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Fifth Framework Programme - External Advisory Groups

Opinion of the External Advisory Group for the Key Action "Control of Infectious Diseases"

This advice was produced by the External Advisory Group for the Key Action "Control of Infectious Diseases" for the Research Directorate-General and represents the External Advisory Group's views on this matter. These views have not been adopted or in any way approved by the Commission and should not be relied upon as a statement of the Commission's or the Research-DG's views. The European Commission does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this advice, nor does it accept responsibility for any use made thereof.

This report is also available as PDF-file: diseases1.pdf (60 Kb)

Informal Meetings - 18 and 24 November 1998

Recommendations

The recommendations are presented according to the three main questions for the EAG's:

1. The adequacy of the key action's design in respect of the problem solving approach, both in terms of formulation of the problems and the way in which they will be tackled.

The overall objective of this key action is to enter into an ongoing process of research on infectious diseases, in order to identify bottlenecks and dis-entangle obstacles in this process. This will be done by jointly mobilizing European academia and industry to address particularly challenging microbial problems and threats in a world-wide perspective, taking into account morbidity and mortality, socio-economic aspects, environmental biosafety, generation of a critical mass and know-how on specific problems for the creation of a European competitive advantage on specific issues.

The integration of human and animal health requires a break with past traditions and a new thinking in the way problems are formulated and addressed. The recent TSE/mad-cow crisis has convincingly demonstrated that in many instances, the artificial separation established between human and animal health issues in the field of infectious diseases can act as a barrier to progress. The same conclusions can be drawn from the growing problem of increasing drug resistance in micro-organisms, which will also need an integrated as well as multi-disciplinary approach. This key action strongly aims at profiting from the interface between disciplines.

The problem solving approach of this key action is illustrated not only by the integrated approach by which human and animal health will be addressed, but also by the strong emphasis placed on the prevention of infectious diseases through vaccination and prevention of transmission. Vaccine research in particular, but also therapeutic strategies, will benefit from the establishment of project clusters, where individual projects within the clusters will address different aspects and dimensions of an overall problem formulated for the cluster. Vaccine research will be organized around a matrix system of specific diseases or disease patterns as vertical clusters and key issues of a trans-disease nature as horizontal clusters. Points of interaction between the vertical and horizontal clusters could generate particular added value.

2. Whether the deliverables are clearly presented, sufficiently measurable, both during the life-time of the programme and at the end.

This key action rests on two main pillars: prevention through focused vaccine development on the one hand and treatment, diagnosis and prevention through non-vaccine measures on the other hand. In addition, research on public health aspects aim to integrate these activities into the socio-economic reality. Given the nature of this particular key action, a suitable set of deliverables has been identified with the EAG for each of these three areas, reflecting the objectives and the RTD priorities of the key action.

As European industry supplies most of the world's market of vaccines and meets a historically established tradition in vaccine research, it is expected that this action will create opportunities for further private sector engagement.

3. Whether the choice of RTD priorities in 1999 is appropriate to meet the programme objectives and achieve the anticipated deliverables.

Clearly specific issues have been identified where urgent action is needed in order to be built upon in later calls. The EAG has accepted that the first year's budget should be used for vaccine development and the second year's budget for the remaining areas of the key action so as to control the potential problem of over-subscription. Such a distribution would also allow major efforts to be concentrated and launched in the respective areas at an early stage. In later years, all areas should be open simultaneously, in order to facilitate project formation across several areas and integration of different sectors, which will be of higher priority once the main clusters have been launched in the earlier year. Close interactions are foreseen with the key action Cell Factory concerning the development of new drugs and diagnostic tests. The EAG advised that the following priorities would be given for the 1999 Call for proposals:

Vaccine research

RTD projects suitable for integration into clusters, notably: (a) vertical clusters for the development of vaccines against HIV, hepatitis C, malaria, infections linked to cancers and chronic and degenerative diseases, tuberculosis and other major respiratory diseases, gastro-intestinal diseases and zoonoses; and (b) horizontal clusters on correlates of protection, mucosal immunisation, multiple component vaccines and marker vaccines.

Treatment and prevention

RTD projects suitable for integration into clusters, notably: standardisation of criteria for resistance monitoring; early stage, rapid and simple diagnostic test systems; nosocomial and community based drug resistance; immunotherapy and other anti-infective interventions; the role of vectors in disease transmission.

Public health aspects

Thematic networks and concerted actions that integrate, at the community level, research going on in different sectors.

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Advice | External Advisory Groups | Fifth Framework Programme | 17.02.2000

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