Nicole Probst-Hensch

Prof. Dr. phil.
Nicole Probst-Hensch
PhD, MPH

Position(s)
Member Directorate Swiss TPH Head Department of Epidemiology and Public Health
Head Unit Chronic Disease Epidemiology Principle Investigator SAPALDIA Cohort & Biobank

Institution
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

Phone +41 79 280 34 14

Email

Research Group Nicole Probst-Hensch

 

Research Focus

Clinical Epidemiology, Public Health & Health Systems

Area of Research

The Unit of Chronic Disease Epidemiology led by Nicole Probst-Hensch is composed of the research group of N. Probst-Hensch and N. Künzli. The research focus of the unit is as follows: Research on exogenous and endogenous risk patterns in the development of chronic diseases (asthma, COPD, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases) and in aging as well as comorbiditiy processes in the framework of cohorts and biobanks; application of biomarkers to improve causal inference and mechanistic understanding of lifestyle factors; environmental risks; chemical risks


Approved Research Projects

  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Air Pollution Exposure Assessment in Eight Swiss Areas, Co-Investigator, 2011-2014
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Airflow obstruction in non-smoking women: the role of air pollution and co-determinants in two longitudinal studies in Switzerland and Germany, Co-Investigator, 2010-2013
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Development of statistical methods for analyzing geographical disparities, trends and projections in gender-related cancers in Switzerland, Co-Investigator, 2011-2014
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Physical activity as a life style component of aggressive decrease of atherosclerotic modifiers (ADAM) in elderly subjects: the SAPALDIA Cohort Study, Co-Investigator, 2013-2015
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Gender, reproductive factors and cardiovascular health in SAPALDIA, with a particular focus on Carotis Intima-Media Thickness, Co-Investigator, 2011-2014
  • Swiss National Science Foundation/Federal Noise Committee: Sinergia Project Sirene: Transportation noise, annoyance, sleep and cardiometabolic risk: an integrated approach on short- and long-term effects, Co-Investigator/WP-Lead, 2014-2017
  • Framework Programme: EXPOSOMIC, Co-Investigator/WP-Lead, 2012-2016
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Disease in Adults (SAPALDIA), Principle Investigator, 2014-2016
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Swiss Biobank Platform, Co-Investigator/WP-Lead, 2014-2017
  • Horizon 2020-PHC-2014 ALEC (Aging Lungs in European Cohorts), Co-Investigator/WP-Lead, 2015-2019
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Disease in Adults (SAPALDIA), Principle Investigator, 2016-2018
  • ESKAS, Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars: 1 PhD, Myanmare Student Nan HS Htun 2013-2017; 1 PhD, Palestine, Student Hala Allabadi 2016-2019

PhD Supervisor and Project PI

  • Horizon 2020: HBM4EU, Grant Signatory/Program Owner Switzerland, 2017-2021
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart
  • Disease in Adults (SAPALDIA), Principle Investigator, 2018-2021

 Not peer reviewed grants

  • Federal Office of Public Health: Relationship between domains of physical activity, sitting time, and different measures of overweight/obesity in Swiss adults taking into account energy intake, Co-Investigator, 2012-2013
  • Novartis Foundation: Co-occurrence of common chronic infections (soil-transmitted helminths and Plasmodium) and common non-communicable diseases (diabetes and hypertension) in rural and urban Côte d’Ivoire, Principle Investigator, 2015
  • Federal Office of Public Health: Pilot Project National Cohort & Biobank, Co-Principle Investigator, 2017-2020
  • Federal Office of Sports: Evaluation Youth and Sports Program, Co-Principle Investigator, 2017-2018


