ECCO Country Member Profiles: Belgium

Pieter Dewint
© Pieter Dewint

Triana Lobaton

© Triana Lobaton


Name of group: BIRD (Belgian Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Research and Development Group)

Number of active members: 

BIRD has 121 members across 60 centres.

BINASTORIA (Belgian IBD Nurses and Study Coordinators Association) has 90 members.

Number of meetings per year:

BIRD organises two symposia per year with scientific lectures from national and international speakers. During these symposia, there are interactive workshops on different clinical topics. Additionally, BIRD hosts three extra meetings per year focused on both ongoing scientific projects and potential future studies initiated or promoted by BIRD. At these meetings, time is also reserved for clinical in-depth discussions.

Finally, EduCom (Educational Committee) and SciCom (Scientific Committee) also have regular meetings.

Name of president and secretary: Filip Baert  (President), Peter Bossuyt (Secretary)

National Representatives: Pieter Dewint and Triana Lobaton

Joined ECCO in: 2001

What has changed since your society became an ECCO Country Member?

In the last four years, BIRD has been transformed into BIRD 2.0.

  • The website has been upgraded with a private section that creates for each member a personalised view depending on participation in specific studies or projects.
  • Inspired by the ECCO Structure, a more detailed structure has been created. There are several teams with specific roles, allowing more members to be actively involved in the overall strategy and the conduct of the organisation.
  • General Assemblies have been expanded, with two parts:
    • EduCom organises discussions on guidelines, highlights of important publications and difficult cases (that can lead to the start of a new registry).
    • SciCom informs everyone on the status of current and upcoming trials and the results of completed trials.
  • The process of trial initiation has been formalised: new ideas are submitted to SciCom to evaluate their scientific relevance amongst other ongoing projects and to improve the research proposal. After a feasibility check, centres can participate. BIRD now has a first study up and running where the organisation itself is acting as a sponsor of the trial.
  • At the end of 2016, a first employee was hired to help in structuring the organisation and to manage the clinical trials. Since then, the office has expanded to a team of three and a fourth colleague is being sought.
  • In 2011 the IBD Nurses joined the BINA group and in 2017 they merged with the study coordinators to create the BINASTORIA Group (Belgian IBD Nurses and Study Coordinators Association), under the wings of BIRD. This has allowed close communication and collaboration, leading to more comprehensive care of IBD patients.
  • In 2018, BIRD hosted its first national symposium on IBD, with an expansion to two editions in 2019 and a switch to a virtual symposium in 2020. Despite the difficulties with the current pandemic, BIRD continues to provide education, again with two symposia in 2021.

What are the benefits to you of being an ECCO Country Member?

The option of participating in multicentre studies, expansion of networking and the IBD Intensive Course for Trainees.

Is your society making use of the ECCO Guidelines?

Yes, several of our members contribute in the development of ECCO Guidelines. Moreover, the ECCO Guidelines are regarded as a basis for discussions, e.g. on difficult cases in the educational part of the General Assembly. In the absence of ECCO Guidelines, our members discuss the need for and the construction of national guidelines, e.g. on iron deficiency and use of faecal calprotectin.

Have you developed links with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?  

We are working closely on several scientific studies with GETAID in France, ENEIDA in Spain and the Netherlands.

Have you developed research projects with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?

Yes, the COMBIO study (Rahier et al.), a retrospective observational study on the combination of biologics.

BIRD has also actively participated in other international trials such as TAILORIX and LOVE, and in other European projects, including I-CARE and SECURE-IBD.

Have you developed educational activities with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?

No, we have not.

Has your country been involved in a fellow exchange through ECCO?

No, not through ECCO

What are your main areas of research interest?

BIRD is interested in several aspects of basic, translational and clinical research – in particular in genomics, TDM and dose optimisation trials, treatment combinations, strategic trials and quality of care in IBD.   

Does your centre or country have a common IBD database or bio bank?

We plan to set up a National Registry in UR-CARE. In the meantime BIRD centres are signing up one by one. We are also setting up a bio bank (both are work in progress).

What are your most prestigious/interesting past and ongoing projects?

The Belgian IBD Genetic Consortium has contributed to landmark studies for the understanding of genetics in IBD. Currently, several clinical studies are ongoing, such as the Tryptophan study and the Rescue study (a trial on dose optimisation of ustekinumab in CD; a similar study in UC is about to start).  

Which ECCO Projects/Activities is the group currently involved in?

Several of our members are involved in the development of ECCO Guidelines, ECCO Topical Reviews and other educational tools such as e-CCO Learning. Moreover, we also regularly contribute to the ECCO CONFER Cases and different projects of ECCO. Trainees and young residents can apply for the outstanding IBD Intensive Course for Trainees.  Every year, the ECCO National Representatives and EduCom submit and review all the nominations.

In addition, BIRD Members have been ECCO Officers on various ECCO Committees, all involved in different educational and scientific activities of ECCO. Peter Bossuyt is an ECCO Officer of ClinCom and Filip Baert is leading the UR-CARE project.

What are your aims for the future?

One aim is to become the Belgian IBD reference for education and research. Another is to improve the IBD knowledge of patients by working together with patient associations, medical students and physicians, providing them with all the required educational materials.

In addition, we would like to continue expanding our networking and collaboration with other countries in scientific and educational projects.

How do you see ECCO helping you to fulfil these aims?

We expect to perform multicentre trials with other ECCO Countries and to work together with ECCO to improve the IBD education of patients, medical students and physicians.

What do you use ECCO for? Network? Congress? How do you use the things/services that ECCO has to offer?

ECCO provides us with high-quality scientific information at the annual ECCO Congress and via all the educational tools. ECCO also gives us the opportunity to expand our network in order to collaborate in international projects.

Posted in ECCO News, ECCO Country Member Profiles, Volume 16, Issue 2