Prevention, control and management of prion diseases
NeuroPrion - Science at the Service of Society
NeuroPrion is the European Network of Excellence (NoE) dedicated to research on prion diseases. It involves 52 public research organisations in 20 different countries and federates over 120 individual research groups, corresponding to more than 90% of the leading researchers in Europe. The combined know-how and the synergies between the main European research teams constitute a unique core of expertise strengthening the role of science in our society to prevent future prion crises. NeuroPrion constitutes a first approach towards a new European Research Area (ERA) open to collaboration with prion researchers from all over the world to protect human and animal health against prions and related diseases.
Since the appearance of the first cases of 'mad cow disease' in the 1980s, prion diseases have become a major problem for society, both in Europe and worldwide, with important health and economic consequences. The recent discovery of atypical cases of scrapie in sheep and atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle in Europe and the US has raised concerns that previously unidentified strains of prions may pose new risks for public health. Furthermore, the compelling evidence that prion diseases are transmissible through blood transfusion, serves as a reminder that crucial information on prion diseases to ensure the safety of public health is still missing.[+] Read More
Protection of human and animal health against prions and related diseases The primary objective of NeuroPrion is to structure and integrate the efforts of the main European prion research teams in order to reduce the fragmentation of the research and establish a long-lasting leadership that will protect and improve human and animal health. NeuroPrion has identified areas where greater coordination of research would be beneficial and others where novel, applied research is needed. Based on these assessments, NeuroPrion has implemented a joint programme of activities that is built on the following four research pillars: PREVENTION, TREATMENT, CONTROL and RISK. These four themes were agreed as the common basis to develop coordinated research programmes to provide the knowledge necessary against future prion crises.
Today, NeuroPrion represents the strongest research community ever constituted in the prion field. Its members have implemented a new culture of collaboration among its partners, characterised by trust and the equitable exchange of information. In 2004, this cooperation between scientists, national and European authorities averted an unjustified economic crisis in relation to the detection of BSE in a French goat. By using new Web technologies, researchers of the network can have access to almost all the information available on prions: key documents (including journal articles, other reports, relevant multimedia, inventories of ongoing research, key policy documents); the private exchange area (where participants can discuss findings, imminent publications and activities at their institution); a virtual bank of tissues area (combining the information of several national and local tissue banks and respecting all the required ethical issues related to the human tissues in order to simplify access to critical samples for researchers). NeuroPrion is also supporting the Training & Mobility of researchers and promotes the exchanges between partners. Communication within and beyond the network is of clear importance in spreading the knowledge concentrated in NeuroPrion. In recognition of the damage the BSE crisis did to public trust in government and governmental scientific advice, one of the goals of NeuroPrion is to enhance dialogue between researchers, the general public and policymakers, raising public awareness of prion research. NeuroPrion's annual international conferences have become a major forum for knowledge dissemination within and beyond the scientific community. With over 800 participants, these conferences - organised each year in a different European country - are recognised as the main ones in the world.
Moreover, their scientific impact is now increased by an original video streaming of all the scientific presentations accessible to all the participants (NeuroPrion's Online Conferences). These technologies are now used to communicate prion information to the public at large, and NeuroPrion is also supporting patient families with information.
In order to maintain this mobilisation and avoid possible crises in the future, NeuroPrion is exploring new opportunities to enhance the joint research efforts of project members through public funding and private investors. Through its coordinator, NeuroPrion has notably promoted the creation of Alliance Biosecure, a non-profit foundation. Its mission is 'to enable progress in the analysis, comprehension and management of risks for public health, linked to microbiological agents, current or emerging, in particular prions'.
As a consequence of the structuring and integrating activities of NeuroPrion, the scientific collaboration of the NeuroPrion partners have strongly contributed to scientific progress in the prion field, which is reflected by the numerous articles published by NeuroPrion members (892 articles since 2004). Among the different potential applications, original decontamination techniques could have very interesting developments in limiting the impact of prions on animal food and the environment.