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ERA NET NEURON in the area of brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NEURON Cofund (ERA NET NEURON in the area of brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2022-12-31

Brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system impose a heavy burden on more than 380 million patients in Europe alone, who suffer from extensive loss of quality of life during the course of disease. They also strongly impact the patients’ families, friends, and care-givers. Therapy and care management are still suboptimal and health care systems have to deal with ever-rising costs. The enormous number of affected patients, their care-givers, and the financial burden on the society underscore the huge impact of these diseases.
Research into brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system greatly benefits from an interdisciplinary approach. It is now imperative that questions of brain functioning and progress on preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic measures are addressed by combining methodologies, skills, and expertise from different disciplines.
Interdisciplinary collaboration is even more successful when it is not limited by national boarders, and the best international research partners cooperate.
The ERA-NET NEURON Cofund supported basic, clinical and translational research in the diverse fields of disease-related neuroscience. The ERA-NET comprised 25 funding organisations from 18 countries. 22 of them are EU member states, three of them are EU-associated countries, and Canada as global partner.
Due to the importance of research in the area of brain diseases, a variety of independent national and regional funding programmes exist in most countries. NEURON Cofund addressed the problems of fragmentation in the national efforts by co-ordinating national and regional programmes for disease-related neuroscience research. This included the participating funding organisations and associated partners across Europe, Israel, and Canada. The extension of the collaboration beyond the European Research Area into North America reflected the global dimension of brain research, and increased NEURON’s effectiveness. The ERA-NET served as a platform for funding agencies and ministries to develop joint activities and programmes to coordinate high quality research across national borders. One of the core activities were annually launched joint transnational calls for pro-posals for research consortia operating in the NEURON partner countries. The main objective of NEURON Cofund was to facilitate close and sustainable networking and alignment of national and regional research programmes in the areas of neuroscience, neurology, and psychiatry carried out in partner countries. Implementation of joint transnational research funding activities was the key instrument to achieve this goal.

The main objective of NEURON Cofund was divided into two types of activities.
Part A comprised activities related to the co-funded call (JTC2016, work packages, WP1-5).
Part B comprised work packages related to additional activities, WP6-8, including the non-co-funded calls JTC2017-2020.
It should be noted that NEURON is continued as ERA-NET NEURON Cofund2 from 2021 – 2025 and launched a cofunded call in 2021, and a voluntary call in 2022.
Part A: Activities related to the co-funded Joint Transnational Call (JTC2016) and the consortium management
Maintenance and upgrade of a work platform for funding agencies and ministries in Europe and outside European geographic boundaries. The management structures were tailored to collaborate efficiently with the partner research funding organizations. The LANCET Neurology published an editorial on NEURON in March 2016. A summary of the symposium ‘How to reinforce the interactions between scientists, clinicians and the society in the field of brain research?’ was published in the journal OPENSCIENCE EU in June 2016. Two Newsletters were published in March and September 2016.
Funding in the area of brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system combined budget contributions from the NEURON participating national funders and the European Commission (EC) through a co-funded transnational call for research proposals in 2016 on disorders caused by external insults to the nervous system. The 19 projects selected for funding comprise 92 research groups from 17 countries. The total project costs amount to 17.9 m€.

Part B comprised additional activities within NEURON Cofund
• Provision of a reliable funding opportunity for excellent transnational, multidisciplinary col-laborative research through annual JTCs on various topics and thus foster research into brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system.
• Contribution to the alignment on national and regional programmes by implementing the existing NEURON Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).
• Provision of support for early-career scientists and help them build an independent re-search career.
• Development of common policies to improve the impact of public research funding.
• Reach out and interaction with relevant societal groups and disseminate knowledge.
• Exploration of sustainability options for NEURON.
NEURON Cofund continues the successful work of the previous ERA-NET phases. The JTC2016 ‘External Insults to the Nervous System’ provided already a substantial contribution to the overall goals of Horizon 2020. The budget (~17.9 Mio €) for the successful consortia represents a manifold leverage of the applied EC investment.
NEURON did impact at several levels.
Specific Impacts by NEURON in the last decade:
Impact on European Research Area
• 26 funding organizations from 19 countries (EU, EU-associated, Canada) status quo 2016
• Multi-step widening scheme in the joint calls for ‘underrepresented’ countries (Latvia, Slo-vakia, Romania, Turkey)

Impact on research community
• Annual Joint Transnational Calls (JTC) for proposals: 15 JTC in biomedical research areas, since 2008, and 4 JTC in neuroethical research areas (ELSA).
• Grants:
203 transnational multidisciplinary research consortia funded
856 research groups (PIs) involved
179 million € spent
• Support measures for early-career scientists

Impact on health theme
• Translational projects, from preclinical research through clinical proof-of-concept studies to rehabilitation research
• Translational projects, from preclinical research through clinical proof-of-concept studies to rehabilitation research
• JTC 2013: 50% of the projects involved a clinical partner, 38% developed preventive ap-proaches,25 percent developed therapeutic strategies and 25 percent developed diagnosis strategies.
• JTC 2014: in 90% of projects at least one PI was a medical doctor, patients were involved in 40% of consortia, 10% of the projects submitted and international or European patent, 70% developed therapeutic approaches.
• JTC 2015: in 70% of projects at least one PI was a medical doctor, patients were involved in 40% of consortia, 50% of the projects submitted and international or European patent, 30% and 40% developed respectively diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
• JTC 2016: in 78% of projects at least one PI was a medical doctor, patients were involved in 16% of consortia, 68% developed therapeutic approaches

Impact on alignment
• Common standards at project level: 60-90% of projects exchanged material or data
• Cooperation at NEURON level with other initiatives, e.g. JPND, ESFRI, InTBIR
ERA-NET Neuron in collaboration with FENS-CHET and the Human Mind Research Program of the Academy of
2015 EXCELLENT PAPER IN NEUROSCIENCE AWARD (EPNA) at the 10th FENS Forum in Copenhagen
Hannah Monyer provided the NEURON plenary lecture at the 10th FENS Forum in Copenhagen
Neuron organized a Workshop in Neuroethics on May 9th, 2016 which was held in the FONDAZIONE IRCCS –
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Brain Research: Symposium in Berlin on January 12, 2016