Translational Neuroscience

The Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering was founded in 2010 as a joint research and education initiative between the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Harvard Medical School (HMS). By bringing together teams of scientists working in Trans-Atlantic collaboration, the Program’s aim was – and is – to bridge the gap between basic and translational neuroscience, with a non-exclusive focus on sensory disorders. In this context, the medical issues that the teams are addressing will, once solved, have life-changing outcomes for patients. Furthermore, by breaking down the barriers between institutions and between scientific disciplines, the primacy that the Program places upon collaboration has created working communities within which knowledge can be shared, new ideas sparked, research initiated and therapies developed.

The Program funded two rounds of research projects between EPFL and Harvard Medical School, from 2012 – 2014 and then from 2015 – 2017.

In 2018, the Program took a slightly new direction, though with the same emphasis on collaboration and translational neuroscience at its heart. It was no longer stipulated that the funded research projects should be partnerships exclusively between EPFL and Harvard Medical School. Instead, the Foundation renewed its commitment to both institutions and initiated research programmes with each in which the network of collaboration could be broadened.

The Catalyst Fund@Campus Biotech (where many of EPFL’s neuroscience researchers are based) was created to promote and accelerate translational research projects on the nervous system in which one or more teams from Campus Biotech (in Geneva) join forces with partner research institutes. The first five recipients of the funding began their work together in 2018 and a new call for proposals for further Catalyst projects is concluding now. The first five projects are

“Optogenetic therapy to restore eyesight”: Implementing and upscaling an optogenetic gene therapy for the restoration of vision
Bernard Schneider, EPFL, Brain Mind Institute
Sonja Kleinlogel, (University of Bern

“Treating vision problems after a stroke”: Re-Orchestration of interregional oscillatory activity in the visual system to promote visual recovery after stroke
Friedhelm Hummel, EPFEstelle Raffin, EPFL
Adrian Guggisberg, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève
Philippe Vuadens, Clinique Romande de Réadaptation
Christophe Bonvin, Hôpital du Valais

“Treating hallucinations in Parkinson’s patients”: Novel biomarkers and therapeutics for hallucinations in Parkinson’s disease using robotically-driven neurofeedback
Dimitri Van De Ville, EPFL
Olaf Blanke, EPFL (and the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Cognitive Neuroprosthetics)
Paul Krack, Université de Genève

“Restoring fine motor skills”: Brain-controlled neuromodulation of the crevical spinal cord for the restoration of arm and hand movement in tetraplegia
Tomislav Milekovic, Université de Genève
Marco Capogrosso, University of Fribourg

“Controlling the paths of pain”: Optogenetic modulation of peripheral nociceptive neurons and neuropathic pain
Stéphanie Lacour, EPFL (and the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Neuroprosthetic Technology)
Isabelle Décosterd, Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois (CHUV)

With Harvard Medical School the Bertarelli Program was also extended to researchers from beyond its previous institutional network and in November 2018 four new collaborative research projects were funded over the next three years:

Toward a therapy for deafness and blindness in Usher syndrome
David Corey, HMS (and the Bertarelli Professor of Translational Neuroscience)
Artur Indzhykulian, HMS and Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Botond Roska, Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology, Basel

Preventing ‘hidden’ hearing loss
Lisa Goodrich, HMS
Rosalind Segal, HMS and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Loren Walensky, HMS and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Helping the brain make sense of sound
Anne Takesian, HMS and Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Bernardo Sabatini, HMS

Toward precision-targeted, non-opioid treatments for acute and chronic pain
David Ginty, HMS
Bruce Bean, HMS
Clifford Woolf, Boston Children’s Hospital

The results from the programme’s research projects are shared at the annual #BertarelliNeuro Symposium, held alternately in Boston and Geneva. The Foundation also provides a Bertarelli Fellowship Grant to enable students from both institutions to exchange ideas with students and staff of their partner institution.