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Road Map for Diabetes Research in Europe

Periodic Report Summary - DIAMAP (Road map for diabetes research in Europe)

Diabetes is a major health challenge of the 21st century, it has reached global epidemic proportions and prevalence is expected to continue to rise if nothing is done. There is no cure for diabetes; while new drugs and a holistic approach to treatment have improved prognosis and quality of life, morbidity and mortality from complications remain. The challenge will only be met through increased research. Europe is well placed to play a leading role in this effort in terms of expertise. However, success depends not only on increased funding but also on more rational use of funds and better coordination.

Major goals
The aim of DIAMAP was to chart the future of diabetes research in Europe for the benefit of the patient. A survey was undertaken of the European diabetes research landscape, along with a strategic road mapping exercise. A report comprising strategic maps and reports from seven sub-groups is intended to guide investment and to suggest means for improved coordination. Two databases provide insight into the current research landscape, with information on activity and funding.

All aspects of the field, from molecules, to whole animal studies, and clinical science and care were embraced where possible. A multi-disciplinary/multi-professional approach was taken. Individuals with diabetes were represented on the steering committee, alongside academia and industry. Demographic trends and lifestyle factors were considered as well as ageing of the population. Ethical issues as well as health economics and public health also feature across the maps. Information in the databases is based on questionnaires returned by investigators and major funding agencies across Europe.

Road maps and reports: The entry point to each road map track is based on major advances in that field. Tracks then progress along milestones to reach a common over-arching goal considered important for improved treatment or prevention of diabetes and its complications. The groups were invited to consider the feasibility of milestones, identify roadblocks preventing progress, as well as specific opportunities for European science, in academic or industrial settings. Tracks or milestones considered particularly opportune for investment are prioritised. The road maps:
1. Genetics/epidemiology;
2. Islets;
3. Pathophysiology/metabolism/integrated physiology;
4. Clinical science and care;
5. Microvascular complications;
6. Macrovascular complications,
are part of a whole, stressing the need for crosscutting, interdisciplinary research. Basic research is translated into clinical studies. Group 7 (Horizontal issues) suggests ways to address major obstacles to competitive research in Europe.

Creation of a European diabetes research collaboration would allow centralisation of information, increased involvement of patients and improved sharing of data and samples. DIAMAP further recommends cross-fertilisation between academia and the private sector, as well as bridging the gap between researchers, patients and healthcare providers. Coordination of this European diabetes research effort may best be achieved by a central virtual institute or academy.

Databases: The research database provides information on who is doing what type of diabetes research and where in Europe. The funding database and report provide a best estimate of total funding for diabetes research in Europe by public agencies and non-profit foundations.

Future perspectives
Aside from guiding choice of research areas for future funding and ensuring coordination of such research, in the longer term this project cannot succeed unless there is constant monitoring of progress. The databases must be maintained and constantly updated. It will thus be critical to sustain DIAMAP to capitalise fully on the initial investment in this endeavour.