The European Commission is currently participating in several international large scale omics research initiatives. These types of collaborations take the form of International Consortia in which member organisations work towards common goals and objectives while using their own funding mechanisms and rules. Working together with other funders and organisations investing in research has a number of advantages such as:
The European Commission has actively participated in the launch of five International Consortia in omics research since the year 2007.
Click on a title below to read more about each initiative.
The goal of the International Knockout Mouse Consortium (IKMC) is to mutate one by one, all protein-coding and small RNA genes in the mouse. This international collaborative effort will lead to a better understanding of gene functions in human diseases. Although many genes have been linked to major diseases or conditions such as cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, diabetes and obesity, research is still needed into why these genes are important and the role they play in health and disease. As mice and humans share 99% of their genetic make-up, this international collaborative effort investigates the activity of genes in mice, using a process that “knocks out” specific genes. It will help researchers unravel the genetic networks underlying disease. The information and the mutated mouse lines generated by the programme are accessible to the worldwide scientific community, constituting a significant resource to help translate basic
research into improvements in human health.
The European Commission participates in IKMC via the project EUCOMMTOOLS.
The number of microbes that are present on surfaces and in cavities of our body largely exceeds that of our own cells and the number of genes they encode largely exceeds that of our own genes. This complex and dynamic microbiota has a profound influence on human physiology and nutrition. Defining this dynamic diversity represents the next frontier of genomics. The ensemble of the genomes of human-associated microorganisms represents the human metagenome. A detailed understanding of human biology will require not only knowledge of the human genome but also of the human microbial metagenome.
The goal of the International Human Microbiome Consortium (IHMC) is to work under a common set of principles and policies to study and understand the role of the human microbiome in the maintenance of health and causation of disease and to use that knowledge to improve the ability to prevent and treat disease. The Consortium’s efforts are focused on generating a shared comprehensive data resource that will enable investigators to characterise the relationship between the composition of the human microbiome and human health and disease. The European Commission contributes to IHEC objectives via the MetaHit project.
The International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) was set up following an international workshop co-organised by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Genome Canada, the European Commission, the Wellcome Trust, the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute in Toronto on cancer genomics. The International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) was set up to coordinate a large number of research projects that have the common aim of elucidating the genomic changes present in many forms of cancers that contribute to the burden of disease in people throughout the world.
The primary goals of the ICGC are to generate comprehensive catalogues of genomic abnormalities (somatic mutations, abnormal expression of genes, epigenetic modifications) in tumors from 50 different cancer types and/or subtypes which are of clinical and societal importance across the globe and make the data available to the entire research community as rapidly as possible, and with minimal restrictions, to accelerate research into the causes and control of cancer. The ICGC will facilitate communication among the members and provide a forum for coordination with the objective of maximising efficiency among the scientists working to understand, treat, and prevent these diseases.
The European Commission is funding two projects in the framework of ICGC. The projects BASIS and CAGEKID concentrate their sequencing efforts on respectively breast and kidney cancers.
Just as the Human Genome Project provided a "normal" reference sequence for studying human disease, the International Human Epigenome Consortium (IHEC) will provide 1000 high-resolution reference epigenome maps to the research community. IHEC will coordinate epigenome mapping and characterisation worldwide in order to avoid redundant research efforts, implement high data quality standards, coordinate data storage management and analysis, and provide free access to the epigenomes produced.
The deciphering of the human genome sequence has helped our understanding of biological processes in health and diseases. However, the way in which the genomic information is organised within the cell, through epigenetic processes, is known to play a major role in regulating gene expression and in controlling specific cellular functions. Epigenetic processes go beyond DNA-stored information and are essential for packaging and interpreting the genome, are fundamental to normal development and cell differentiation, and are increasingly recognised as being involved in human disease. Recent technological improvements allow high throughput mapping of epigenome in a very reproducible and standardized way. It is now possible to map the entire epigenome of a human cell.
The European Commission participate in IHEC via the project BLUEPRINT
Maximising scarce resources and coordinating research efforts are key elements for success in rare diseases research. Worldwide sharing of information, data and samples to boost research is currently hampered by the absence of an exhaustive rare disease classification, standard terms of reference and common ontologies, as well as harmonised regulatory requirements.
The International Rare Diseases Research Consortium (IRDiRC) was launched in April 2011 to foster international collaboration in rare diseases research. IRDiRC will team up researchers and organisations investing in rare diseases research in order to achieve two main objectives, namely to deliver 200 new therapies for rare diseases and means to diagnose most rare diseases by the year 2020.
The European Commission is currently investing more than € 430 million in collaborative research projects contributing to the objectives of IRDiRC.