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Coordination of European funding for infectious diseases research

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A united front against infectious diseases

Infectious diseases are responsible for thousands of deaths every year in Europe alone. Concerted global research efforts are required to address the associated challenges.

Fundamental Research
Health

Over the past ten years, new and re-emerging infectious diseases are a major health threat. Mass migration, global travellers and antibiotic misuse have exacerbated the situation and necessitate the development of novel diagnostics and methodologies for investigating and tackling infectious diseases. Global efforts in basic and applied research are required to address these challenges through international innovative and interdisciplinary approaches that stem from multi-disciplinary collaborations. The EU-funded INFECT-ERA (Coordination of European funding for infectious diseases research) project brought together 14 funding agencies from 11 countries to coordinate and align national activities to further understand all basic aspects of human infection biology. INFECT-ERA launched four calls for financing with over 30 million euros and 34 research projects involving 163 research groups. The projects addressed various aspects of microbial ecology and mechanisms of infection through metagenomics and systems biology approaches. In addition, awardees studied the pathogen host cross-talk as well as the mechanism of co-infection by two pathogens such as in the case of HIV and hepatitis C. Other projects concentrated on the identification of biomarkers, the development of diagnostic tools and the treatment or prevention of diseases via microbiota manipulation. Additional targets and therapeutic options were discovered for high-risk pathogens such as chlamydia and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The project disseminated the results of the funded projects on its website, thereby raising awareness on the issue of infectious diseases and the importance of global concerted efforts. Further activities included the organisation of workshops on career development, protection of intellectual properties and the creation of start-ups. To support cooperation between researchers, a database was established with information from over 500 researchers around the world. A similar tool was implemented to index the research infrastructures and enable exchange of biological materials. Finally, INFECT-ERA produced a research roadmap in the infectious disease field through a strategic research and innovation agenda.

Keywords

Infectious diseases, INFECT-ERA, funding agencies, database, roadmap

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