Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Joint call for proposals for RTD activities on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies

The European Commission has published a joint call for proposals for RTD activities on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) under the Community's specific RTD programmes in the fields of Agriculture and Fisheries (FAIR), Biotechnology (BIOTECH), and Biomedicine and Health (BIOMED).

The activities covered by this call for proposals relate to the following areas of the above-mentioned programmes (as described in their respective work programmes):

. Area 3 "Generic Science and Advanced Technologies for Nutritious Foods";
. Sub-area 4.4.2 "Animal Health";
. Sub-area 5.3.2 "Health of aquacultured species":
. Area 6 "Objectives addressed by concertation";

. Area 4 "Cell communication in neuroscience;

. Area 3 "Brain research";
. Area 4 "Research on diseases with major socio-economic impact - from basic research into clinical practice".

Those eligible to participate in this call are invited to submit proposals for RTD actions as indicated below:

- FAIR: RTD actions, either in the form of shared-cost actions (RTD projects, thematic networks, demonstration projects), or concerted actions, within the themes of the call;

- BIOTECH: RTD actions in the form of shared-cost actions (RTD projects, integrated projects and demonstration projects) within the themes of the call;

- BIOMED: RTD actions, either in the form of shared-cost actions (RTD projects, demonstration projects), concerted actions and/or specific measures within the themes of the call.

The research themes covered by the call are:

- 1. Clinical, epidemiological and social research on human SE's (BIOMED):
. 1.1 Compare agent strains recovered from vCJD patients with BSE and "normal" CJD, GSSS and FFI strains;
. 1.2 The incidence (including re-evaluation of previously diagnosed CJD cases), geographical distribution and role of specific risk factors (genotype, diet exposure, environment);
. 1.3 The process of identification of suspected cases and the sensitivity of the surveillance system;
. 1.4 The research on risk perception of the population in relation to prion diseases;

- 2. The infectious agent and its mechanisms of transmission:
. 2.1 The characterization of the agent (BIOTECH and FAIR);
. 2.2 The mechanisms of propagation, transport and pathogenesis (special attention will be given to the possibility of oral transmission) including elucidation of possible common links with other neurodegenerative diseases (BIOTECH, BIOMED and FAIR);
. 2.3 Characterization of the different strains, compare scrapie strains with BSE (BIOMED and BIOTECH);
. 2.4 The structure of both PrPc and PrPsc, the normal function of PrPc and the mechanisms of conversion of PrPc into PrPsc in vitro (BIOMED and BIOTECH);
. 2.5 The basis of species barrier limiting inter- and intra-species transmission (BIOMED and BIOTECH);
. 2.6 The susceptibility factors for the development of animal and human prion diseases (BIOMED);

- 3. Diagnosis of SE's:
. 3.1 Further development of cell cultures, and banks for tissues and cells (BIOTECH);
. 3.2 Development of rapid and sensitive early diagnostic tests including surrogate markers, specially in living animals and humans (FAIR, BIOMED and BIOTECH);
. 3.3 Development of sensitive assay in transgenic mice (BIOTECH and FAIR);

- 4. Risk assessment of SE's:
. 4.1 An evaluation of SE's transmission modalities (including oral transmission) from cattle to man and other food animals, environmental vectors (BIOMED and FAIR);
. 4.2 Extended surveillance programme on BSE and related diseases (FAIR)
. 4.3 Determination of the infectivity titres in cattle tissues and cattle derived products entering the human food chain or used in pharmaceutical and cosmetics products (FAIR and BIOTECH)
. 4.4 The potential exposure of the human population (BIOMED);
. 4.5 Determination of oral feeding and intracerebral dose responses to BSE agent and whether multiple doses is cumulative (FAIR);
. 4.6 Investigation of possible biological mechanisms of maternal transmission of BSE (FAIR);

- 5. Treatment and prevention of SE's:
. 5.1 Assessment and development of inactivation procedures currently used in industry (food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics) (FAIR and BIOTECH);
5.2 Development of therapeutic approaches (BIOMED and BIOTECH);
5.3 Generation of cattle and sheep devoid of PrP (FAIR);

- 6. Coordination of research activities between the Member States:
. 6.1 Standardization of case definitions for collection of data, of data analysis and of dissemination of information in order to ensure proper surveillance (BIOMED and FAIR);
. 6.2 Harmonized procedures for early detection and diagnosis of the disease(s) (BIOMED and FAIR);
. 6.3 Continuous updating and dissemination of scientific knowledge in this field (BIOMED and FAIR);
. 6.4 Fluent and rapid dissemination of these data (BIOMED and FAIR);
. 6.5 Activation of an early warning system in case of crucial developments (BIOMED and FAIR);
. 6.6 Exchange and mobility activities including training of research staff (BIOMED and FAIR);
. 6.7 A continuous inventory of the progress of national research programmes (BIOMED and FAIR);
. 6.8 Harmonization and control of diagnostic methods for human and animal SE's (BIOMED and FAIR).

In order to facilitate participation of organizations from the Central and Eastern European Countries, and from the European Countries of the former Soviet Union, Community financial support can be made available. Details of third country participation possibilities are contained in the programme information packages.

Special provisions relating to each of the specific programmes participating in this call are detailed in the original call document. Special conditions relating to all three programmes are as follows:

- The proposers must clearly indicate the origins of the TSE-infected samples and the uses they wish to make of such samples;
- Proposals must comply with all existing ethical and safety provisions applicable in the country in which the research is carried out and with the ethical guarantees included in the Fourth Framework Programme;
- With regard to their biomedical ethical content, proposals must comply with the "Recommendations guiding physicians in biomedical research involving human subjects" adopted by the 18th World Assembly in Helsinki and last amended in Somerwest in 1996.

The work programme, the information package concerning the procedures to be followed for the submission of proposals and a copy of the model contract to be drawn up in respect of selected proposals are available on request from the Commission's services. The description of work undertaken in previous and related programmes will also be provided upon request.

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