Bacterial infections remain a major cause of disease and mortality in humans and animals throughout the world. Only the detailed understanding of their pathogenic processes will provide us with innovative tools for their treatment, prevention and possible control and eradication. This concept could contribute to a global policy of control of infections both in Europe and in the developing world. Several infections constitute novel and particularly onerous threats owing to the occurrence of new virulent strains and the development of antibiotic resistances.
The study of infectious disease, which is established in Europe in form of various national research centres and by a considerable number of laboratories, needs a multidisciplinary approach that brings together the different disciplines of molecular biology, immunology, cell biology and structural biology. Although scientific collaborations within Europe have been established to some extent, there is a pressing need for more permanent links and structures between the different disciplines. This task is accomplished by the Network of Excellence "EuroPathoGenomics" (NoE EPG).
The NoE EPG is a consortium of 38 partners from 13 different nations. Innovations in diagnostic techniques and therapy, as well as the development of vaccines against pathogenic microorganisms, are expected to come out of the joint research activities of these top-level European research groups in the field of genomic research.
The three main objectives of the NoE EPG are:
There is an urgent need for research in the field of infection diseases. The WHO estimates that diseases caused by bacteria or viruses are responsible for one-third of all deaths world-wide. Furthermore, many pathogens become increasingly resistant to available drugs and antibiotics. The prevalence of antibiotic resistances is increasing in developed as well as in developing countries. They impose an important socio-economic burden to the public, industry and the health care system. The study of infectious disease, which is established in Europe in form of various national research centres and by a considerable number of laboratories, requires a multidisciplinary approach that brings together the different disciplines of molecular biology, immunology, cell biology and structural biology. Although scientific collaborations within Europe have been established to some extent, there is a pressing need for more permanent links and structures between the different disciplines. This task is accomplished by the Network of Excellence "EuroPathoGenomics".
The major objective in the field of research is to structure and organise the overwhelming mass of genomic information that has become available, regarding both microorganisms and their hosts, into schemes allowing one to decipher the cross talks between pathogens and commensals and their host cell and tissue targets. Importantly, the critical mass established will attract the interest and collaboration of leading laboratories in other related basic disciplines, heightening the potential for incisive multi-disciplinary accomplishments. Furthermore, the NoE EPG aims to assist the EU and national policy makers to make recommendations and directives from the knowledge of the structure, function and expression of virulence- and antibiotic resistance-associated determinants of pathogenic bacteria, especially in the context of whole genomes.
Based on this strong research background, high level teaching is organised at both graduate and postdoctoral levels, both in national institutions, capitalising on the current "cutting edge" research, and in European courses and workshops that will also attract scientists from non-EU countries. Exchange programmes were designed to facilitate international and multidisciplinary development.
In addition to world's leading pharmaceutical companies, the EU now has a strong portfolio of start-up and SME life sciences companies that would benefit from the NoE EPG regarding application and innovation in the areas of diagnostic, drug and vaccine development. The integration between academia and industry, in particular SMEs is promoted by the establishment of an industrial platform within the project.
The expected deliverables are innovations in the areas of diagnostics, drug and vaccine development. The NoE EPG brings together some of the best European groups involved in genomics of bacterial pathogens to establish an internationally competitive platform of knowledge, expertise and technology. The NoE EPG will promote discoveries leading to the development of innovative diagnostic tools, the identification of new antigens and the deciphering of host defence mechanisms.
One main objective is to analyse the mechanisms conferring to the development and spread of antibiotic resistances among bacteria. Lateral gene transfer is a topic of major health concern through its implication in the development and spread of antibiotic resistance genes among bacterial pathogens. Using Gram-negative and Gram-positive model systems, different aspects of the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistances will be studied by comparative genomics and functional studies. Bacterial gene expression in response to exposal to antibiotics will be investigated in order to get a deeper insight into the effect of antibiotics on genes regulation. These approaches will result in an improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms contributing to the development and spread of antibiotic resistances and to the discovery of novel anti-infectious agents and their targets.
The NoE EPG will integrate epidemiological, basic and clinical researchers. It will also establish a higher standard in the teaching infectious diseases. Thus a permanent and durable structure will be created that will maximise the contributions of European scientists to this area.
The NoE EPG will promote discoveries leading to the development of innovative diagnostic tools, to the discovery of novel anti-infectious agents and their targets, the identification of new antigens and the deciphering of host defence mechanisms.
Suitable new targets for vaccination and therapy and the development of new vaccine candidates, and therapeutic strategies based on a bioinformatic platform for the identification of genes which are virulence factors, drug targets or vaccine candidates are the potential applications expected from the EPG network. Furthermore, the construction of novel vaccine strains and "bacterial carrier strains" that secrete suitable compounds in vivo which inhibit adhesion or the function of other bacterial virulence factors is one of the applicable goals of this project.