Irish academia and industry join €16m EU obesity research alliance

2 Jun 2020

Image: © dusanpetkovic1/

UCD and UCC are among 29 partners in a new €16m EU research consortium aiming to improve treatments for people with obesity.

A new international research consortium called the Stratification of Obese Phenotypes to Optimise Future Obesity Therapy (Sophia) has been launched. The group has been backed by €16m in EU and industry funding with the aim of spending the next five years improving risk assessment of complications of obesity and predicting treatment responses.

The consortium consists of 29 partners from 12 countries, with the Irish contingent including researchers from University College Dublin (UCD) and University College Cork (UCC), as well as UCD spin-out Atturos and the Irish office of the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

Estimates suggest that approximately 150m people in Europe and 650m worldwide are obese. While complications from obesity are common, researchers cannot yet predict who will develop any of the 200 known complications.

Furthermore, there are insufficient predictors for who will respond to obesity treatments, according to the Sophia consortium. The group said it will look to identify, characterise and stratify clinically meaningful subpopulations of patients with obesity to match the right treatment for the right person at the right time.

‘A complex, chronic disease’

The research consortium will also look to provide evidence-based classification of predictors for obesity complications and response to treatment. This includes identifying and charting models for sustainably developing treatment pathways that will be valuable for patients, healthcare systems, researchers and clinicians.

Sophia project lead, Dr Marianne Ølholm Larsen Grønning of Novo Nordisk, said: “Obesity is a complex, chronic disease and there is still a lot we do not know, both about the biology of the disease itself and how treatment can improve the lives of patients with obesity.

“Sophia is an important step towards understanding obesity better. The collaboration between academia, industry and associations promises strong and unique results.”

Another part of the consortium’s research will investigate health outcomes of people living with type 1 diabetes.

Dr Sanjoy Dutta, vice-president of research at non-profit research group JDRF, added: “Since recent epidemiological data indicates that nearly half of adults with type 1 diabetes in some European countries have overweight or obesity, it is critical for the type 1 diabetes community to address this challenge.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic