We had a small talk with Prof. Stéphane Avril, a member of the Board of the MeDiTATe project. He is a Distinguished Full Professor at Mines Saint-Etienne (France) and co-founder of Predisurge. He has a strong mechanics and biomechanics background as a scientist and as an entrepreneur. He has a long mentoring experience as a Professor of soft tissue biomechanics and as director of the center for biomedical and healthcare engineering at Mines Saint-Etienne. In total he advised or co-advised more than 45 PhD students and mentored 25 post-docs. Teaching and mentoring experience of Stéphane Avril extends to the organization of summer or advanced school in soft tissue biomechanics (he organized 2 advanced schools of the International Center for Mechanical Sciences (CISM) in 2015 and 2017. He guides ESR 07 and ESR 08 in view of his strong expertise in computational biomechanics and supports ESR 03, ESR 10, ESR 13 and ESR 14 for all the advanced biomechanics related topics.

  1. The MeDiTATe project, a research proposal funded by the European Commission in the framework of Horizon 2020 programme. Can you tell us more about Mines Saint-Etienne and its role in the project?

Mines Saint-Etienne (MSE), founded in 1816, is one of the most prestigious engineering schools in France, ranked in the top 10 graduate schools of engineering. Close links with the corporate world, project-based teaching and innovation are the main assets of the engineering school. In January 2017, Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne became part of Institut Mines Télécom (IMT). IMT (https://www.imt.fr/en/) is a national public institution dedicated to higher education, research and innovation in engineering and digital technologies. The institution is under the authority of the Minister for Industry.

The center for biomedical and healthcare engineering (CBHE) is with an INSERM endorsed research unit (SAINBIOSE: U1059) and one of the largest centres for biomedical engineering in France. Composed of 17 permanent faculty members and 40 PhD students and postdocs, and headed by Prof. V. Augusto, its research topics are multidisciplinary, combining engineering and health science. The biomechanics group head by Prof. S. Avril aims to carry out fundamental investigations in the domain of mechanical identification of soft tissues and prostheses, with strong interactions with medical device industries and with the Saint Etienne University Hospital (SEUH).

The biomechanics group, which is the group involved in Meditate, is renowned internationally for its research aimed at improving the treatment of cardiovascular diseases by assisting physicians and surgeons with biomechanical numerical simulations. Recent research directions include: AAA wall mechanics using FEA and growth & remodeling simulations. This fits perfectly with Meditate’s goal to develop digital twins of aortic aneurysms. We supervise 6 ESRs: ESR3, ESR7, ESR8, ESR10, ESR13 and ESR14, all related to computational modelling of the aorta or of endovascular procedures.

  1. Let’s talk about the idea behind MeDiTATe. The project received funding from the EU in the Framework of Horizon 2020 programme, therefore it is clear that the proposed approach meets the EU’s ambition to exploit scientific research to improve the treatment of the cardiovascular diseases and patient care. In particular, how can the scientific community benefit from your work?

The Meditate projet has led to a significant number of publications in peer-reviewed international journals, highlighting the quantity of scientific results obtained by the ESRs. We also filed at least 4 patents which will be exploited by companies like Predisurge (start-up providing numerical simulations as a service to hospitals and medtech companies with digital twins of the aorta) or Philips (ultrasound division). Another benefit of Meditate is the very advanced training of ESR who will become ambassadors of the digital twin technologies we have been developing, to diffuse them in academia and in the industry.

  1. How can the digital Twins developed in Meditate be useful for patient’s care?

Thanks to digital twins developed in Meditate, endovascular aneurysm repair has become safer and safer and all patients with an aortic aneurysm have become eligible to these procedures. Moreover, aneurysm biomechanics can now be monitored by combining medical imaging and digital twins developed in Meditate. When they reach all hospitals, these technologies will permit to fully eradicate aneurysm ruptures, saving 30000+ lives every year across the world.

  1. Professor Avril, the MeDiTATe project has reached the end. What are your thoughts on the achievements at this final stage of the project?

Achievements went far beyond expectations. Thanks to an excellent management team, the project reached all its objectives despite the covid19 pandemics at the beginning. I am amazed by the number of patents and by the commitment of companies participating to Meditate. But the biggest success are the ESRs. They impressed me by the quantity and quality of their work in their PhD. I have no doubt they will all have successful careers in academia or in the industry and will keep unforgettable memories of the Meditate project.

  1. Any message for our readers?

If you know someone around you who was diagnosed with an aneurysm, tell her or him about Meditate. She/he can mention Meditate to her/his doctor to have access to digital twin technologies in the treatment.