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NECTAR – 25 YEARS IN PERSPECTIVE
Now when Nectar holds its 25th meeting in Lund it is timely to look back and remember how it all started.

It was the launch of the 1st EU-sponsored research program in 1990, BIOMED 1, that opened up for European funding of joint initiatives in the biomedical field. In this call researchers across the union could request money for interactions and exchange, not for actual research. A group of us, including me, Steve Dunnett, Olle Lindvall, Patrik Brundin, Wolfgang Oertel, Andreas Kupsch and Gilles Defer, met in 1990 in Munich to plan for an application to this call.

9 December 2015 - 11 December 2015
Sweden

It received very positive reviews and was funded for four years. In this grant proposal we included in the budget the costs for a joint network meeting to be held annually at different sites in Europe. Although Marc Peschanski did not attend the planning meeting in Munich he volunteered to host the first annual meeting, which was held in Le Vesinet outside Paris on 10-12 May, 1991. It was at this meeting Steve proposed to give our network a name and came up with the acronym NECTAR for Network for European Cell Therapy And Repair, and Niall Quinn in London took on the job to submit a second EU application coined Nest-HD, which was focused on cell based therapy for Huntington´s disease.

The two programs helped to finance the first six NECTAR meetings hosted by Vincenzo Silani in Milano in 1992, by Jens Zimmer at Sandbjerg Manor in Denmark, also in 1992, by Marc Livivier in Brussels in 1993, by Gerard Boer in Amsterdam in 1994, and by Harry Steinbusch in Maastricht in 1995. At that point it had become clear that the NECTAR meetings had become an essential and much valued part of the European brain repair effort, and although EU funding had expired everyone was keen to keep the meetings going. But the conditions were different: the local organizers had to volunteer to generate funds for the local expenses, and the participants had to cover their own travel costs.

During the early years NECTAR undertook two tasks that turned out to be very important. The first one was the development of ethical guidelines for the use of human fetal tissue for transplantation and therapy. Gerard Boer in Amsterdam took the lead in this work. Following discussions within NECTAR, and after external review and consultations, these guidelines were finally published in Journal of Neurology in 1994(1). The second task was the development of criteria for the clinical assessment of transplanted PD patients. Together with Bill Langston in San José, Håkan Widner took the lead in this work, resulting in the so-called CAPIT protocol which was published in Movement Disorders in 1992(2), followed a few years later by a modified version, called CAPSIT-PD(3).

These two NECTAR products have had considerable impact. The ethical guidelines have been important not only as a self-regulating document within the research community, but it has also inspired and influenced the discussions within political circles and legal bodies across Europe. Thanks to this initiative the use of fetal tissue in translational research became at an early stage well regulated in many European countries, giving Europe a clear advantage in this field of research. The CAPIT (and CAPSIT-PD) protocols have provided a joint basis for long-term assessment of PD patients, not only in transplantation trials but it has also been widely used for the assessment of PD patients undergoing other types of surgical interventions, such as deep-brain stimulation(4).

NECTAR has over the years been successful in adapting to the rapid developments that have taken place in the brain repair field, always with the focus on efforts aimed at the development of therapeutic interventions in patients with PD, HD and other neurodegenerative diseases. The NECTAR meetings have been, and continue to provide, a unique forum for interaction between clinicians and basic researchers in this dynamic field. Many successful collaborations grew out of discussions held at NECTAR meetings, and most importantly, perhaps, they helped to foster the uniquely friendly and collaborative spirit that is such an attractive feature of our field.

by Anders Bjorklund

Contact: Prof. Malin Parmar malin.parmar@med.lu.se

1 Boer GJ.Journal of Neurology 242:1-13 (1994)
2 Langston JW, Widner H, Goetz CG, Brooks D, Fahn S, Freeman T, Watts R. Mov Disord 7, 2-13 (1992)
3 Defer GL, Widner H, Marié RM, Rémy P, Levivier M. Mov Disord. 14(4):572-84 (1999)
4 A search on Google Scholar CAPIT protocol, CAPSIT protocol and CAPSIT-PD protocol give 223 hits

Keywords

Interactions, Exchanges, NECTAR, Network European Cell Therapy Repair Huntington neurodegenerative diseases clinicians Parkinson