This section of the health research programme refers to novel treatments and biomedical remedies to address diseases which are currently untreatable, where life is at stake and where diseased, damaged or defective tissues and organs need to be regenerated.
As a common denominator, advanced therapies developed here focus on harnessing biological functions in an innovative way, in order to fight specific, often chronic disease conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart and neurodegenerative disease, but also immune deficiencies, skin and eye disorders, as well as muscle, bone and cartilage deficiencies.
Advanced therapies, as contrasted by standard drugs treatment based on small molecules, will employ large biomolecules, genes, cells or tissues as therapy, or aim to better mobilise the human immune defence, to counteract disease.
New therapies and novel immunization strategies are in particular needed to address mounting health problems of an ageing population.
Such novel therapeutic, or preventive approaches, that are based on using biological functions to fight disease, most often represent knowledge-based, high-value, innovative technologies, thus providing a unique opportunity to boost European industrial competitiveness in this booming biomedical field.
Research funded under this section of the health research programme principally aims to develop platform technologies that could be applied in several different clinical conditions. It is thus cross-cutting, not disease-specific research, which is supported under this section of the programme.
Traditional vaccines trigger a protective immune responses, to protect the vaccinated population group from a given infectious diseases. This principle is now expanded, with therapeutic vaccines aiming to cure already manifest diseases, ranging from chronic infections, cancer, metabolic and degenerative diseases, to aberrant immune conditions and even addictions. Also, looking only at protective vaccines, target diseases to be protected from, go well beyond infectious diseases, and comprise e.g. protection from cancer tumours to develop. Hence, vaccines my truly be considered a primer area for health innovation.
Rational design of protective and therapeutic vaccines that actively trigger beneficial immune responses, as well as of small molecule immune modulators, or treatment with antibodies (or fragments thereof) conferring passive immunisation, require understanding the functioning of the human immune system. This subsection of the health programme therefore focuses on developing immunization technologies in disease-crosscutting, platform-like manner, thriving on recent advances in immunology, "omics" research and systems biology approaches.
Vaccines, or more generally, novel immunisation technologies are the timely response to major public health challenges: pandemics, a vulnerable ageing population, the emerging threat of hospital infections, and as yet untreatable chronic diseases. Vaccines also represent an over-proportionally growing part of the global pharma market (14% compared to 5% overall growth), with European vaccine industry, both large pharma and research-intensive SMEs, still being very strong in both vaccine R&D and production, yet facing growing global competition. There is also a strong "push" momentum from the technology side that gives an extra opportunity for more vaccine development, with major advances in immunology research, with a plethora of "omics" data available use, and with systems biology approaches that have demonstrated now to be of great use for more rationally driven vaccine designs.