal renewal of the partnership between the Bertarelli Foundation and the two academic institutions in the form of the Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering, established in 2010. The new gift – totalling several million dollars – will help to “continue to inspire neuroengineering advances by bringing basic and clinical investigations together with experts in device design for sensory and other neurologic systems.” The Program’s defining aims are collaboration and innovation. 

The 2014 Symposium was entitled Neuroengineering:Molecules, Minds and Machines and it provided an opportunity to hear and discuss current efforts in translational neuroscience, not least initial findings from the first six research grants awarded through the Bertarelli Program in 2011.

Read more here about the programme for the 2014 Symposium, including case-studies of the pioneering research that is being carried out.

Commenting on the Symposium and the Bertarelli Program, Ernesto Bertarelli said:

“The strength of this program is in what it achieves as a whole—facilitating and encouraging scientists and medics from wholly different disciplines, backgrounds and, of course, locations to work together. I look, for example, at the work being done on paralysis and hearing problems and am heartened and excited by the fact that we have different research programs, from the two universities, working together, combining specialties and all with a common goal. It is how science should be, I believe.”

David Corey, director of the program at Harvard, said:

“In designing the Bertarelli Program, we needed to decide what neuroengineering really means. It combines engineering, neurology and neuroscience, yet it becomes more than the sum of its parts by focusing on new solutions for neurological and psychiatric disorders and seeking neuroscience knowledge that will be useful for patient care immediately rather than down the road. In just two years, it is clear the program is delivering on that vision.”

Image ©Steve Gilbert

Sir Robert Edwards, IVF pioneer

The Trustees of the Bertarelli Foundation were deeply saddened to learn that Nobel winner Sir Robert Edwards had passed away, as announced by Cambridge University.

The invitro-fertilisation procedures Sir Robert pioneered with Dr Patrick Steptoe changed the lives of many women and created new families across the world. The method they developed leads to optimal results when applied following controlled ovarian stimulation with human gonadotrophins. This was achieved with the drug Pergonal which was already used for ovarian follicular stimulation in infertile women. It was developed by Serono, the global biotechnology business built by three generations of the Bertarelli family.

Sir Robert received a Bertarelli Foundation Award in Reproductive Healthcare in 2000 and also advised the Foundation on its successful work to ensure effective monitoring and regulation of multiple embryo transfer with assisted reproductive techniques.

Approximately one out of every eight couples experiences difficulty conceiving. But until the middle of the last century, many of the causes of infertility were not fully understood, and there was little that could be done for women unable to become pregnant. This has changed with the development of Human Menopausal Gonadotrophins and was significantly further enhanced and expanded by the work of Sir Robert Edwards, which culminated in the world’s first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. The outlook for infertile couples has changed forever, and the Bertarelli family are proud to have been a part of his important development.