Precision medicine and Covid-19 in focus during state visit from Germany

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The Federal President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and HM The King visited the Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet in September as part of the President's state visit to Sweden. The adoption of precision medicine and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on healthcare were some of the issues which were discussed.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and HM The King were welcomed to the hospital by the Hospital’s CEO, Björn Zoëga, the President of Karolinska Institutet, Ole Petter Ottersen, and the State Secretary to the Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Maja Fjaestad. The visit began with a brief demonstration at the entrance hall of the main building of the Karolinska in Solna, after the visitors had disinfected their hands and put on masks.

The Hospital’s CEO, Björn Zoëga, then gave a presentation of the Karolinska University Hospital during which he explained how the Hospital had tackled the pandemic, and on cross-border co-operation and new approaches in research and development. Then Ole Petter Ottersen, the President of Karolinska Institutet, described how the Health Emergency and Pandemic Science Center was built up during the pandemic to expand knowledge, locally and globally, and to be prepared for future health crises.

This was followed by a presentation by Anna Martling, Professor and Surgeon, on the Karolinska’s Precision Medicine Centre (PMCK), which is a joint effort by the Karolinska University hospital, Karolinska Institutet and Region Stockholm. The goal is a sustainable and broad adoption of precision medicine in an academic environment closely associated with healthcare, which includes collaboration among different research fields and with the commercial sector.

“When precision medicine becomes fully integrated into healthcare, this will open completely new opportunities to provide the correct treatment at the right time for each individual patient. This will reduce suffering and save lives”, said Anna Martling.

The delegation was then received by Björn Persson, Operations Manager for Intensive Care at the Karolinska University Hospital. Along with staff from the Intensive Care Unit, he described how the care of Covid-19 patients developed during the various phases of the pandemic. The German delegation could relate to much of this, particularly the difficulties of ensuring sufficient health personnel to cope with the pandemic, and planning to obtain sufficient resources.

Stephan Mielke, Professor and Head of CAST, Centrum för allogen stamcellstransplantation [the Centre for Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation], gave a presentation on the cutting-edge research carried out at CAST, which is a concrete example of how precision medicine can increase the opportunities for survival of severely ill patients with very challenging conditions. This is a group which has been particularly badly affected during the pandemic due to their compromised immune systems.

Text: Catarina Thepper, Photo: Danish Saroee