Jump to top menu Jump to main menu Jump to content

Mission and Strategy

We are committed to achieving a healthy population and pursuing excellence in healthcare through research and teaching.

Erasmus MC research strategy 2023-2029  

As a university medical center, Erasmus MC has a great responsibility to help solve social issues related to health. The recently adopted research strategy 2023-2029 'Focus on Societal Challenges as driver on Research’, clarifies the direction we want to take as a scientific organization at the center of society. The strategy, which is in line with Erasmus MC's mission and core values, describes how we can increase the impact of our research and strategically deploy the limited resources available for scientific research. And how we, together with our stakeholders, can effectively contribute to solutions, now and in the future.

Socially driven

Erasmus MC's research strategy has been formulated on the basis of major societal challenges in the field of health. These challenges range from promoting a healthy life course and personal control over health to the question of whether and how we can prevent, delay or cure certain disorders. And from accessibility of care and sustainability issues to promoting a safe and healthy living environment. Our research strategy focuses on areas where we can make the most impact, in line with our key role as a medical center for tertiary care in the region, and in collaboration with our (regional) partners.

Scientific profiling

The research strategy provides focus, but certainly is not intended to set a too restricted framework. Erasmus MC offers opportunities for every researcher who has an interesting idea. However, the strategy enhances the scientific profile of our organization: this is what we are good at, these are the fields we wish to explore and develop in more depth, these are our main scientific ambitions, and this is how we wish to serve patients and society. Thus, the research strategy not only supports us in making choices and finding the best opportunities to invest in. It also shows where Erasmus MC really wants to distinguish itself within academic research in the wider field of health.

Societal challenges: starting point for choices

Erasmus MC wants to be a leader in (technological) innovations in the field of health and care, from a position as a trusted and reliable scientific authority. Our unique setting – at the heart of a city rich in diversity and culture - offers many opportunities for our researchers to seek groundbreaking collaborations, conduct academic free research, explore their innovative strengths, and in the process increase the impact of their scientific work. Thus, as an academic medical center, we can contribute to solving the major societal challenges of our time and those of the future.

Urgent health challenges

As a society, we face major and urgent social challenges. These arise in part from demographic developments such as aging, migration and green space deprivation. Social inequality translates into major socio-economic health disparities, and large groups of people suffer from low health literacy. There is an increasing demand for care, whilst there are fewer people who can provide it. Healthcare costs continue to rise sharply, partly related to the same demographic trends, but also due to the introduction of expensive diagnostics and treatments. This touches on the broad theme of sustainability (of healthcare), and its relevance for the ‘greener’ choices we make as an organization.

A healthy life  course

What are these challenges facing our society? Firstly, we need to promote a healthy lifestyle throughout the entire life course of individuals, and this begins even before the moment of conception. By following a healthy life course, people will need less healthcare, more people will be able to participate in society, and those providing care will be less likely to leave their profession. In line with the first part of Erasmus MC's general mission statement - 'We are committed to achieving a healthy population' - we also see major challenges in providing good care and support to an increasing number of people, including those with chronic diseases. Furthermore, a relevant question is whether and how we can prevent or delay certain disorders.

Accessibility of healthcare 

The accessibility of healthcare is another major societal challenge. Strategies that reduce the growing burden associated with chronic conditions are vital. Society demands high-quality healthcare that is easily accessible for everybody, especially for the most vulnerable in society. Given the wide array of interrelated factors involved, this is a complex challenge. Possible solutions include increasing healthcare capacity and more innovative forms of care. New technological possibilities and digitalization can certainly contribute.

Emerging environmental  challenges

This brings us to one of the main issues of our day: promoting a safe and healthy environment. It is clear that society is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the impact of global environmental and climate problems. This includes large-scale outbreaks of infectious diseases, which can have a substantial impact on both public health and society as a whole.  We are dealing with a (social) environment that is little conducive to health, making diseases of affluence an increasing issue. Another relevant issue is the impact of the healthcare sector itself on the environment and climate.

Strategic choices for research socially determined 

Our research strategy has been formulated on the basis of the social challenges outlined above. In four ambitious strategic research goals, we outline Erasmus MC intends to be instrumental in solving societal challenges through research. Each goal has been elaborated into several focus areas, covering the entire spectrum from fundamental research to the application of findings in practice. The scope is broad: from molecules and cells to patients and populations. And in everything we do, we always consider the person as a whole in relation to a variety of factors that determine health and disease. In addition to the biological mechanisms of diseases, we also consider social factors, the impact of the environment and the consequences of lifestyles. We deploy our knowledge and infrastructure to realize the entire breadth of our research strategy. This is only possible in close cooperation with our regional and (inter)national partners in care, research and education.

