Chronic diseases

Commission activities in the area of Chronic diseases

Chronic conditions and diseases are major causes of disability, ill-health, health-related retirement and premature death, and present considerable social and economic costs. Research in this area continues under Horizon 2020.

The area “other chronic diseases” has been defined in the Specific Programme Health in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7, 2007-2013) as focusing on “non-lethal diseases with a high impact on the quality of life at old age, such as functional and sensory impairment and other chronic diseases (e.g. arthritis, rheumatic and musculo-skeletal diseases as well as respiratory diseases including those induced by allergies)”. Thus, this area comprises major chronic (non-communicable) diseases except for cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and mental diseases, obesity, and diabetes.

In the list of priority diseases quoted in the Priority Medicines for Europe and the World Update Report, 2013, out of 24 diseases, six belong to this area, namely osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic liver disease, tobacco-related diseases, hearing loss, and low back pain. In justifying selection of these particular diseases as priority targets, WHO pointed out that their a) “treatment does not exist or the existing treatment(s) is insufficiently effective, and b) “these are diseases where basic research is needed to establish biomarkers”.

Therefore, the research in this area aims to increase the knowledge of the biological processes and mechanisms involved in normal health and in specific disease situations, and then to bring this knowledge to the clinic to better control and treat the diseases, and to ensure that clinical (including epidemiological) data guide further research.

Elucidation of the causes and mechanisms of the diseases, better and earlier diagnosis and prevention, as well as development of novel therapies, will lead to practical benefits such as decreased mortality and economic burden, and improve the quality of life of EU citizens.

In the FP7 funding was awarded to research dealing with sensory impairments, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, intervertebral disk degeneration, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), urinary incontinence, age-related muscle weakness, chronic kidney disease and fatty liver disease, as well as to allergy, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. The total EU contribution of EUR 1.4 billion was provided for a total of 676 projects.

Although the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) does not specify the area of “other chronic diseases” as the disease-centred approach has been abandoned in the Work Programmes in favour of more strategic, cross-cutting, horizontal and bottom-up calls, the diseases covered by this area attract substantial funding and represent a significant portfolio in the health research.

Thus, from the start of Horizon 2020 in 2014 until the end of 2017, already 582 projects has been funded in this area through different financial instruments with a cumulative EU contribution of EUR 955.4 million.

The calls for proposals relevant for other chronic diseases area are often organized in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD) and upon the consultations with the relevant learned societies and patient organisations (some examples are provided in the right part of a screen.

Certain calls within the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) are also relevant for the area and have funded several projects in the past and offer opportunity for applicants to apply within the future calls.