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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



Asthma and allergy are Europe's most common chronic diseases.

Their incidence has doubled over the last 30 years one in four children are affected and, ten years from now, more than half Europe's citizens are likely to have an allergy. Scientists suspect changes in social or environmental conditions are responsible for this. Around the world, they are working hard to understand what causes these debilitating conditions and how to control them.

To ensure Europe retains its leading position in this research, a Network of Excellence has been established covering all aspects of asthma and allergy including its genetic basis, clinical treatment, environmental aspects, and social causes.


The Global Allergy and Asthma European Network, or GA2LEN has been named after Galenos, the ancient physician who described the relationship between the nose and the lungs. It addresses respiratory allergies, such as hay fever, rather than food allergies. Twentyfive leading research teams from all over Europe are involved, along with a patients' organisation and the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology. The latter already performs networkbuilding activities such as training and communicating research. GA2LEN will initiate international research collaboration, and communicate its findings to patients, doctors and policy-makers.

Like other Networks of Excellence, GA2LEN will share data and biological resources, train young scientists, and exchange staff between institutes. It will foster close communications, using the internet and videoconferencing. However, this network has one unique feature that will make it a strong global player it is linking clinical trials and population studies from different countries in order to compile larger studies. Asthma and allergies are associated with environmental conditions and diet, so the more varieties of lifestyle included in the study, the better. If everyone in the study is exposed to the same diet, little information can be gathered about its effect.


One sub-network will investigate eight 'birth cohorts'. These studies follow children from early foetal development through childhood, tracking nutritional, environmental and social conditions. Early-life experiences, especially in the womb, are crucial to the onset of asthma or allergies, but these trigger factors are poorly understood. Breastfeeding, or exposure to allergens, could be important. The European birth cohorts are the only well-established studies of this type in the world.

Other factors which are key to understanding asthma and allergies include infection, genetics and the immunology of the disease itself. Asthma is warded off by chronic infection with parasitic worms during childhood. Can it be treated, or prevented, by the chemicals that elicit this reaction? The association between environment and genes could yield exciting discoveries, and the network will pool genetic samples to see if certain genes make a person likely to suffer from asthma or an allergy. Identifying a method of early diagnosis for general practitioners is also a priority.

GA2LEN will standardise the quality of patient care and research into asthma and allergies by setting up quality management systems for all partners. It will liaise directly with patient representatives and policymakers so that both groups are made aware of the latest research and can influence it. In the long term, the network should reduce the burden of two of the 21st century's most significant and least understood chronic diseases.

List of Partners

  • University of Ghent (Belgium)
  • European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology
  • European Federation of Allergy and Asthma Associations
  • University of Vienna Medical School (Austria)
  • Odense University Hospital (Denmark)
  • Helsinki University Central Hospital (Finland)
  • INSERM (France)
  • Charité, Medical Faculty of Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany)
  • Ludwig Maximilians Universität München (Germany)
  • Technische Universität München (Germany)
  • National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece)
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), div. Palermo (Italy)
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), INMN Rome (Italy)
  • University of Genova (Italy)
  • Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
  • University of Utrecht (The Netherlands)
  • Voksentoppen BKL, National Hospital, Oslo (Norway)
  • Jagiellonian University Medical College, Krakow (Poland)
  • Medical University of Lodz (Poland)
  • Universitad de Coimbra (Portugal)
  • Institut Municipal Investigacio Medica (IMIM), Barcelona (Spain)
  • Autonoma University of Madrid (Spain)
  • Göteborg University (Sweden)
  • Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)
  • University of Zurich, Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma research (SIAF) (Switzerland)
  • University of London (UK)
  • University of Southampton (UK)
Full title:
Global allergy and asthma European network
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Paul van Cauwenberge, University of Ghent,
EC Scientific Officer:
Ana Nieto Nuez,
EU contribution:
€ 14.4M
Network of Excellence

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top