Universities and companies join forces for lung cancer diagnosis

By: University of Trento

Leading Italian University in Innovation Education

A European consortium of researchers and scientists is at work to develop a novel diagnostic kit. The Mirna Diseasy project, funded under Horizon 2020, is coordinated by Optoi, a Trentino-based company. The University of Trento participates with a Cibio laboratory to identify microRNAs that can be used as biomarkers and to improve their detection.


The objective of a group of universities and companies working together in the miRNA-DisEASY project is to develop a novel detection platform to diagnose lung cancer from early stages. The University of Trento is a member of the consortium – coordinated by Optoelettronica Italia srl (Optoi), a Trentino-based company specialized in optical sensors and micro-electronic technology – with the Laboratory of RNA Biology and Biotechnology of the Centre for Integrative Biology (Cibio). Within the project, the Laboratory of RNA Biology and Biotechnology, headed by Michela Denti, will work to identify microRNAs that can be used as biomarkers for lung cancer and to implement their recognition through a diagnostic device developed by the participating companies.


“miRNA-DisEASY” (microRNA biomarkers in an innovative biophotonic sensor kit for high-specific diagnosis) is a 4-year project that started in December 2015 and received a 450,000 euro research funding from the European framework programme for research and innovation Horizon 2020 under the Marie Sklodowska Curie Action – Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (MSCA-RISE), implemented through international and intersectoral mobility of research staff and highly qualified personnel.


For students, researchers, businesspersons and other interested persons, a presentation of the project to understand its scope and the perspectives of development of novel diagnosis systems that combine chemistry, optoeletronics and bioinformatics, will take place on 6 February, with a workshop on: MicroRNAs and innovative technologies for human diseases diagnosis. The workshop, in English, will start at 13.45 at Cibio (Polo scientifico e tecnologico Fabio Ferrari, sala A103, Povo – Via Sommarive, 9).


«MicroRNAs (miRNAs) – explained Michela Denti – are molecules of non-coding RNA that regulate gene expression. While miRNAs were first discovered in 1993, only recently have scientists learned about the extension and diversity of this class of genes; just think that a single miRNA can block the protein synthesis of over 6,000 different genes. The interest of the scientific and clinical community for miRNA has increased significantly in recent times, as they are new potential markers for the diagnosis and evolution of various types of tumour and other diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. Some miRNAs are currently under clinical evaluation as biomarkers for breast cancer, type 1 and 2 diabetes, asthma, sepsis, prostate cancer, leukaemia, and a number of paediatric tumours».


What is the potential of miRNAs? «miRNAs – continued Denti – have all the characteristics of the ideal biomarker, in clinical, analytical and practical terms. They provide reliable signals before the emergence of clinical symptoms (early diagnosis), are sensitive to changes in the disease (its evolution or reaction to treatment), are easy to detect in fluids (blood, urine, saliva) through liquid biopsies and can be easily transferred from laboratory models to humans».


What makes the use of these biomarkers difficult? «At the moment, microRNA are not much used as valid biomarkers in clinical practice – clarifies Denti – because current technologies are unable to ensure a cost-effective and reliable analysis method». The “miRNA-DisEASY” consortium takes on the challenge of developing a novel, cost-effective and reliable detection kit for lung cancer diagnosis based on the use of microRNA as biomarkers».



The miRNA-DisEASY consortium
In addition to the project coordinator, that is Optoelettronica Italia srl (Optoi), a Trentino-based company specialized in optical sensors and micro-electronic technology, the consortium also includes DestiNA Genomica SL, a Spanish biotech company currently engaged in the development of a chemical technology for the recognition of specific nucleic acid sequences. The other partners are, apart from the University of Trento with its Laboratory of RNA Biology and Biotechnology at Cibio, the University of Granada (Spain) and the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil), Hannover Medical School (Germany) and GeneXplain (Germany), a bioinformatics company. 
As a sign of the good synergies between industry and the academic world, the development of the device has already been partly funded by a group of Brazilian investors of Italian ancestry (Trentino and Veneto) from Chapecò (Santa Catarina, Brazil). In November, a Brazilian delegation visited Optoi and Cibio and viewed a demonstration of the prototype in Cibio’s laboratories.

