EU pioneers new approach to nano-medicine
A new research project in the field of medical technologies will allow for collaboration between researchers in the European Union, Latin America, the Western Balkans and North Africa. The Action-Grid project is an EU funded initiative which will target nano-medicine. It will develop nano-systems as diagnostic tools and apply these to the study of new drugs and the development of new tools for surgical tasks. For many diseases nano-medicine promises solutions which will dramatically improve upon current diagnostic methods.
On 1 June 2008 a consortium of seven European and Latin American partners launched ACTION-Grid, the first ever initiative funded by the European Commission to analyse and link three areas: Biomedical Informatics, Grid technologies and Nanoinformatics. The project will run for 18 months and has a budget of around EUR 1 million totally funded by the European Union as part of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme.
Over the last decade the European Commission has pioneered initiatives to link clinical data and results from the Human Genome and other related projects, methods and tools in the area of Biomedical Informatics. Research on Genomic Medicine and Personalized Medicine has opened up new challenges that have attracted numerous researchers and professionals. Similarly, Grid technologies have brought new approaches that promise to deliver the computational power needed for many demanding applications.
Breaking new ground
One of the main areas targeted by ACTION-Grid is Nanoinformatics in medicine. ACTION-Grid is the first European Commission project to address the development of Nanoinformatics, a novel informatics discipline, and its applications in nanomedicine. These include the study of new drugs based on nanoparticles and the nanosystems designed for drug delivery within cells. Other uses involve materials for tissue repair and replacement and the implanting of nano-scale devices for restoring lost hearing and sight functions.
Nano tools can be used to perform common surgical tasks, while nano-imaging systems can help in the early identification of diseases. Nanomedicine promises to dramatically improve current diagnostic methods and therapies for many diseases. For example, in cancer research nanostructures are developed to recognise cancer cells and destroy each cell individually.
Guiding EU policy
The ACTION-Grid will draw up a White Paper for the European Commission. It will analyse the future of Bio Medical Informatics (BMI), Grid and Nanoinformatics in medicine and propose steps for future actions and research programmes. The project is coordinated by the Biomedical Informatics Group at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (UPM). Other participants in ACTION-Grid include the Institute of Health Carlos III (co-scientific leader, with UPM, and led by Dr Fernando Martin-Sanchez), Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Universidad de Talca (Chile) from Latin America, Forth (Greece), HealthGrid (France) and University of Zagreb Medical School (Croatia).
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