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ERA-NET for establishing synergies between the Joint Programming on Neurodegenerative Diseases Research and Horizon 2020

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - JPco-fuND (ERA-NET for establishing synergies between the Joint Programming on Neurodegenerative Diseases Research and Horizon 2020)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2015-12-31

Over 12 million people in Europe suffer from neurodegenerative diseases (ND), yet treatments that prevent or stop the progression of neurodegeneration are still lacking. Tackling this grand challenge requires enhanced coordination of national efforts to accelerate discovery. Such synergies have been created among 28 countries in the pilot EU JPI on Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND). JPND has a long standing experience in collaborative action with €75 million of additional national funds being successfully mobilized between 2011 and 2014 to support transnational research programs.
The JPND Research Strategy is now ripe for further enhancement in tight coordination with the EC through an ERA-Net Cofund instrument JPco-fuND with an unprecedented commitment of €30 million of national funds associated to a highly incentivizing EC top-up fund. Among the most burning questions, three priority topics have emerged through a consultative process between researchers and JPND members in order to unlock several major issues within ND research: the identification of genetic, epigenetic and environmental risk and protective factors, the development and maintenance of longitudinal cohorts, the creation of advanced experimental models. These are key questions of equal priority to increase understanding of ND mechanisms that will be addressed through a common joint transnational call allowing a significant acceleration of the execution of the JPND research strategy.
Moreover, to expand the impact of JPco-fuND, JPND will continue to implement other actions without EU co-funding such as aligning national research strategies, making databases more accessible and interoperable, developing enabling capacities such as supportive infrastructure and platforms, capacity building, education and training. These actions are required in parallel to achieve the highest impact for the patients, their carers and for society as whole and address this grand challenge in the coming years.
In the frame of WP1 a management and coordination framework was implemented for the project, in order to continuously orientate all activities towards the objectives, and to ensure their fulfilment within time plan and budget.
The aim of WP2 was to prepare and launch the JPco-fuND/co-funded call on:
- Identification of genetic, epigenetic and environmental risk and protective factors for neurodegenerative disease
- Longitudinal cohorts in neurodegenerative disease research
- Advanced experimental models of neurodegenerative disease
Within this work package, the call text and all relevant call documents were delivered, and an electronic submission tool was implemented for the pre- and full proposal stage. Consultation was provided to the potential applicants at national and international level.
WP3 aimed at selecting the best proposals for funding that were submitted in response to the JPco-fuND call. The proposal evaluation and selection process was carried out by a two-step procedure according and was based on international scientific peer review. Twenty-one project proposals were recommended for funding by the Peer Review Panel based on scientific excellence and by the Call Steering Committee based on budget availability. The list of projects is available on the JPND website. This initiative saw more the 30 million euros been made available from the JPND member countries and the European Commission.
WP4 will start early 2016 and aims to design and implement a system for common reporting and monitoring of the projects financed by the JPco-fuND call.
The promotion and dissemination of the call was ensured through WP5, using the JPND website, news and press releases, social media and various publications.
Finally, WP6 “additional activities” aims at implementing the JPND Strategic Research Agenda through various activities such as the JPND “Action Groups” (http://www.neurodegenerationresearch.eu/initiatives/implementation-plan/). One type of JPND activities are the annual joint transnational JPND calls. Following the principles of variable geometry and virtual common pots, JPND member countries will continue committing national budgets to jointly fund excellent research projects in research fields outlined by the Strategic Research Agenda.
Impact on the productivity of Neurodegenerative Disease Research:
1. a more rational alignment of the research effort on ND through sustaining a common vision on the research priorities at European level and its implementation via existing and new instruments and actions.
2. the implementation of the Strategic Research Agenda should also improve the integration of disciplines and fields of research by developing linkages between basic, clinical and public health and social research.
3. the pooling and increased coordination of national resources and efforts to reach the critical mass necessary to better understand, detect, prevent and combat basic mechanisms that trigger ND and to improve care services for people and carers living with these diseases.
Impact on the different stakeholders involved in ND research:
JPND has identified a number of priority stakeholders which include researchers/clinicians, policy makers and programme managers, patients and their family, and the general public.
Impact on the European Research Area (ERA):
The creation of an ERA-NET JPco-fuND will be an efficient tool for creating an important piece of the ERA, with JPND aiming to set up a mini-ERA in the critical domain of ND research that will address the following weaknesses: insufficient funding, lack of an environment to stimulate research and exploit results, and the fragmented nature of activities and the dispersal of resources.
Impact on health from the results of the JPco-fuND call:
All three call topics under the JPco-fuND ERA-NET call were identified as immediate priority areas to implement the JPND SRA, and will have medium and long term impacts on health with the prospect of:
- advancing the identification of new targets to which second generation pharmacological therapies can be directed and will ultimately help to advance preventive strategies.
- Well-designed pan-European cohort studies with harmonized measures and approaches will increase the power and likelihood of being able to answer the ‘big research questions’ and will offer the prospect of providing platforms for prevention and intervention studies in the medium and longer term. .
- Supporting the creation of novel and more predictive experimental models will respond to the needs for efficient drug discovery.

It is noteworthy that each of the above areas was identified as highly important during the JPND stakeholder workshop held with industry during 2011, the outputs of which were channeled into the JPND SRA. The research outputs from each topic are therefore likely to generate strong interest from across relevant industry areas from Pharmaceutical to Diagnostics to Information Technologies.
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