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Joint European and South African Research Network in Anxiety Disorders

Final Report Summary - EUSARNAD (Joint European and South African Research Network in Anxiety Disorders)

Anxiety disorders are common, distressing and impairing conditions - but many people remain unrecognized and even in those who are diagnosed the standard of clinical care received is usually less than optimal. Advances in genetics, neuroscience, pharmacology and psychology research have all deepened our understanding of the causes and treatment of anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorders, however on an individual basis it is difficult to predict who will become troubled by symptoms, and it is hard to make personalised treatment decisions designed to improve clinical outcomes.

The European and South African Research Network in Anxiety Disorders (‘EUSARNAD’) programme aimed to establish an international collaborative network for refining research methodologies and developing and evaluating innovative treatments for patients with anxiety disorders. EUSARNAD thereby contributed to initiatives both to enhance understanding of the causes of anxiety disorders and to target the delivery of improved treatments.

During the four-year programme, individual exchange researchers were affiliated to research active teams in the participating institutions, and gained access to knowledge and expertise at each participating centre. EUSARNAD included 14 centres of excellence for research into anxiety disorders and builds on the Anxiety Disorders Research Network (ADRN), itself supported by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Network Initiative (Table 1).

EUSARNAD strengthens and extends current collaborative work with the University of Cape Town. South African early stage researchers gained experience of certain research methodologies in European centres, and European early stage researchers developed a greater understanding of the origin of anxiety disorders and problems in their management in an emerging country. The EUSARNAD thereby enhanced the relevance of translational research in developed and developing societies.

EUSARNAD was funded by the European Commission, through the Marie Curie Actions (People) International Research Staff Exchange Scheme awarded in August 2011 (project number PIRSES-GA-2010-269213). The EU contribution was determined by the number of eligible person months; and those funds supported travel and subsistence costs, networking activities, management costs and overheads related to implementing the exchange. (Table 2 lists the 11 Work Packages.)

In the 48 months of the programme a total of 27 secondments took place between European centres and University of Cape Town. These exchanges have so far resulted in 24 scientific publications/ manuscripts, including joint publications between the researchers, 15 abstracts of scientific posters, and in several collaborations between early stage researchers. Programme exchangees also benefited from training in the host institutions and through conferences they attended, including the British Association for Psychopharmacology Conference (BAP, July 2012), ECNP Congress in Vienna (October, 2012), International Anxiety Disorder Symposium (IADS) conference in Cape Town (February, 2013), BAP Conference (July 2013), Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum (CINP) Conference in Cape Town (March 2015), and British Association for Psychopharmacology (BAP) Masterclass in Psychopharmacology in London (April 2015).

During the IADS conference the first EUSARNAD Colloquium was held, where researchers who had participated or were currently participating in the programme had a chance share their experience and provide feedback about the project. The EUSARNAD Colloquium at the IADS was chaired by and independent expert in anxiety disorders Professor Christer Allgulander of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm and was judged to be a great success by the attending exchangees and the participating centre leads – Professors Baldwin (Southampton), Bandelow (Goettingen), Fineberg (Hertfordshire) and Stein (Cape Town). The second EUSARNAD Colloquium took place on March 9th 2015 in Cape Town during the CINP conference. Nine EUSARNAD early stage researchers delivered a presentation on their achievements following secondments. The meeting was chaired by Prof David Baldwin and co-chaired by Prof Dan Stein.