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Life Sciences and Technologies under the Fourth Framework Programme

The Commission has released short descriptions of each of the specific programmes within the Fourth Framework Programme (10 March 1994). These include an overview of RTD to be undertaken during 1994-1998 in life sciences and technologies:

These sciences form one of the key ec...
The Commission has released short descriptions of each of the specific programmes within the Fourth Framework Programme (10 March 1994). These include an overview of RTD to be undertaken during 1994-1998 in life sciences and technologies:

These sciences form one of the key economic areas of the future. However, this is also an area in which Europe has had difficulty in implementing its know-how (in comparison with Japan and the US), particularly due to a lack of concentration of effort, the high cost of investment, the existence of complex regulations and divided public opinion:

1) Biotechnology: This science will open up wide new markets in sectors including agriculture, agro-food, pharmacology, chemistry and industrial processes. In order to gain the expected benefits in development and growth, employment and competitivity, the biotechnology programme will focus on four priority areas:

- "The cellular factory", where the objective is to move from bioscience (biochemistry, genetics, bioinformatics) to bioprocesses (cultures, fermentation, etc.);

- "Genome analysis", in order to implement methodologies for the sequencing of genomes and the identification of the biological function of genes;

- "Plant and animal biotechnology", for the development of molecular engineering in plants, protein engineering, mapping of animal genomes;

- "Cellular communication and neurosciences", with the aim of stimulating multidisciplinary research into the physiology and communication of nerve cells for the advancement of neurosciences.

In relation to these objectives, concertation networks will focus the efforts of the scientific community on the themes of: Immunology and vaccinology; structural biology; prenormative research; biodiversity and social acceptability; infrastructures (bioinformatics, etc.). The programme will also encourage demonstration activities, the examination of legal, social and ethical aspects, studies of public perceptions and the evaluation of the indirect socio-economic effects of research.

2) Biomedicine and Health: The intellectual and financial effort involved throughout Europe, as well as the transnational nature of the problems posed, justify RTD action in this field. The EU's activity will focus research on priority themes and on long-term projects and will in this way aim to limit the costs of health systems. The following priorities have been established:

- "Research into major illnesses", including cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases;

- "Pharmacological research", to evaluate the new generations of medicines;

- "Brain research", to improve understanding of the treatment of diseases of the central nervous system (pain mechanisms, drug addiction, brain damage, cognitive science);

- "Research on the human genome", in order to participate in the mapping and analysis of the human genome, the identification of genetic functions, diagnose genetic illnesses and develop genetic methods of therapy (on somatic cells).

Studies will also be undertaken in order to take into consideration European ethical opinions. Research which permits the replacement of animal experiments by in-vitro or other tests will be encouraged.

3) Agriculture and Fisheries (including agro-industry, food technologies, sylviculture, aquaculture and rural development): The aim of this programme is to optimize the production and utilization of biological materials in Europe. RTD will support the policies of the European Union in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, rural and coastal development. Research activities will focus on the following areas:

- "Agriculture", for the development and diversification of products, the industrial use of cultures, etc.;

- "Food technologies", to improve the quality and safety of food products, to support research into the production and conversion of biomass, etc.;

- "Sylviculture", for the long-term development of forestation;

- "Rural development", RTD in plant and animal health, socio-economic aspects of rural development, etc.

Horizontal activities (demonstrations, studies of legal, ethical and social aspects) will also be undertaken, as well as actions encouraging the participation of SMEs.

Source: Commission, Service du Porte-Parole

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