Flemish institutions sign on to avatar medical technology


In a concept seemingly pulled from a sci-fi flick, a European project is developing personalised avatars to test potential treatments of disease

‘A whole new level’

The University of Leuven and nano-technology research centre imec have signed on to the ambitious project Health EU, which is developing human avatars to prevent and cure diseases. The project has applied for European Union FET Flagship status, which would see it get €1 billion over a 10-year period.

Avatars are animated representations of computer users. In this case, the 3D avatars would be replicas of each patient, loaded with all the patient’s health data. Health-related influences such as where a person lives and family history would also be programmable.

The avatars would help patients and their doctors predict the likelihood of an illness but also the effects of specific treatments. Variables could be tested that would be impossible to do on a real person.

It would also employ nano-chip technology – hence the need to bring in players such as imec. It could transfer cells onto a microchip that would allow the avatar to be tested for biological functions and responses.

“With the plan to combine digital and physical aspects, Health EU is bringing the concept of digital twins to a previously unknown, totally new level,” says Chris Van Hoof of imec.

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Leuven-based imec is a world-leading nanotechnology and nanoelectronics research centre. Its main research areas are ICT, health care and energy.
Origins - Imec was established as an independent but Flemish government-backed research centre for microelectronics in 1984.
International - While its headquarters are in Leuven, imec has offices in the US, the Netherlands, Taiwan, China, India and Japan.
Clean room - Imec boasts two cleanrooms – dust-free labs to develop computer chips – and is developing a third.

spin-off companies


million euros in annual subsidy from the government of Flanders

2 000

staff members