Erasmus MC's strategic goals for Scientific Research

1. Erasmus MC will develop innovative strategies to promote health by preventing disease, disease progression, and the effects of disease 

For many years, Erasmus MC has been part of a strong regional, national, and international network in research, clinical practice, and policy in the broad field of health. Our collaboration with GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond – the regional public health service – is excellent, as is our cooperation with general practitioners for primary healthcare in the region. Our current research has a clear focus on early diagnosis, screening programs, and population studies. In addition, we have extensive experience with early treatment and preventive lifestyle interventions. In our research on improved treatment strategies (fueled in part by fundamental research), we are strongly committed to finding predictive factors, preventing disease progression, and preventing and reducing the effects of disease as much as possible. 

Focus areas 

  • 1.1 Develop new biomarkers and use multimodal data in individualized risk and prediction models for the early detection of disease and/or disease progression, and to evaluate the effects of treatment.
  • 1.2 Develop strategies for early treatment and lifestyle interventions for common diseases.
  • 1.3 Improve clinical pathways to reduce or prevent the effects of disease in vulnerable, multimorbid patients (including patients with chronic and/or rare conditions), based on a shared responsibility of care provider and patient.

2. Erasmus MC will identify the mechanisms associated with a healthy life course and with the incidence of disease, and applies this knowledge in the development of new interventions 

Within Erasmus MC, there are close contacts between fundamental and clinical researchers. Our translational research accelerates the implementation of cures and other effective interventions. Erasmus MC is committed to this work, whether it concerns common diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease, or rare diseases. And whether it involves threats related to infections or heat-related disorders or other specific diseases or health problems. We excel in fundamental and clinical research and have state-of-the-art technologies, including facilities for working with in vitro and in vivo models. We have access to many patients, including patients with complex health condition, as well as a large-scale infrastructure that enables us to conduct population research. To this end, we work with relevant cohorts from preconception to high age. These cohorts are monitored for longer periods of time. All this enables us to be distinctive in our research from the molecular level to the population level.

Focus areas

  • 2.1 Investigate and identify factors that influence health from preconception through to the end of life, more specifically: research on genomics and (epi)genomics, microbiomes, metabolism, immune systems, and on societal, environmental, and behavioral factors. 
  • 2.2 Generate new insights into the mechanisms of a healthy life course and disease through translational research, in which we combine multimodal data from population studies and cohorts, such as imaging, genomics, proteomics, diagnostic and clinical data, with functional studies.
  • 2.3 Develop and use in silico and in vitro models of human diseases and innovative analysis technologies to identify molecular and cellular mechanisms in the onset and progression of diseases, so that we can develop innovative (personalized) interventions.

3. Erasmus MC will lead the development of strategies for dealing with emerging health threats

Our focus on early diagnosis, screening programs, and population studies enables us to respond rapidly to developments in conditions that may affect large groups of people, including emerging health threats associated with climate change, environmental issues, globalization, and lifestyle trends. As a result, we have considerable expertise in the field of diseases with a major impact on both individuals and society as a whole, including the areas of infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness.   

Focus areas

  • 3.1 Investigate molecular and socio-demographic factors that determine individually different responses to the agent of an emerging threatening disease.
  • 3.2 Design and evaluate effective prevention, mitigation, and adaptation measures to counteract health effects of emerging threats due to infections, climate change, and lifestyle, particularly among vulnerable people.
  • 3.3 Optimize diagnostics and develop preventive measures and the best possible treatments in order to enhance the prevention, early identification, and mitigation of the impact of endemics, epidemics, and pandemics.

4. Erasmus MC will develop innovative methods and technologies that contribute to tailored healthcare, including accessibility and sustainable healthcare  

We excel in research into more effective and efficient use of diagnostics and treatment, including expensive drugs, and alternative treatment strategies. As a partner in the Medical Delta and Convergence Alliance, we are at the forefront of medical and technological developments related to sustainable healthcare. We view sustainability in the broadest sense of the term: we are not only concerned about sustainability and accessibility of care, but also about our environment and climate, about conducting research in an environmentally friendly manner, and the sustainable employability of professionals. We aspire to lead the way in research on transferring care to people’s homes by applying new technologies and focusing on self-management.   

Focus areas

  • 4.1 Investigate the effects of genetic, molecular, and socio-demographic factors on the accessibility of healthcare, effectiveness of diagnostics, and the results of interventions.
  • 4.2 Develop digital and other technological support (e.g. e-health, artificial intelligence and/or robotics) to achieve the best possible individual healthcare in the hospital and at home, as well as for the sustainable employment of staff and resources for affordable healthcare.
  • 4.3 Explore opportunities for reducing the cost of medical treatments and enhancing sustainability, such as looking for alternatives to expensive treatments, the appropriate use of expensive treatments, drug repurposing, and avoiding ineffective care.
  • 4.4 Develop methods and models that include the ecological footprint when making medical decisions.

