July 16, 2009

Research Is Closer To The Patient

ETH Zurich is creating a new professorship in medical technology. The professorship is to develop orthopedic technologies and work closely with the research group of Schulthess Clinic Zurich. The professorship will be financed by a figure of ten million Swiss francs donated to ETH Zurich Foundation by a private foundation.

The ageing of the musculoskeletal system poses major problems for doctors, surgeons and social partners: osteoporosis, arthritis, back pain and rheumatism are some of the most common ailments amongst older people. In Switzerland, for example, femoral neck (hip) fractures caused by osteoporosis almost dou-bled between 1980 and 1995. Each year, 700,000 days are spent in hospital due to broken bones caused by osteoporosis.

With ETH Zurich, the University and its various specialized clinics, Zurich is already an important competence center for medical technology. With the initiative "ËœMedical technology and health', ETH Zurich declared that this area would be one of its key research areas in 2008. The new professorship for "ËœOrthopedic technology for aging' is a significant step in the implementation of this initiative. Through the cooperation with the Schulthess Clinic Zurich, urgent issues arising from everyday clinical activities will flow into the basic research of ETH Zurich. In return, patients with musculoskeletal problems should in general be able to benefit more quickly from new technologies.

Accelerating the pace of medical progress

ETH Zurich wants to step up its collaboration with renowned medical institutions and speed up medical progress with its scientific and engineering knowledge. "The new cooperation with the Schulthess Clinic Zurich will enable us to strengthen Zurich as a location for this important area. The new professorship will supplement and expand the significant level of competency already available at the University, in the hospitals and at ETH Zurich. This will help us to win another strong partner for this alliance", explains Peter Chen, Vice President for Research and Corporate Relations at the ETH Zurich.

Roughly half of the 7,000 in-patients at the Schulthess Clinic Zurich each year have basic health insurance cover. The idea that a private hospital and a third-level institution could take part in joint research is a new concept in Switzerland. "Thanks to the stronger cooperation with ETH Zurich, the Schulthess Clinic Zurich can fully exploit its potential as Switzerland's largest orthopedic institution", says Beat Simmen, Department Head of Orthopedics at the Schulthess Clinic Zurich. "The link to ETH Zurich is confirmation of the orthopedic services provided by our clinic", he continues.

Emergence of an independent branch of science

The intensified cooperation between the two institutions will be made possible thanks to a private foundation. The donation of ten million Swiss francs to ETH Zurich Foundation has secured the professorship for a period of ten years. Another million Swiss francs will be invested in expanding the research group at the Schulthess Clinic Zurich. The new professorship "ËœOrthopedic technology for aging' is expected to be advertised in the late autumn of 2009.

The insight that more knowledge from basic research should benefit patients has led to the creation of an independent branch of science in recent years known as translational research/medicine. For example, 24 centres have been founded in the USA to date, while this branch of science is to be a central component of the "ËœHealth-Related Research' program in the European Union, which is to receive funding of six billion euro.


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