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Health, including poverty-related diseases

Understanding differences in drug response between individuals and age groups

Background description

The knowledge generated by the sequencing of the human genome will enable the development of more effective strategies for preventing, diagnosing and treating human diseases. Children will also be prime beneficiaries. Application of advances in genomics, biotechnology and therapeutics will lead to more efficacious and safer medicines for both adults and children.


GENDEP is an EU-funded project, involving 18 partners from ten different EU countries and Croatia. It is aimed at linking patients’ genetic information to antidepressant treatment. Project partners say that a substantial minority of patients show an unsatisfactory response to drug treatment and cessation of medication because of adverse effects is common. The field of pharmacogenetics now offers considerable potential to allow better targeted and more rational prescribing. Meanwhile, the EU-funded TEDDY project, involving 17 partners from nine different EU countries, Romania and Israel, is creating a multidisciplinary Network of Excellence to study drugs currently used in paediatrics. Pertinent issues include drugs in research and development, prescriptions, clinical trials, adverse effects and ethical aspects. Ultimately, partners expect to be in a position to promote the more appropriate use of existing drugs as well as the discovery of new drugs.

Full project title: Genome-based therapeutic drugs for depression
Project acronym: GENDEP
EU funding: €7.49 million
Project launch: January 2004
Duration: 36 months
Project coordinator: Professor Peter McGuffin, Kings College London,
Full project title: Task Force in Europe for Drug Development for the Young
Project acronym: TEDDY
EU funding: €4.4 million
Project launch: June 2005
Duration: 60 months
Project coordinator: Professor Adriana Ceci, Consorzio per Valutazioni Biologiche e Farmacologiche
European Commission contact person (for both projects): Fergal Donnelly

Science in society significance

One in five people suffer from an episode of depression severe enough to warrant drug treatment at some point in their lives. But, today, choosing one antidepressant over another is largely a matter of educated guessing. A similar situation applies when it comes to prescribing drugs for children, who can suffer disproportionately from adverse effects and whose therapeutic responses can vary widely. GENDEP and TEDDY are two projects with clear social orientations. GENDEP has a specific programme of work to address ethical, social, and legal issues, seeking the views of service users regarding consent in human drug studies and the potential impact of new treatments on patients and consumers. A key feature of the project is the active research involvement of stakeholders, including psychiatric service users, practising clinicians and industrial partners.

Expected results/outcomes

GENDEP objectives:

  • Development of genetic biomarkers for use by medical services for diagnosis and predicting response to antidepressants, including adverse effect profile;
  • Guidance on ethical, legal, and social issues raised by human pharmacogenomics studies in depression, including a cost-benefit analysis.

TEDDY objectives:

  • Specific recommendations on the therapeutic use of drugs in children;
  • Increased awareness of children’s issues on the part of policy-makers, the medical community and the public at large.