Erasmus MC’s starting position

In implementing our research strategy, we have a solid starting position to build on. In 2002 Erasmus MC was founded as a university medical center through a merger of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Erasmus University Rotterdam and three university hospitals: the largest general hospital in the Netherlands at the time (Dijkzigt Hospital), the country’s largest children’s hospital (Sophia Children’s Hospital), and one of the two specialized cancer hospitals in the Netherlands (Daniel den Hoed Clinic). The merger made Erasmus MC a strong and broadly oriented player in academic medical science. The close collaboration between research and clinical practice is an important innovative strength of Erasmus MC. We can achieve our strategic research goals by ensuring that crucial preconditions are met and if we manage to maximize our strengths. What are these strengths in particular?

Rotterdam as our base, the region as our working area

Erasmus MC is located at the heart of Rotterdam, a city with ambitions in the field of Life Sciences & Health. The city has a highly diverse population, both in terms of cultural backgrounds and health, and socio-economic status. The challenges that we see in Rotterdam are similar to those in other urban areas. Erasmus MC is part of a regional network for education, knowledge development, and innovation, not only through the Convergence (see below) but also through partnerships with knowledge organizations such as TNO, with educational institutions such as the Universities of Applied sciences in Rotterdam and The Hague, and with the private sector. A well-functioning regional network is essential for attracting talent, start-ups, and companies and other partners who want to work with Erasmus MC to achieve innovations with real impact.

Partner in the Convergence

Erasmus MC is part of a broad and diverse ecosystem in which to conduct scientific work, from research on the smallest fragment of a cell to population studies. We collaborate with a variety of partners in the field of health. Our cooperation with Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Convergence has made this ecosystem even broader and more diverse. The Convergence helps us to address societal challenges through the systematic connection between alpha, beta, gamma sciences with medical sciences and engineering. The convergence of diverse fields of science in the Convergence occurs in a number of areas that we have also identified as focus areas in our research strategy. The Resilient Data, Healthy Start, and Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Convergence programs and the focus areas of Health & Technology and AI, Data & Digitalization are all consistent with our research strategy.

Collaboration with primary and secondary care 

As a university medical center, we play a key role in the region, where we are the medical center for tertiary care. Erasmus MC is complementary to its partners in the region. This mutually complementary form of cooperation applies not only to healthcare, but also to scientific research. Research in primary care and in ‘top clinical’ and general hospitals is an important add-on to our academic and scientific efforts. Furthermore, secondary and primary care are indispensable links in bringing care closer to the homes of patients. The optimization of this collaboration with primary and secondary care requires connecting knowledge and data.

Top institutes in all shapes and sizes

Our strong position as a scientific organization is reflected in the numerous (inter)national top institutes that we accommodate. The Erasmus MC Transplant Institute is the largest center for liver, kidney, lung, and heart transplants in the Netherlands. Other renowned institutes include the Erasmus MC Cancer Institute, Erasmus MC Cardiovascular Institute, Erasmus MC Alzheimer Center, and our Healthy Weight Center, to name just a few. In the field of rare diseases, we are a major player in the Netherlands. The Erasmus MC is home to no less than 56 recognized centers of expertise for rare diseases. Since 2021, our organization also houses the Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center (PDPC). This is an initiative of the Convergence with Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Room for fundamental research 

When it comes to research, our strength is that we have fundamental scientific research and patient care in one house. This improves the opportunities for translational research. Researchers at Erasmus MC have considerable freedom to ask the fundamental question: how does it work? And the more research ideas are proposed, the more science and scientific creativity can flourish. Although the short-term effect in healthcare practice is not always evident, important innovations can be traced back to the insights gained from fundamental research.

Leading in cohort studies 

For many years, the Rotterdam region has been the site of large and long-term cohort studies, which yield a wealth of meaningful scientific knowledge. ERGO, known internationally as ‘The Rotterdam Study’, is a prospective cohort study of the risk factors and determinants of chronic diseases. The study has been running since 1990. Also well-known is the Generation R Study, a prospective cohort study from fetal life into young adulthood in a multiethnic urban population. A third example is the Rotterdam Periconceptional Cohort, which studies the effect of hereditary predisposition, environment, and lifestyle from preconception to the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. The data obtained from such long-term studies is indispensable in promoting a healthy population.

Focus on digitization and data management 

Future major innovations in health and healthcare lie in the areas where biomedical and physical sciences, medicine, technology and big data intersect. These innovations will influence our perspective on health and disease, at the molecular, cellular, individual, and population levels. The digital transformation is irreversible. It is happening rapidly and has already initiated many changes in the past decade. Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a key role in digitization. Once again, this is an area where Erasmus MC can make valuable contributions to major challenges in society and healthcare. Among other things, we can take advantage of our position as one of the hubs for Health-RI, the national infrastructure for integrated health data.

By adopting this research strategy, Erasmus MC has taken an important step towards a focus on distinctive scientific research in the broader field of health.