Why is it important to certify a professional in Innovation?

By: Vera Oliveira Santos

Head of Innovation at WINNING Scientific Management


The concept of innovation has already been applied in Portugal with the competence. The next step is to acknowledge capabilities that allow to ‘make it happen’ in a disciplined way and with measurable results

Innovation has become a buzzword in the speeches of world leading companies and, in recent years, we have also seen big Portuguese entities integrating it into their corporate strategies and in what they believe to be their core values. In fact, an organization without innovation stagnates and risks to sunk, as we all know.

It is important to understand why many companies that even have innovation-oriented structures do not achieve the expected results. At this point, we can refer the “moderate innovator” profile of Portugal in the 2015 Innovation Union Scoreboard. Year after year, we realize that Portugal has the conditions, resources and processes to make innovation happen, but does not achieve the expected results.

Nowadays, where every company may face the competition of new entrants that threaten to steal them market share, not achieving good results cannot be a possible outcome. To innovate means to create and capture value in a differentiated way. It means to accomplish something that the market recognizes as being very valuable and to position the company ahead of competition. It means to improve internally to foster efficiency, productivity and gain competitiveness. It means to make it happen!

In order to do so, there are professionals who have continuously tried to make innovation meaningful inside their organization. Some have been heard by their top management while others have not been so lucky. Either way, they are not giving up on making innovation a goal for organizations because they are aware that it is an essential premise for the survival of companies.

Moreover, to make it happen companies must implement structured and proven processes. Processes that are tested and have already led to the growth of many organizations. Processes as the IMBOK framework – Innovation Management Body of Knowledge of the Global Innovation Management Institute (GIMI) – which not only help to make it happen but also allow the recognition of professionals with these competencies through certification.

Recognizing the value of the GIMI framework and its certification process, WINNING Scientific Management formalized a partnership with GIMI, becoming one of the leading European Certified Training Providers that offer the possibility to take the preparation course for the Innovation certification.

The course, which is already in its 2nd Edition, is designed for the detailed application of exercises with templates, problem solving, where different techniques are put into practice to allow the increased likelihood of success in the implementation of an innovation strategy. This is a program that will allow companies from most varied sectors with an opportunity to capacitate their employees so that, in their daily lives, they are able to apply internationally recognized tools and methodologies that allow them, in a faster way, to identify and leverage ideas with potential and transform them into successful solutions in the market.

WINNING has brought this program to Portugal because we want to provide professionals who already work in innovation all over the country, a work tool used globally and also the recognition across borders deserved by professionals who work in this area, being able to provide them with new career projections.

This professionalization is fundamental so that employees can contribute with more value to the competitiveness of their organizations. Therefore, it must be seen as a win-win investment, for the professional as for the organization that invests on the professional.

The 2nd Edition of the Preparation Course for Certified Innovation Management (Level 1) will take place in Lisbon, on March 22, 23 and 24.



About WINNING Scientific Management:

WINNING Scientific Management was founded in 2012 and nowadays has more than 100 consultants. WINNING operates in 5 different countries in Europe and has clients from different sectors, Banking, Insurance, Retail, IT Systems, Logistics, Public Administration, Energy and more.

WINNING’s mission is to act scientifically in our clients to change their business model creating permanent competitive advantages – “We Reinvent Your Business Model”. Taking the scientific methodology into account WINNING several competency centers – Strategic Management, Innovation Management, Benefits Management, Business Analysis, Project Management, Change Management, Data Science – accredited by the best practices and international entities. More…

7 Fascinating Conclusions From ‘INNOVATION – Creating the Future’

By: Knowledge, Innovation and Strategies Management Club


The international conference “Innovation – Creating the Future” attracts more than 200 delegates from over 15 countries, brings businesses and universities together and provokes them to brainstorm on how to work together for a better future for both parties and how innovation could be an integral part for a better collaboration.

