EHEN Scientific Meeting, Barcelona, 24-25 May 2022



After two years of online meetings, the EHEN scientific meeting, held in a hybrid format at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park, was a welcome opportunity for many of the researchers and delegates from the nine EHEN projects to meet face-to-face. A total number of 143 people were welcomed in-person in Barcelona and over 200 people joined online. Together, they represented more than 70 institutions affiliated with the nine EHEN projects.

The programme was intensive, featuring no less than 68 abstract presentations in addition to “highlight” presentations from each Project Coordinator, and updates and working sessions hosted by the Metadata, Ethics and Law and Communication and Dissemination Working Groups.

Martine Vrijheid (co-coordinator of the EHEN network, ATHLETE) reported:
“The exposome concept is at the core of the nine projects, but they focus on different aspects of the environment. Submitted abstracts were distributed in sessions around a wide range of themes such as cities, chemical pollutants, molecular omics markers, mental health, statistical methods, and citizen science”.

Six young researchers were selected to present their abstracts during a plenary session, based on their overall high scoring:

  • Early-life environmental exposures and blood pressure trajectories from childhood to early adulthood: a LongITools study. Ana Goncalves Soares, LONGITOOLS, University of Bristol.
  • Impact of air quality on respiratory and cardiovascular health: sub-city scale approach. Libor Šulc, ATHLETE / EXPANSE, RECETOX.
  • Cardiovascular disease risk prediction using machine learning and exposome predictors. Angélica Atehortúa, LONGITOOLS, University of Barcelona.
  • Equity considerations in interventions within Equal-Life: Development of a logic model framework for assessing the equity impacts of urban interventions. Maddie White, EQUAL-LIFE, University of Bremen.
  • Early-life urban exposome, brain structural connectivity and morphology in preadolescents. Anne-Claire Binter, ATHLETE, ISGlobal.
  • Identifying cleaning products associated with short-term work-related respiratory symptoms: a workforce-based study in domestic cleaners. Steven Ronsmans, EXIMIOUS, KU Leuven.

The remaining 62 abstracts were selected to be presented during one of the breakout sessions or as a 2-minute “Elevator Pitch”.

Delegates discussed the main themes of exposome research taking place throughout the EHEN network during the defined eight breakout sessions. The themes selected were respiratory and mental health, statistical methods and fair data, exposure assessment and sensors, multi-omics and epigenomics signatures of the exposome, metabolome / proteome / microbiome signatures, cardiometabolic health, stakeholders and citizen science, and the occupational exposome.

The pitches challenged the (young) researchers to reshape the way they presented their work; resulting in a range and depth of topics presented that provided an excellent snapshot of the work taking place across the EHEN network.

In the closing session, members of the Network Advisory Board, project coordinators and the audience were asked to engage in a panel discussion about the added value of EHEN and its future activities. Young researchers from the Equal-Life and ATHLETE projects, who prepared the panel discussion, challenged the panelists with questions such as how and what to communicate to the public and policymakers – should EHEN merely share its scientific results, or also advise their findings to, for example, guide and improve health behaviour or city planning? Finally, the Network Advisory Board members Susan Prescott and Joana Lobo shared their reflections with regard to EHEN’s value and current progress.

This years’ conference was hosted by the projects Equal-Life and ATHLETE, rotating their 15-month co-leadership until July 2022. The co-coordinator role is handed over to the teams of the LongITools and EXIMIOUS project. During the conference, a survey was held among the networks’ participants on the added value of EHEN. The outcomes of this survey are taken into account by the new EHEN coordinators for the next period of the network to come.

All of this made up for a successful meeting as worded by one of the EHEN network member: “It was surprisingly helpful and beneficial to see each other in this context and the meeting was really good to follow by people online as well


May 27, 2022