    Collaborations

    National Collaborations

    LOCAL: In the context of the SAPALDIA cohort my research group is working closely and since many years with Prof. D. Stolz, Pneumology, University Hospital Basel. Prof. Stolz is leading the clinical study center of SAPALDIA in Basel. She is a co-investigator of SAPALDIA. Joint research activities focus on asthma and COPD etiology. In the context of SAPALDIA activities related to physical activity and arterial stiffness on the one hand, and in the context of a research study on dual disease burden in children from schools in South Africa on the other hand, I am closely collaborating with the Departement Sport, Exercise and Health der Universität Basel (Prof. A. Schmidt-Trucksäss; Prof. U. Pühse; Prof. M. Gerber). Together with Prof. U. Frey UKBB I was supervising the PhD Thesis of Delphine Meier. She analyzed 24h-Holter-ECG data of SAPALDIA participants to study the influence of tobacco smoke and air pollution on novel dynamic heart rate variability parameters, while considering gene-environment interactions. Together with Prof. M. Schwenkglenks (ECBM) and Prof. A. Schmidt-Trucksäss I am co-supervising the PhD Thesis of Renato Mattli (ZAHW), which focuses on a health-economic evaluation of physical inactivity in children. A continuation of this collaboration is planned: SAPALDIA data will be used for a health-economic evaluation of long-term physical activity, other lifestyle and environmental factors in aging adults. In addition, I am co-leading a postgraduate training course on personalized and public health in the Advanced Master of Public Health program with Prof. Thomas Szucs (ECBM). The course was first conducted in 2017, and will be repeated in 2019 given its very positive evaluation. In the context of the SNF funded Sinergia Project SIRENE on the assessment of health effects of transportation noies I am collaboration with Prof. Ch. Cajochen, Center for Chronobiology of the University of Basel. By combining an intervention study with transportatnion noise in the sleep laboratory with observational data from SAPPALDIA, we are investigating the short- and long-term effects of transportation noise on insulin resistance and diabetes, considering the role of sleep disturbances and genetic variants related to circadian rhythm. I am an active steering board member of the Departement of Public Health, which is headed by Prof. S. de Geest. The scientific collaboration with the Institute of Nursing Sciences encompasses research related to cascade screening for breast cancer (Prof. Dr. M. Katapodi) as well as research in the context of the INSPIRE project (Prof. Dr. S. de Geest). INSPIRE lead by Nursing Sciences aims at implementating and evaluation innovative elderly care in Basel-Lanschaft. In the context of this project I am supervising a PhD Thesis, which focuses on the conduct and analysis of repeat surveys in the elderly population of Basel-Landsachaft to assess state, determinants and needs related to elderly care. With Prof. Nicola Zitzmann, University Center for Dental Health we are conducting in the context of SAPALDIA the first Swiss-wide, population-based assessment of paradontitis. We will also study the assocation of this pro-inflammatory phenotype with chronic diseases and their risk factors. Over many years SAPALDIA collaborated closely with Prof. David Conen from Cardiology and facilitated the implementation of the Liechtenstein cohort. I served on the committee of a PhD committee focusing on determinants of cardiovascular phenotypes. A joint publication in Circulation based on SAPALDIA Data on the causes of atrial fibrillation formed the basis for Pfizer Price assigned to Prof. D. Conen in 2014. At the beginning of my work in Basel, I was leading the working group „Biobanking“. The resulting report pointed to the relevance of implementing informed consent procedures to be able to use medical data and diagnostic samples for personalized health research. It pointed to the urgency of implementing state-of-art biobanking infrastructure. This report, which was accepted by the Medical Faculty and which was based on a detailed biobanking survey conducted within the University of Basel, laid the basis for the active involvement of the University in the Swiss Personalized Health Network. In my role as biobanking, genomic, and cohort expert I was a co-author of report mandated by SERI, which initiated the Swiss Personalized Health Network. Today, Prof. T. Schwede, Prof. R. Skoda and myself represent the interests of the University of Basel in the Scientific Expert Board of SPHN. I am also a member of the biobanking branch of the University of Basel Personalized Health Group headed by R. Skoda. As co-investigator and member of the governing board of the Swiss Biobanking Platform I am representing the University of Basel in the SNF funded Swiss Biobanking Platform, together with Prof. Christoph A. Meier. In developing the Swiss Biobanking Platform propopsal I received strong support from Clinical Trial Unit (Prof. Dr. C. Pauli-Magnus).

