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Brussels, November 15, 2000

A new initiative on
“Genome Research for Human Health”

Keywords: genetics, genome, health

The Commission is launching today an initiative to reinforce European activities in genome research related to human health. Genome research is strategically important for Europe as it is expected to unlock considerable economic, medical and social benefits. This has recently been highlighted by the availability of the draft of the human genome sequence. To realise these important goals, major efforts in the rapidly-developing field of post-sequence genome research are needed. On 8 November, the Commission services and Member States’ experts agreed to create a “Forum of Genome Research Managers” to develop synergies between the Community programme and national activities, and to help network national programmes.

The development of new genome-based technologies, as well as new bioinformatics tools, is of primary importance for competitive genome research and for the development of new diagnostics and new therapeutic approaches. It is also important to create and maintain in Europe infrastructures to support genome research (for example, databases and animal model resources). The Commission initiative on “Genome Research for Human Health” has two main features:

Other features of the initiative include a reinforcement of research into the ethical implications and societal impact of genome information. It is expected that over EUR 100 million in total will be available in 2001 for this initiative.

The European Commission has been actively involved in supporting genome research for over a decade. A strong commitment, reflected in achievements such as the Yeast, Bacillus subtilis and Arabidopsis genomes, and overall financial contribution of some EUR 300 million since 1989 to this area has triggered an extraordinary shift in the strategy of many European laboratories, which until then had tended to work in isolation at national level.

“Integrated Projects”
Integrated projects are designed to stimulate progress in functional genomics relating to human health, by creating projects with critical mass, high impact and high visibility. Each project should comprise a minimum of 150 researcher-years. It will have three components – research, networking, and training and mobility – within an integrated management structure. The research component is expected to achieve groundbreaking advances on methods and technologies in functional genomics. The networking component will allow the project to act as a federating force in the field, creating synergy with and between national research efforts. The training and mobility component should provide opportunities to train young researchers at Europe’s top research centres in the field.

Support for research infrastructures
For Europe to reach its full potential in genome research, it is essential that researchers have access to world-class research infrastructures in the field. Up to now, the Quality of Life Programme has been able to provide a limited support to such infrastructures, as the limited budget to support infrastructures (EUR 70 million, just 2.9% of the programme budget) had to be spread over all fields of life sciences.

The Quality of Life Programme has now strengthened the commitment to infrastructures for the year 2001 by transferring some EUR 25 million from the other areas of the Programme. This EUR 25 million has been earmarked to provide support for infrastructures in the field of genomics for human health, in particular for genomic and proteomic databases and for repositories of suitable animal models.

Schedule
Integrated projects will be selected by a novel procedure that involves a preliminary call for expressions of interest for topics that may be suitable for such support (deadline 9 February 2001). From these, a limited number of topics of strategic importance will be selected and the subject of a dedicated call for proposals from which the integrated projects will be selected. This dedicated call will be published in early summer 2001 (deadline 18 October 2001). The cut-off date for submission of proposals for infrastructures is 9 February 2001.

Other related activities
On 8 November 2000 the Commission services have held a meeting to inform genome research managers from Member States and countries associated with the Fifth Framework programme about this initiative. As a result of this meeting it was agreed to create a “Forum of Genome Research Managers” to develop synergies between the Community programme and national activities, and to help network national programmes in the field. This forum could be a step towards a European Genome Research Area.

For additional information:

Full details are available on the Quality of Life web site (cordis.europa.eu/life)

Manuel Hallen, Quality of Life programme, Research DG  
Tel : +32.2.295.74.07, E-mail : manuel.hallen@ec.europa.eu

Michel Claessens, Communication Unit, Research DG
Tel : +32-2-295.99.71, E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu

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PRESS RELEASES | 15.11.2000