Despite their morphological differences, human and model organisms share a strong conservation of genes as well as fundamental biological pathways. This extensive conservation has promoted the use of model organisms as a means to study conserved processes. In particular, animal model organisms are widely used to explore potential causes and treatments for human disease in instances where experimentation on humans would be unfeasible or unethical.
Recognizing the potential of model-organism-based studies, between 2002 and 2007, the European Commission's FPs (FP5, FP6) provided more than €150 million for collaborative research projects on model organisms, such as mouse, rat, zebrafish, plant, nematode worm and bacteria. These projects are playing an important role in structuring the research landscape in Europe and creating the knowledge base to understand health and disease. Furthermore, they are generating important and freely available data and/or animal resources that will catalyse progress in biomedical research.