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European Flag    Europa The European Commission Research Fifth Framework Programme
Improving the Quality of Life

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The key actions focus on clear, specific goals. In many areas of the life sciences, however, we still need to get to grips with the fundamental science.

Basic research, intended solely to enhance scientific knowledge, often leads to results that are later applicable to several different areas of more applied, goal-oriented research. When scientists work together in multidisciplinary teams on fundamental problems, time is saved and a richer pattern of knowledge emerges. Efficient interactions between research laboratories and industry will therefore be actively promoted. Project clusters will be encouraged to establish interaction between basic and applied research and to ensure fast and efficient transfer of knowledge. In addition, communication will be stimulated between academic researchers and industry, experienced scientists and 'young blood', and scientists and the wider public.

An easier life for the elderly
  • investigating new approaches that might delay disability
  • making the social and physical environment less challenging
  • designing suitably adapted products and services
  • supporting mental and physical well-being

social integration; age-related degeneration; rehabilitation and replacement therapies; intervention assessment

Research relating to the disabled

This activity will focus on the need to enhance the independence and quality of life of disabled people.

  • understanding the causes of impairment, disability and handicap
  • assessing the quality of life
  • technology for rehabilitation and assistance
  • delivery of health and social care

educational needs; medical treatment; ergonomics; modelling; health-care systems

Basic understanding of diseases

Within the generic activities envisaged, the programme highlights several specific challenges. The first focuses on chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and rare but significant ailments such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). Major research objectives for the next four years will be to improve diagnosis, treatment, prevention and surveillance.

  • encouraging a multinational approach to tackling disease
  • integrating basic and clinical research
  • applying new technology to the treatment and control of major diseases
  • increasing research into diseases that are prevalent in the developing world

molecular, genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors; disease aetiology; databases, registries, reagent and sample banks

All in the genes

Genetic research has developed rapidly over the last 10 years and is likely to accelerate throughout FP5. Research will aim to identify the physiological functions of genes and to improve our understanding and use of the information obtained as genes, chromosomes and eventually the entire genome are sequenced. Collaboration between different European countries will underpin the development of expression systems to study genes of industrial and agronomic interest, as well as the design of effective molecular and gene-based preventive strategies and new treatments for human and animal disease.

  • uncovering the meaning and significance of genome information
  • developing user-friendly information systems to allow better access to and interpretation of genomic data
  • developing new expression systems and model organisms
  • improving our knowledge and understanding of genetic diseases

comparative analysis; informatics; transgenic and hybrid organisms; genetic disease

Is it ethical?

The science behind developments such as cloning, gene manipulation and gene therapy is unusually complex and cannot be readily understood by the lay public, leading to fear and prejudice. It is vital for the acceptance of research programmes that the ethical, legal and social questions they raise are dealt with sensitively and in ways that address public concern. Such research is also important in terms of policy making and it is essential to analyse the ethical dimension of legal and regulatory measures at national and European levels.

  • identifying the ethical, legal and social questions raised by biomedical and biological research
  • understanding and addressing issues that concern the public
  • analysing the ethical dimension of legal and regulatory measures s

ethics in the life sciences; application of ethics to medical practice; ethical issues related to the environment


Neuroscience research will aim to provide a better understanding of the nervous system and of neurological and psychiatric disorders. A priority will be to develop new diagnostic tools, as well as preventive and therapeutic approaches. It will also underpin opportunities for education, and innovation in the healthcare and information industries.

  • understanding cell communication and the mechanisms of learning and memory
  • understanding behaviour and cognition n investigating how the brain develops and the mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction damage and repair
  • developing new diagnostic, preventive and treatment strategies for neurological and psychiatric diseases
  • developing new brain theories and models, including construction of databases

genetics; molecular and cellular biology; pharmacology; non-invasive techniques; modelling; cognitive; behavioural and clinical sciences

Health and society

Public health and health services research will improve the health of European citizens and the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of health promotion and health care. New technology and treatment systems will be important, as will topics such as improving safety at work and Europe-wide studies of variations in public health and socio-economic factors.

  • improving health promotion and health care
  • identifying factors that lead to inequalities in health
  • reducing work-related exposure to agents detrimental to health
  • reducing physical and mental stress in the workplace
  • fighting drug-related problems

epidemiology; health determinants; disease aetiology; socio-economic determinants of prevention, care and health services; drug addiction and misuse


Socio-economic research within the programme aims to help build strategies and models for job creation and sustainable development and to provide a sound scientific basis for public policies in areas as varied as the competitiveness of the bio-industries, the stimulation of public debate and the regulatory process.

  • evaluating developments in terms of public perception, education and opinion forming
  • analysing social and economic forces driving new opportunities in the bio-industries
  • analysing social and economic factors underlying the links between science and policy in the life sciences

technology evaluation and assessment; public perception; education; decision-making; regulation; socio-economic aspects; science and policy

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