bridges vol. 36, December 2012 / Feature Articles
On November 9, 2012, at the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, a conference was held to explore the potential of enhanced transatlantic research collaboration in the area of neurodegenerative diseases. The conference was organized by science counselors from the Embassies of Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Sweden, in close collaboration with the Management Board of the EU Joint Programming Initiative on Neurodegenerative Diseases Research (JPND), the EU Delegation to the US, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND) is the largest global research initiative aimed at tackling the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases. JPND aims to increase the investment, coordinated between participating countries, in research focused on finding causes, developing cures, and identifying appropriate ways to care for individuals with neurodegenerative diseases.
The ultimate goal of JPND is to find cures for neurodegenerative diseases and to enable early diagnosis for early targeted treatments. However, it is not possible to make definitive predictions on how long this achievement might take.
In the interim, JPND has employed its Research Strategy to identify common research goals that would benefit from joint action between countries to accelerate progress toward solutions that can alleviate the symptoms and lessen the social and economic impact of these diseases for patients, families, and health-care systems.
This work will entail improvements in three main areas:
• the scientific understanding of the disease
• the medical tools available to doctors to identify and treat the disease
• the social care and structures available to assist patients, their families, and health service providers, so that patients can receive optimal care at all stages of their illnesses.
Joint Programming Initiatives represent a means of pooling the national research efforts of EU Member States to tackle common European R&D challenges that are beyond the capacity of any individual country. The JPND initiative is the most advanced to date. It was established, and is currently governed, by EU Member States and Associated Countries. A JPND Research Strategy launched on February 7, 2012, outlines the research priorities to be addressed over the next ten years.
JPND is now implementing its strategy, and a first-phase implementation plan has been agreed on for 2012-2014. During that period JPND will:
• launch Annual Calls for proposals in priority research areas
• convene Action Groups to promote engagement, commitment, and partnerships
• convene Action Groups to determine transnational research needs and opportunities.
JPND regards neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer's disease, as among the most important societal and scientific challenges we face today. JPND partner countries recognize that the unmet clinical need and societal impact of neurodegenerative diseases are global issues, and that opportunities exist to link to worldwide research efforts in this area. Third countries, i.e., non-EU Member States or associated countries, are invited to engage in JPND, as outlined in JPND's Third Country Participation Policy.
The aim of the Washington, DC, conference was to showcase JPND and to attract the attention of potential American partners in order to achieve their possible future affiliation. The event was well attended, with approximately 40 participants from scientific institutes, universities, industry, NGOs, European embassies, and US government departments and agencies.
The conference program consisted of two sessions. The first, entitled Mechanisms of Joint Programming Initiatives, began with an overview of the research strategy agenda of JPND provided by Prof. Philippe Amouyel, chair of the JPND Management Board. Further mechanisms of JPND functioning were presented by Mr. Enda Connolly, chief executive of the Health Research Board of Ireland. Prof. Ronald Petersen, president of the US Alzheimer's Plan, elaborated on the implementation of the National Alzheimer's Project Act in the US.
The second session of the conference, Opportunities for Potential International Collaborations, started with an overview of international neuroscience research endeavors at the National Institute on Aging offered by Dr. Neil Buckholtz, director of the Division of Neuroscience at NIA. Prof. Yves Joanette, scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Aging (Canada), presented firsthand experience of collaboration with JPND as the first "third country" joining the program. Canada's accession to JPND is an example of the positive influence exerted by the emphasis on science, technology, research, and innovation within the draft Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The session concluded with Dr. William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association, showcasing global activities of the Alzheimer's Association.
New Call for Proposals – €25 million boost for research into Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases
The conference showed that JPND is a mature platform of collaboration that has already solidified a strong research agenda across European stakeholders. The most recent Call for Proposals was issued to research teams from over 20 countries on December 10, 2012 (see CORDIS information here) and, as Prof. Amouyel explained, this investment is part of a series of annual JPND funding initiatives over the next three years that will address priority areas identified in our European Research Strategy.
JPND has also already attracted strong commitments and involvement from third-country members such as Canada and Israel. The successful Canadian accession to JPND, which took place May 4, 2012, was a particularly telling example. The conference helped identify several potential areas of mutual interest, such as platforms for open access data and standardization of laboratory procedures. The action plan for accession of the US to JPND will be further developed by the JPND Management Board, together with the respective American partners, beginning with scientific-level discussions to agree on the main areas of mutual interest.
The conference demonstrated, above all, that Joint Programming Initiatives, as exemplified by JPND, can be an attractive mechanism for fostering EU-US R&D collaboration. It is conceivable that other JPIs may follow suit in attracting American accession, thus providing much-needed solid outcomes.
For further information on JPND, please visit: http://www.neurodegenerationresearch.eu/ or send an email to the JPND office at: secretariat[at]jpnd.eu