    NATIONAL: The SAPALDIA study is a multi-centric Swiss-wide study. As a study with a strong focus on respiratory health since its onset in 1991, it is collaborating since many years with a dense pneumologist network across the country, and in particular with respiratory physicians running the local SAPALDIA study centers. In my role as SAPALDIA Principle Investigator I was elected as epidemiology representative into the research commission of Swiss Lung League. Against the background of SAPALDIA’s strong and internationally renowned air pollution focus and expertise I was elected as expert for air pollution and genetics into the Swiss Air Quality Board, which facilitated establishing a network of Swiss environmental exposure and health experts and researchers. SAPALDIA has worked closely with the Federal Office for the Environment (BAFU) since its onset. Over the course of the past 10-15 years I managed to considerable broaden the foucs of SAPALDIA from a narrowly focused air pollution study to the only Swiss-wide population-based chronic disease cohort and biobank. This transition was facilitated by my broad background ranging from cancer and chronic disease epidemiology to environmental epidemiology and genomics/exposomics. This transition of SAPALDIA was essential to assure continuous SNF funding. Accordingly, research activities and partners became broader, both nationally and internationally. SAPALDIA in collaboration with experts at the Institute of Social- and Preventive Medicine in Zürich (PD Dr. Brian Martin; Dr. Miriam Wanner) produced a report on the influence of physical activity on different anthropometric paraters for the Federal Office of Public Health. With the nutritional expert Prof. Ch. Brombach, ZAHW Lifesciences and Facility Management SAPALDIA established the first validated food frequency questionnaire in Switzerland and the analyzed the influence of nutrition on respiratory health. With experts from the Institut Universitaire Romand de Santé au Travail SAPALDIA is analyzing the influence of occupational exposures on health. At the national level I am working since many years at the forefront towards the establishment of a national cohort and biobank of 100’000+ citizens in order to keep Swiss epidemiology and personalized health internationally competitive. Such a cohort and biobank is essential for personalized health which will need a comparative healthy reference to test novel biomarkers for screening and risk prediction and also for human biomonitoring, in order to test health effects of chemicals. Exposome research without prospectively sampled biomaterials is not possible. In addition, patients emerging from longitudinal cohorts can serve to evaluation quality of care and to conduct cost-effectiveness and clinical utility studies. My activities in this domain were embedded into a strong network of public health partners, most importantly experts from the BAG, the SNF, the SAMW and experts from various academic domains. Together with Prof. Murielle Bochud, Director Institut Universitaire Médicine Sociale et Préventive, Lausanne and Humanbiomonitoring-Leaders of BAG we managed to find funding for piloting a national biobank. The cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft together with the canton of Vaud will be the pilot sites. Together with Murielle Bochud I am responsible for the epidemiologische coordination of the pilot study. Active project partners of the pilot study is the Swiss Biobanking Platform and its investigators Prof. Vincent Mooser, CHUV Lausanne, Prof. Aurel Perren, Pathology Inselspital Bern, and Prof. Tosso Leeb, Veterinary Medicine Bern. In my role as Swiss Grant Signatory for the Horizon 2020 Science-to-Policy project HMB4EU which aims at harmonizing human biomonitoring activities across Europe, I was able to start building a national HBM partner network, including the Swiss Center for Applied Human Toxicology SCAHT. I am also a member of GUMEK (Expert Committee for Genetic Testing in Humans), where I represent epidemiology and public health and bring in my expertise in the domain of chronic disease genetics. This activity allows for important links to the domain of Medical Genetics in Switzerland. Due to my long-term engagement as scientific chair of Swiss Public Health, I also have access to a broad network of public health partners. I have organized for many years the annual meeting of the society. In 2017, I acted as scientific chare of the annual meeting hosted by Swiss TPH and which discussed personalized health from a public health perspective. Due to my active engagement in the Swiss Personalized Health Network and given my new role as editor-in-chief for the Journal Public Health Genomics, I will be expanding my network to other national and international personalized health experts. Finally, in the context of the SOPHYA study on physical activity in children as wells as in the context of a planned evaluation of youth and sports (J+S) programs in Switzerland we bring our expertise in cohort and biobanking research into a partner network of Swiss sports-science experts and we obtain considerable funding from the Federal Office of Sports BASPO.

