First EU Joint Programming initiative to tackle Alzheimer’s and
20 April 2010
Leading researchers from across Europe gathered in
Stockholm last week to develop a European-wide research strategy to
tackle neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
This is the first of the new European Union (EU) Joint
Programming initiatives which are designed to address what are
called ‘grand challenges’ facing EU society in the coming years.
These challenges are considered beyond the scope and resources of
any one country to tackle. However, the EU hopes to maximise its
potential to confront these common challenges from publicly funded
research by bringing together the funding bodies, the researchers,
the existing research evidence, and sharing tools, techniques and
other resources amongst member states more efficiently.
Recently appointed European Commissioner for Research, Innovation
and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "This is the first example
of the new Joint Programming approach by the EU to tackling the
health-related, social, technological, and environmental 'grand
challenges' which face all of our citizens. Thanks to this Joint
Programme, the best European medical researchers will be working
together and pooling resources to help the millions of people who
suffer from Alzheimer’s and other neurodenegerative diseases.
"By making research more efficient and avoiding duplication of
work, the Joint Programme will increase the prospects of real
progress in preventing and treating these diseases. The lessons
learned from this Joint Programme will then be used to inform
research efforts in other areas."
Neurodegenerative disease will be the first area to benefit from
this new approach, with particular emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease.
Neurodegenerative diseases are strongly linked with age and Europe
has a rapidly ageing population.
Currently, 16% of the European population is over 65, and this
figure is expected to reach 25% by 2030. In 2006, it was estimated
that neurodegenerative diseases cost European health services
approximately €72 billion to treat. Existing treatments for
neurodegenerative diseases are limited, and mainly treat the
symptoms, rather than addressing the cause.
Alzheimer’s disease is particularly expensive to manage due to
its insidious onset, its ever-increasing levels of disability and
the length of time over which the condition extends itself. The
average duration of this disease is between 2 and 10 years, during
which patients will require special care that is a significant
burden for both caregivers and for society as a whole.
The ultimate goal of the Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative
Disease (JPND) is to accelerate progress in understanding the causes
of these debilitating conditions, leading to not only early
diagnosis, and the development of new treatments and prevention, but
also the provision of more effective medical and social care to
improve the quality of life for patients and care givers.
To achieve this goal, 24 European countries, sharing a common
vision, have voluntarily decided to work together in an
unprecedented collaborative initiative in research which is seeking
to align their scientific competencies, medical strengths and social
approaches to tackle the challenge.
Professor Philippe Amouyel, the Chair of the JPND Management
Board said: ‘Success relies on the shared view that pooling
knowledge, infrastructure, funding calls, as well as creating
critical mass with coherent, multidisciplinary approaches, will
deliver the best scientific objectives and answers. By doing this we
will optimise research investment in neurodegenerative disease
The JPND will start by:
- developing a strategic research agenda for neurodegenerative
diseases encompassing basic, clinical and social research, and
the latter also includes models of healthcare delivery.
- implementing that agenda by proposing innovative ways of
pooling expertise and resources to address the fragmentation and
duplication of current research efforts.
A Scientific Advisory Board comprising 15 of the top
neurodegenerative disease scientists from Europe and elsewhere in
the world has been formed to advise on the development of the
Strategic Research Agenda and its implementation.
Professor Amouyel adds: "This is an exciting opportunity for
Europe to take the lead in tackling one of the biggest
socio-economic challenges we face into our future. To date,
neurodegenerative diseases have not received the same level of
funding as other areas such as cancer and cardiovascular disease,
despite having a large negative impact on healthy life.
"This programme will allow us to change that and get to grips
with this issue in a timely and strategic manner. Today’s meeting in
Stockholm will see fifteen of the leading researchers from Europe
and elsewhere begin the process of mapping out a strategy to best
achieve this pan-European co-ordinated research approach."