Conference “Innovation – Creating the Future” is supported by European Union Erasmus+ Action Project APInno, which aims for fostering the collaboration between business and universities as one key issue to be targeted by developing an innovative approach and methodology for teaching one of the under-exploited concepts – Innovation Management (IM).

1. Innovation for collaboration needs a structured process

Innovation plays a focal role in the university and business collaboration BUT this role needs to be structured the same way innovation is a systematic process. Therefore, after trials and erros for 2 years the APInno project established an innovation management methodology which is based on expriential learning in order to bridge the large gap between what workforce universities ‘produce’ and what companies actually need. The methodology shows us that from the messy idea generation moment through concept development and pipeline management, execution and implementation have to follow.

2. The university model requires a fundamental change

The public is already beginning to question the value higher education provides to society. It is obvious that things need to change as we can all observe how students have troubles finding appropriate jobs after graduating and trying to settle their debts which they took to be able to study at a university. Therefore, instead of making money and contributing to the economy, students waste time and incur expenses. Yes, the university model needs to be fundamentally altered so they could feed businesses with the energy and enthusiasm of skillful employees ready to ‘fight’ in a competitive world where innovation is not only a buzz word but reality.

3. Innovation is not about technology at all

We see new mindsets, new generations, new organisations appearing on the horizon. We also see new markets emerging. The world has moved from having thousands of businesses each with millions of customers to millions of businesses with hundreds of thousands of customers. This is a result from shifting to technology-supported industries. However, innovation is not about technology at all, it is about how we efficiently and effectively use what we have in order to produce value for ourselves and others.

4. Design thinking – a buzz word for business success?

Perhaps most people have already observed that creativity and innovation have become buzzwords for business success, followed by terms such as ‘Design Thinking’ creeping into business education. However, some research shows us that there is around 20% decline in creative capacity of learners in the past 20 years. In an era when creativity is in demand, we need to first understand the creative thinking process and the difference between implementation (doing things that are determined by others and matching against their expectations) and innovation (producing multiple and varied solutions that respond to change and often surprise).

5. Entrepreneurs have to focus on designing

The entrepreneurial journey is simple: starts from an idea, right through a business model to the business plan. However, entrepreneurs need to take into consideration the market desirability, financial viability and technical feasibility of the business they are trying to establish. Therefore,  designing a business model is the essence of a business opportunity, whether it is to be pursued in a start-up, corporate venturing or social  entrepreneurial setting.

6. Balance the academic and commercial interests

Universities are a great source for technological opportunities for creating high-technology ventures. Despite that, universities are generally characterized as having weak capabilities for the development of commercial applications. The academic culture values getting its hands on research, but the commercial and entrepreneurial aspect comes right outside it and this is a sensitive issue. Academia has to develop not only creative and confident minds but commercially oriented graduates prepared for the business challenges they will come across.

7. Internships and real work for students is a must

The APInno project has proven once again the importance of business and academia partnership. But the collaboration focuses on the topic of innovation and this has brought new amazing ideas for future work on assisting the two parties. The project sets out important points to look at, for example, how such collaboration can accelerate the university-work transition for students through internships and how setting real innovation challenges to be solved by students could be a real asset for businesses. Indeed, it’s a win-win for everyone.


About the Knowledge, Innovation and Strategies Management Club:

Driven by our experience in business development, management consulting, innovation management and entrepreneurship as well as many years of profound research and participation in hundreds of projects and initiatives we created the Knowledge, Innovation and Strategies Management Club to not only assist bridging the gap between academia, research and business but also to unite a community willing to play an integral role in delivering change to a more sustainable innovation ecosystem in Bulgaria and South East Europe. More…