European Research Collaborations

Dec 15, 2005
By BioPharm International Editors

Dr. Martha Cahill
The EU Framework Program has operated for the last twenty years, dedicating large sums of funding over five-year periods, all the time aiming to achieve scientific excellence, improved competitiveness, and innovation through promoting increased cooperation between researchers and industry across Europe.

Ireland's international reputation has benefited significantly over the years from participation in the EU Frame-work Programs. The Framework Programs have offered valuable opportunities for Irish small and medium enterprises (SMEs), multi-national corporations (MNCs), colleges, and academic researchers to participate in high-quality research collaborations with their European counterparts. Biotrin, EiRx, and Alltech are among the Irish companies that have participed successfully in the EU Framework programs.

Irish diagnostics company, Biotrin International Ltd., together with the leading Parvovirus B19 researchers in Europe, secured Framework Program funding to carry out pioneering research into B19 infection and diagnosis. Parvovirus B19 is a human pathogen transmitted by respiratory droplets and blood products. Infection can lead to chronic disease and death in certain high-risk groups such as organ transplant recipients, HIV-infected individuals, pregnant women, and haemophiliacs. Dr Cormac Kilty, CEO of Biotrin Holdings commented "This project strengthened Biotrin's role at the forefront of research into B19 infection and diagnosis."

EiRx Therapeutics Ltd. was part of a consortium, which was awarded a Framework grant to study the p53 family of proteins. The consortium was made up of some of Europe's most noted scientists in the apoptosis field from the University of Roma in Italy, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Institute of Science in Israel. To this group, EiRx brought its Genomics and Bioinformatics capabilities, as well as its knowledge of the commercial environment. Being part of the Framework project allowed EiRx the opportunities to network with specialists in the field and to commercialize project findings.

Alltech Ireland Ltd., received Framework funding for a project to solve longstanding nutritional, welfare, and environmental problems associated with ruminant livestock production and dairying. Specifically, the participants, Rowett Research Institute, University of Leon, University of Hohenheim, University of Reading, CRINA S.A., (Akzo Nobel) and Alltech Ireland Ltd., collected new plant materials not presently used in agriculture but cultivable in the EU and then test them for their potential as feed additives for ruminants in order to inhibit methane formation, inefficient protein retention, lactic acidosis, and bloat.

Framework Program 7

Framework Program 7 (FP7) will begin in 2007. The objective of the Health Theme in FP7 will center on increasing competitiveness of European health-related industries and businesses, while addressing global health issues. Research will span many disease areas, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, brain disorders and infectious diseases. Methods for health promotion and disease prevention, as well as sustainable and efficient healthcare systems will also be addressed in FP7.

Information and Communication Technology will complement the work in the health theme whereby systems can be funded and created for use in bioinformatics research, eHealth, and eClinical trials. Funding the application of nano material and technology for use in health will also be possible through the Nanosciences theme. This will include nano-based targeted drug delivery and Nanodiagnostics. The FP7 Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology Theme provides funding for enabling technologies-genomics, proteomics and system biology approaches to micro-organisms, plants and animals, as well as activities involving health related issues of food and diet.

The European Technology Platform on Innovative Medicine will also be implemented in FP7. This aims to remove bottlenecks hampering the efficiency of the development of new medicines. This is essential to revitalize the biopharmaceutical R&D environment for Europe to become more competitive. This initiative proposes clear practical paths to accelerate the development of safe and more effective medicine.

For companies looking to progress new drug products or devices to market without exhausting venture capital funding, the EU Framework program can provide considerable benefits. There are opportunities for part or full funding for Phase I and Phase II trials. Companies or researchers who coordinate a consortium are best placed to benefit from the consortium.

Active, continued, and increased participation in the Framework Program will be one of the key building blocks in the ongoing development of Ireland's biotechnology and biomedical community. Enterprise Ireland provides up-to-date information, advice, workshops, seminars and training courses on the EU Framework Programs.

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