The University of Santiago de Compostela will have an AI University-Company Chair in Precision Personalized Medicine, funded by the Spanish Government and the technological company Plexus Tech
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation has just released the list of Spanish universities that will receive funding for University-Company Chairs of Artificial Intelligence, among which the university-business chair of USC and Plexus Tech, led by CiTIUS, stands out.
- "The Chair arose from the conviction that only from an integrative and multidisciplinary perspective, with the ambition to build a long-term project, can an environment for generating new knowledge and technological development be created that ultimately translates into clinical practice," says Senén Barro, scientific director of CiTIUS.
- The goal is to position Galicia at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence in this field, through the leadership of CiTIUS and USC, the technology company Plexus Tech, and the entire Galician ecosystem involved.
- The proposal includes twelve of the most important curricula in the scientific landscape, not only at the Galician but also at the national level, including profiles with internationally prestigious awards.
- The Chair has an initial duration of four years and aims to create an instrument that, through AI, can cross the necessary data to contribute to creating new knowledge and significantly improve the decision-making process of those involved in a kind of 'augmented intelligence’. In addition to research, dissemination, teaching, and innovation will be equally relevant objectives for this Chair.
"It is excellent news for Galicia, a new recognition of the research in Artificial Intelligence developed in our community and, in this case, also for our healthcare ecosystem," said Senén Barro, scientific director of CiTIUS, in response to the news of the ministerial resolution that supports the new Chair of Artificial Intelligence in Precision Personalized Medicine; a proposal developed by the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) through CiTIUS, in collaboration with the technology company Plexus Tech. The initiative becomes the only one in Spain in this theme to receive significant support from the central government. The chair will receive €1,200,000 in funding over four years: the first three years with a contribution from the State Secretariat for Digitization and Artificial Intelligence, under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, providing €900,000, and the last year with a contribution of €300,000 from Plexus Tech.
Senén Barro, the Chair's director, reflected on the essential reasons for its creation: "Precision Personalized Medicine" (PPM) "arises from the ambition to optimize the quality of healthcare by individualizing the care process according to the unique conditions that characterize each patient." "There is a widespread consensus that Artificial Intelligence" (AI) "is poised to revolutionize Precision Personalized Medicine and, by extension, the future of medicine," he explains.
With this premise, the initiative promoted by CiTIUS was born, which in March 2023 applied for the call launched by the State Secretariat for Digitization and Artificial Intelligence to finance university Chairs dedicated to research, dissemination, teaching, and innovation in Artificial Intelligence (AI), whose development is part of the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy (ENIA) and the Spain Digital 2026 agenda, as well as the Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience Plan..
"The Chair arose from the conviction that only from an integrative and multidisciplinary perspective, with the ambition to build a long-term project, can an environment for generating new knowledge and technological development be created that ultimately translates into clinical practice," says Barro.
Among the main objectives it will address in its first four years, the Chair will focus its efforts on strengthening AI research carried out by CiTIUS, encouraging those research lines with the greatest potential in Precision Personalized Medicine projects. The goal is to position Galicia at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence in this field, through the leadership of CiTIUS and USC, the company Plexus Tech, and the entire Galician ecosystem involved.
The main research priority of this new scientific instrument focused on AI applied to PPM is the proper exploitation of available data. It is expected that these data will provide new knowledge and significantly contribute to the decision-making process of clinical personnel, serving as a kind of 'augmented intelligence.' The possibilities offered by the application of Artificial Intelligence in this field span various areas, such as drug discovery, biomarker identification, subpopulation characterization, causal estimation and inference of treatment effects, communication, or knowledge exchange, among others. At the same time, these new possibilities present new challenges in the integration of multimodal data, such as security, privacy, scalability, efficiency, reproducibility, transparency, and reliability. "That's why this Chair places so much importance on data, high-performance computing, and smart technologies," argues Senén Barro. "The goal is health and the quality of life of people, but in between are machines and smart technologies."
The proposal recognized by the government includes a list of twelve outstanding curricula, research profiles with a recognized track record that act as guarantors of the Chair's activity. Among them, it is worth noting the participation of the directors of five of the most renowned research centres in Galicia and Spain: the scientific director of the Health Research Institute of Santiago de Compostela (IDIS), María Luz Couce; Rosa María Crujeiras, director of the Centre for Research and Mathematical Technology of Galicia (CITMAga); the director of CiMUS, Mabel Loza, the director of the National Genotyping Centre-ISCIII, Ángel Carracedo, and Senén Barro, director of the Singular Centre for Research in Intelligent Technologies (CiTIUS). The list of guarantors also includes outstanding figures in their research fields, such as Wenceslao González, 2021 National Statistics Award; María José Alonso, 2021 National Research Award Juan de la Cierva in the Technology Transfer area; or José Ramón González Juanatey, Head of Cardiology Service and UCC of the University Clinical Hospital of Santiago de Compostela and, among others, Ciril Rozman Award, Best in Class Award, Avedis Donabedian Foundation Award, and Spanish Doctor of the Year Award.
Regarding the socio-economic aspect of this university-business chair, the business contribution will be led by the technology company Plexus Tech, which has been developing projects in all technological areas since 2000, and now has over three thousand highly qualified professionals, many of whom are working on award-winning European projects within the H2020 framework. In the words of Antonio Agrasar, Founder and CEO of Plexus Tech: "We see technology as a powerful tool that only has room to improve the world, and in this sense, medicine is an area of great technological advances in which we have been involved in various ways for years. Being part of this Chair motivates us to be aware of how we can improve personalized medicine in this case. This is a challenge and, at the same time, a commitment of our teams and our company. Something that makes us proud and at the same time grow as professionals to achieve something much bigger than a project, something that, if all goes well, can benefit thousands of people who will benefit from this effort, which is also our reward." The technology company is present in more than 27 countries at present and consolidates year after year with exponential growth in clients and professionals.
It is also worth noting the participation of CESGA, the second most powerful supercomputing centre in the country, as well as a number of public and private entities that make up one of the most important ecosystems in health, bioscience, and biotechnology in Spain. Among them, the Galician Health Service (SERGAS), which supported the proposal from the beginning, pointing out that "the strengths of the University of Santiago de Compostela in this field make it deserving of support for its candidacy." The Counselor of Health of the Xunta de Galicia, Julio García Comesaña, highlighted the capabilities of Campus Vida as the "main area of research, training, and clinical practice in Galicia and one of the most important in Spain in Life Sciences," also emphasizing "the uniqueness of having one of the main research centres in Artificial Intelligence in the State, CiTIUS."
Through the Chair, some strategic lines for the study object of this initiative will be promoted, such as machine learning, image and signal processing, or language technologies - to name just a few examples. The research, dissemination, teaching, and innovation activities of the chair will also be strengthened through national and international collaborations. It is a challenge that encompasses academic, scientific, healthcare, and social aspects, as can be inferred from Senén Barro's concluding words: "This Chair will not change the world, but it will help make it better."