New DDLS Fellow: Clemens Wittenbecher
The recruitment of Fellows to the SciLifeLab & Wallenberg National Program for Data-Driven Life Science (DDLS) continues. Our newest DDLS Fellow, Clemens Wittenbecher (Chalmers), who will join the Precision medicine and diagnostics DDLS research area, is featured in our latest Q&A-style article.
Clemens holds master’s degrees in human nutrition sciences (University of Potsdam) and Epidemiology (Charité University Medicine Berlin). His doctoral studies at the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke focused on the development of graphical modeling and causal inference methods to link metabolomics networks to diet and cardio-metabolic disease risk. Clemens postdoctoral and research associate positions at the German Institute of Human Nutrition and the Harvard School of Public Health, provided advanced training in nutritional metabolomics, multi-OMICs, and precision nutrition research.
His scientific distinctions comprise the best doctoral thesis award in human nutrition sciences from the German Society of Nutrition Scientists (VDOE) and the Young Investigator Award from the EASD European Diabetes Epidemiology Group (EDEG).
How do you think your expertise can contribute to the program?
I want to pinpoint two central lessons from my nutrition and molecular epidemiology background. First, diet is notoriously difficult to measure and closely interrelated with other health-relevant factors. Therefore, nutrition epidemiologists are conscious of biases in observational data. Longitudinal designs, integration of molecular measurements with lifestyle and clinical data, and multi-study designs with distinct, unrelated sources of bias are a few strategies I apply to extract rigorous evidence from complex human population data. Second, our studies follow participants over decades and document how unhealthy behaviors gradually translate into disturbed molecular processes and, ultimately, chronic disease incidence and premature death. I believe that precisely targeted lifestyle interventions for primary chronic disease prevention can substantially alleviate the enormous chronic disease burden in modern societies, and I hope to place this topic prominently on the DDLS precision medicine and diagnostics agenda.
Shortly describe your research in an easy to understand way.
The central topic of my research is straightforward. I examine how the habitual diet in adults affects chronic disease risk later in life. Concerning outcomes, my focus is on type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. I examine diet-disease relationships in prospective human population studies and large-scale dietary intervention trials. My research aims to integrate molecular profiling approaches, known as – omics techniques, to elucidate the metabolic processes underlying these diet-disease relationships. Identifying the molecular links between dietary composition and chronic disease risk can also provide objective biomarkers to precisely target and monitor dietary chronic disease prevention.
How do you think the program and interactions with the other DDLS-Fellows will benefit you?
I firmly believe in the power of collective intelligence. It is a privilege to be among the first group of DDLS fellows, and I am eager to interact with the other current and future fellows to facilitate impactful cross-disciplinary research. Furthermore, Sweden has an excellent human population research infrastructure, and the push toward data-driven life sciences will greatly facilitate leveraging these powerful resources. I also hope the scale of the DDLS program accelerates the translation of our research findings into clinical practice and maximizes the societal benefit.
Name one thing that people generally do not know about you.
After high school, I hiked for several months through Switzerland, France, and Spain on “El Camino de Santiago.”
Where do you see yourself in five years regarding the DDLS aspect?
In five years, I hope to be centrally involved in DDLS-lead large-scale initiatives to translate our current discoveries into actionable precision approaches for lifestyle-based chronic disease prevention. With its wealth of routinely collected individual-level medical data and excellent research infrastructure, Sweden is strategically positioned to quantitatively examine the societal benefits of dietary precision prevention.
In one word, describe how you feel about becoming a DDLS-Fellow.
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