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News Alert

EU research funding to fight diabetes

Brussels, 9 February 2012

Four first-class research projects kicked off today to defuse the "ticking time bomb" of diabetes and obesity. A total of €16 million is being invested in the four projects, EPI-MIGRANT, MEDIGENE, RODAM and GIFTS, which bring together 50 leading European and international research organisations. €12 million will come from the EU's 7th Research Framework Programme.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "Diabetes is set to rise sharply, with devastating consequences for our health and Europe's healthcare systems. To break this trend, we need to invest in research to better understand, prevent and treat this debilitating disease. These research projects will lead the way".

Each project investigates how genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors of different segments of the world population jointly influence the emergence and gravity of the disease. One of the requirements for EU support was that the four projects work in collaboration – in a cluster - and share their data and results. This will allow the researchers to go faster and further in the discovery of new ways to curb the epidemic growth of diabetes and obesity. It also reflects the Commission's continued efforts to increase the cost-efficiency of EU research spending, generating more benefit from every euro spent.

The launch of the new project cluster is an important element of the international conference "Diabesity – A World-Wide Challenge" which takes place in Brussels today and tomorrow. Organised by the European Commission, this 2-day event brings together some 200 leading scientists, funding agencies, policy-makers and other key players from across the globe. It will present the four cluster projects, determine the state of play of diabetes and obesity research in specific populations world-wide, and explore opportunities for greater international cooperation and new research partnerships.

Background

The new project cluster is part of the EU's current portfolio of more than 100 FP7 ongoing research projects on diabetes and obesity, representing EU funding worth more than €270million.

Diabetes is nothing short of an epidemic. In the EU, 32 million people suffer from the disease, with about a further 6 million unaware that they are living with it. This figure is set to rise by 25 per cent to about 40 million by 2030. World-wide, around 350 million people have diabetes according to the World Health Organisation, and more than 900 million are expected to be diagnosed with, or as having high risk of developing, type 2 diabetes within the next two decades.

In Europe, type 2 diabetes is likely to reduce life expectancy by up to 10 years. The disease contributes to coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and end-stage renal disease, making it the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. It is even worse for type 1 suffers whose life-span can be cut by over 20 years.

The costs linked to diabetes are spiralling upwards and are estimated to account for 8 to up to 18 per cent of total healthcare costs in European countries. They include the costs for treatment when diabetes is diagnosed, but more importantly also those caused by side-effects and complications such as blindness, limb amputation, or kidney and heart diseases. At present, most of the resources are dedicated to diabetes treatment and care. Yet, further investment in diabetes research and prevention is needed if we are to drive down the economic burden associated with diabetes in the long term.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 is not linked to obesity and it occurs when the body fails to produce insulin, requiring regular insulin injections to regulate blood sugar. Type 2 is a common metabolic disorder, often linked to an unhealthy life style, which occurs when the body's insulin is not used or produced effectively. Once called adult-onset diabetes, type 2 is now a serious health condition for young adults and children.

Obesity is reckoned to be a risk factor and one of the complications of type 2 diabetes. But people with normal weight and healthy lifestyles can also have the disease. A host of other factors seem to play a role – including genetics, environment, ethnicity and lifestyle – but we do not know enough about their respective weight and how they interact with each other in causing the disease.

More information

Contacts

Michael Jennings  (+32 2 296 33 88)
Monika Wcislo  (+32 2 298 65 95)