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Greater global collaboration needed on Neglected Infectious Diseases

'A lot has been done, but there is a lot to be done,' said Francisca van Cauwenberghe of the European Commission's DG Research, summing up during the closing session of the International conference on neglected infectious diseases (NIDs) on 9 November in Brussels.

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Policy making and guidelines

'A lot has been done, but there is a lot to be done,' said Francisca van Cauwenberghe of the European Commission's DG Research, summing up during the closing session of the International conference on neglected infectious diseases (NIDs) on 9 November in Brussels.

At the top of the 'to be done' list is ensuring there is a global, coordinated approach to tackling these diseases. This means bringing together stakeholders from around the world, including researchers, patient groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), doctors and nurses, to draw up common research goals. There were also calls for greater recognition of the high level research into NIDs going on in some of the more advanced developing countries.

A common problem in the field is the duplication of research. There was widespread support among the conference participants for the establishment of a database where researchers from around the world could enter information on their latest projects and plans. A representative of the US National Institute of Health noted that his organisation was in the process of developing a database summarising all of their work on all infectious diseases, and they were keen to collaborate with others on this.

Interaction between people working on different diseases is also important, as there are many people who are infected with more than one NID. There were also calls for greater links between those carrying out research into the diseases and those researching health systems.

Closing the conference, EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik underlined the importance of research into neglected infectious diseases. 'Neglected diseases mean neglected victims, and there are millions of them,' he commented.

The importance of getting research results to decision makers was also emphasised by the participants, a point underlined by Mr Potocnik. 'Research is important but so is ensuring that these are delivered to the right people at the right time,' he noted.

In his speech, the Commissioner encouraged researchers to use Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) imaginatively, noting that research into NIDs could be funded under a number of budget lines, including the European Research Council (ERC).

Greater collaboration between research funding bodies was also high on the list of participants' priorities. Here again Mr Potocnik noted that the Framework Programmes had mechanisms to encourage this, such as the ERA-NET Plus scheme which will bring together funding agencies to coordinate their work and organise joint calls.

'We are here because we need to make a real difference,' concluded the Commissioner. 'It's very important that we together make a success of what was discussed today. I'm definitely ready for that.'

During the conference it was announced that two Health calls are foreseen in spring and summer 2007, dealing specifically with infectious diseases. They will focus on the following objectives:
- development of new diagnostic and therapeutic tools to confront infectious agents of the Trypanosomatidae family;
- develop a safe and efficient vaccine against different leishmania species (Visceral Leishmaniasis);
- measures to create the next generation of researchers for HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and neglected infectious diseases;
- collect, isolate and investigate potential drug leads from terrestrial and marine biodiversity sources.