    International Collaborations

    My work in the context of the SAPALDIA cohort research created a large and scientifically broad network of research partnerships. In the domain of respiratory research we are closely collaborating with the European Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS), which was to a large degree conducted in parallel and closely align in design with SAPALDIA; in fact the SAPALDIA Basel center is at the same time an ECRHS center. ECRHS is network of over 20 respiratory health centres across European countries and Australia (http://www.ecrhs.org/). This long-term collaborative network is currently leading the Horizon 2020 project ALEC to which SAPALDIA participates (https://www.alecstudy.org/). Through its genetic and epigenetic data, the SAPALDIA network involves genetic epidemiology partners from across the world collaborating in different genetic consortia. The most important partner consortium for SAPALDIA is Spirometa, lead by the University of Leicester. Its focus is on genetic and epigenetic determinants of lung function. SAPALDIA has contributed to and lead several important projects published in high ranking journals such as Nature Genetics and JACI. Through work in the context of the EU project Exposomics my team is connected to leading experts in the domain of exposome research at the Imperial College (P. Vineis) and Kings College (DH. Phillips) in London, at the Utrecht University (R. Vermeulen) and at the WHO cancer research center IARC in Lyon (A. Scalbert; A. Ghantous). Through my dual disease burden activities at Swiss TPH the scientific network was recently broadened towards building global networks. The Dual Disease Burden Project in Côte d’Ivoire was established in close collaboration with the Swiss TPH partner institute Centre Suisse de Recherche Scientifique in Abidjan, with the National Institute of Public Health in Abidjan and with the Côte d’Ivoire Heart Leauge. The Dual Disease Burden activities in Lao PDR are a further stronghold of long-term collaborations with the Lao Tropical and Public Health Institute, which encompasses the National Public Health Institute and closely collaborates with the Healthy Ministry of Lao PDR. These activities will encompass collaborations in the National Health Survey in Lao PDR. In the context of an ESKAS PhD fellowship which I supervise, I have built close ties to An-Najah University in Nablus, Westbank, and its associated hospital. My department is funding a part-time postdoctal position at the An-Najah University to stimulate long-term collaboration. On October 30 2018 the SwissTPH-An-Najah University collaboration will be presented to national stakeholders in the context of a 1-day workshop.


    Ongoing Research Projects

    • SAPALDIA Cohort & Biobank, SNF funding for longitudinal cohorts
    • Horizon 2020 ALEC (Ageing Lungs in European Cohorts)
    • Horizon 2020 HBM4EU (Science-to-Policy Project for Harmonized Human Biomonitoring in Europe)
    • Pilot Study for a Swiss National Cohort & Biobank of 100'000+ citizens
    • Swiss Biobanking Platform, Co-Investigator
    • ESKAS Fellowship (PhD) The role of mental health disorders in the course of cardiac disease in Palestine
    • PhD Project on the role of depression in the course of blood pressure in Kosovo

    Research Team

    Dr. phil. Medea Imboden

    Senior Scientist



    Phone +41 61 284 82 40

    Email

    Dr. med. Nicolai Mösli

    Senior Scientist Collaborator

    Phone +41 61 284 83 96

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    Emmanuel Schaffner MSc

    Senior Scientific Collaborator

    Phone +41 61 284 87 09

    Email

    Meltem Kutlar MSc, MPH

    Senior Scientific Collaborator

    Phone +41 61 284 88 20

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    Melissa Witzig MSc

    Scientific Assistant

    Phone +41 61 284 86 94

    Email

    Susanna Nussbaumer-Liechti

    Study Nurse

    Phone +41 61 284 83 48

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    Prof. Dr. med. Nino Künzli PhD, MPH

    Full Professor of Public Health; Group Leader; Head Department Education and Training; Vice Director Swiss TPH

    Phone +41 61 284 83 99

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    Dr. med. Ikenna Eze PhD

    Postdoctoral Researcher

    Phone +41 61 284 83 95

    Email

    Dirk Keidel Dipl. scient.

    Scientific Collaborator

    Phone  +41 61 284 87 08

    Email

    Dr. Regina Ducret-Stich

    Senior Scientific Collaborator

    Phone  +41 61 284 87 54

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    Nicola Aebi MSc

    Scientific Assistant

    Phone +41 61 284 86 65

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    Dr. med. Bettina Bringolf-Isler PhD

    Senior Scientific Collaborator



    Phone +41 61 284 83 46

    Email

    Dr. Ayoung Jeong PhD

    Postdoctoral Researcher

    Phone +41 61 284 86 16

    Email

    Angelika Hensel (DipHI)

    Scientific Collaborator

    Phone +41 61 284 83 44

    Email

    Ron Kappeler MSc

    Scientific Collaborator

    Phone +41 61 284 83 50

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    Thomas Vermes

    Scientific Collaborator

    Phone +41 61 284 86 61

    Email