Neurodegenerative diseases (ND) are debilitating and largely untreatable conditions that are strongly linked with age. Amongst these disorders, the dementias are responsible for the greatest burden of disease, with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders affecting some 7 million people in Europe, and this figure is expected to double every 20 years as the population ages. It currently costs in the order of €130 billion per annum to care for people with dementia across Europe, highlighting age-related neurodegenerative disease as one of the leading medical and societal challenges faced by our society.

To tackle the societal problems posed by ND as effectively as possible and accelerate progress in the search for solutions, 24 European countries have established an innovative collaborative research initiative: EU Joint Programme - Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND). The objectives of JPND are to align and build upon national programmes to increase the impact and effectiveness of research undertaken within the participating countries, and to identify common goals that would benefit from joint actions between these countries and the European Commission. Ultimately, JPND seeks to improve the scientific understanding of ND, provide new approaches for their prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and ensure effective provision of healthcare, social care and support so that individuals receive optimum care and optimised QoL at all stages of their illness.

Scientific Priorities

The JPND Research Strategy sets out a number of research priorities that take account of scientific, health and social importance and tractability. To achieve impact there is a need to encourage novel and multidisciplinary approaches, and to strengthen and extend existing capabilities across the full spectrum of basic, clinical, health and social care and translational research. Progress will be dependent upon the promotion of bottom-up approaches, supported by more top-down strategic activities. Since new scientific discoveries often emerge from unexpected sources, novel thinking will need to be encouraged and recognised if new and effective therapies are to be developed in this area.

Below, specific scientific themes and, within these themes, priorities for future research are identified:

  • Theme One: The origins of neurodegenerative diseases One major issue is that not enough is known about the fundamental causes of specific ND, the factors that determine people’s risk and resilience, and the triggering events leading to illness.
  • Theme Two: Disease mechanisms and models In order to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, and identify the appropriate time windows for intervention, as well as establish predictive disease models, a more complete understanding of the biological basis underlying disease mechanisms and the evolution of ND is needed. This will require, in parallel with further assessment of current ideas, the development and testing of new hypotheses on novel disease pathways. Integral to this process will be the use of improved animal and cellular models of disease. These should not be expected to capture the full extent of the human conditions but should provide important insights into the mechanistic pathways underlying ND.
  • Theme Three: Disease definitions and diagnosis Standard clinical assessments lack sufficient accuracy to capture the presumed complexity of common ND, necessitating refinement and updating of the current diagnostic criteria. The various forms and subtypes of ND, including presymptomatic stages, require better definition, while new or improved diagnostic techniques and methods, supported by new biomarkers, are needed to enable the earlier and more accurate detection of ND and to monitor disease progression. Further classification of disease and stratification of patient cohorts will in turn be assisted by the development of these new diagnostic techniques; for example, new imaging methodologies, genomic, proteomic and metabolomic technologies and telemedicine.
  • Theme Four: Developing therapies, preventive strategies and interventions Close working with industry is essential for the successful translation of basic findings through to clinical therapies (see Enabling Activities, Theme 3). Existing preclinical drug-development programmes have been significantly hampered by a lack of suitable biomarkers and models of disease. Accordingly, new therapeutic strategies should be promoted; for example, using approaches that are immunology-based, or combinatorial in nature, or which seek to modify or slow disease progression. Progress will also be accelerated through the adoption of a more systematic approach that promotes bidirectional translation between animal and cell models and patient cohorts. Potentially, the establishment of cohorts of patients with preclinical ND would allow the future testing of interventions to prevent or slow disease progression; however, the ethical and regulatory implications of treating someone at risk of developing, but not certain to develop, disease would need to be considered and resolved.
  • Theme Five: Healthcare and social care The nature, availability and quality of health and social care for individuals with ND vary considerably across Europe; however, it can generally be said that there is inefficient and inequitable co-ordination between health and social care systems in individual countries. Accordingly, an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of formal and informal care approaches and infrastructures should be considered as a prelude to implementing new, evidence-based, systems. When considering this evaluation it is of fundamental importance that researchers seek to understand the factors within these systems that contribute to social inclusion, civic participation, dignity and QoL for individuals with ND and their families, and take into account comorbid conditions that often impact upon the delivery of treatment and care. If the incidence of disease is to be reduced, it will also be necessary to identify and overcome barriers to the adoption of evidence-based health and wellbeing promotion strategies. Sufficient consideration of cross-cultural issues and diversity, particularly when developing instruments and implementing intervention strategies, must be ensured across all research efforts.


JPND web page: http://www.infect-era.eu/ 

Calls

JPND is implementing the priorities identified in its research strategy through a range of large-scale programmatic initiatives.

Until now, JPND has launched Joint Transnational Calls in Quarter 4 (Oct-Dec) each year to address high priority areas in neurodegenerative disease research*.
A pre-call announcement with indicative call topics is expected in early Quarter 4 (October) each year.

* The JPND diseases are:
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and PD-related disorders, Prion disease, Motor neurone diseases (MND), Huntington’s Disease (HD), Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)

IMPORTANT: As of 2019 Polish research groups are encouraged to apply for funding from National Science Centre (NCN) since NCBR is no longer participating in JPND calls. For details please visit https://www.ncn.gov.pl/  

Joint Transnational Call 2018 (CLOSED)

Pre-proposals must be submitted no later than 23:59h C.E.T. on March 6, 2018, via the electronic submission tool.

Full proposals must be submitted no later than 23:59h C.E.T. on June 27, 2018, via the electronic submission tool.

Call web page: http://www.neurodegenerationresearch.eu/initiatives/annual-calls-for-proposals/closed-calls/health-and-social-care-2018/