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

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NEURON Cofund (ERA NET NEURON in the area of brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-12-31

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. Since 2008 (NEURON I) research grants of about 100 million euros were provided for multinational projects in various areas of research into brain function and its disorders. More than 400 research groups from Europe, Canada, and Israel pursued their research plans in more than 100 funded consortia. These consortia produced impressive output by enhanced knowledge, improved diagnostic measures, and therapies.
The main objective of NEURON Cofund is to facilitate the close and sustainable networking and alignment of national research programs in the areas of neuroscience, neurology, and psychiatry carried out in partner countries. Implementation of joint transnational research funding activities will be the most important instrument to achieve this goal.
In this regard, direct cooperation with the EC through the new instrument in H2020 provided a unique opportunity to scale up national research support in a co-funded JTC. The objectives of NEURON Cofund will however be further pursued by launching additional voluntary JTCs during the years 2017-2020. They will address important topics in brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system as indicated in the recently published NEURON Strategic Research Agenda.
The NEURON Cofund consortium comprises 26 funding organizations from 19 EU countries, Israel and Turkey as EU-associated countries, and Norway and Canada. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF) are associated NEURON-Partners and participate in NEURON Joint Transnational Calls (JTCs). In general, the consortium fosters European and international contacts and remains welcoming to known, such as e.g. SRC (Sweden) or new, such as charities collaborations.

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 describes additional activities within NEURON Cofund
The support for Early-Career Scientists (ECS) covers e.g. the Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award (EPNA) – activity as well as networking events in the FENS meetings. Organizing poster sessions (plus poster award) and other activities for ECS during the regular NEURON mid-term meetings of the JTC’s has become a regular practice. The interaction with the general public and stakeholders comprised the networking event entitled – 'Next Generation Networks in Neuroscience' in July 2016, in collaboration with FENS-CHET and the Human Mind Research Program of the Academy of Finland. More than 300 students, postdocs and young PIs attended the event and discussed neuroscience and career opportunities.
A short explanatory video clip on Brain Imaging was produced and disseminated through the NEURON web site, YouTube, and Facebook.
Ethical questions are a major issue in brain-related research. The high societal relevance of neurosciences is underlined by continuously high public interest and ongoing public discourse on this topic. Thus, NEURON explored ideas and developments in the field of Neuroethics by organizing a workshop in Milan, Italy, in May 2016.
The dialogue between researchers and patient organizations is crucial for disseminating information about brain research, will allow collecting and discussing the needs of patients and their families, and will help to shape research to more precisely address them. In this context, the topic of the symposium meeting of NEURON Cofund on January 12, 2016, Berlin Germany was 'How to reinforce the interactions between scientists, clinicians and the society in the field of brain research?'.
NEURON Cofund continues the successful work of the previous ERA-NET phases. It will impact research policies and research outcome in the area of brain-related diseases and disorders of the nervous system at several levels. Particularly, the expected impacts and how NEURON will contribute to them are the following:
The Cofund Call 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 will be an efficient initiative and will contribute substantially to the European Research Area.
Specific Impacts by NEURON in the last decade:
Impact on European Research Area
• The dynamic network grew to 26 funding organizations from 19 countries (EU, EU-associated, Canada)
• Multi-step widening scheme in the joint calls for EU13 and ‘underrepresented’ countries (Poland, Latvia, Slovakia, Romania, Turkey)
Impact on research community
• Annual Joint Transnational Calls (JTC) for proposals: 10 JTCs, ~ 100 projects funded, comprising ~ 400 research groups, total budget ~ 100 million €
• Support measures for early-career scientists
Impact on health theme
• Translational projects, from preclinical research through clinical proof-of-concept studies to rehabilitation research
• JTC 2008: in 80% of projects at least one PI was a medical doctor, patients were involved in 50% of consortia; in JTC 2010 those rates were even higher with 91% and 73%, respectively
• JTC 2009: 40% of projects submitted patents, > 200 peer-reviewed publications
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 –
Brain Research: Symposium in Berlin on January 12, 2016