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Collaborative research funded by the European Union

European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

EIT Health is a consortium of more than 50 core partners and 90 associate partners from leading businesses, research centers and universities from across 14 EU countries. EIT Health was designated as an EIT Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) by the EIT Governing Board on 9 December 2014.

The goal of EIT Health is to contribute to increasing the competitiveness of European industry, improve the quality of life of Europe’s citizens and the sustainability of healthcare system. The partnership will promote entrepreneurship and develop innovations in healthy living and active aging, providing Europe with new opportunities and resources. This will be achieved through delivering products, concepts and services, including educational programs that will nurture talents and train the workforce of tomorrow. Adopting an investor approach, EIT Health will drive the integration of business; research and higher education, boost innovation, and be a catalyst for new solutions for Europe. EIT Health will overcome the fragmentation of different healthcare systems in Europe and give companies easier access to markets across the EU. The critical mass of partners from business and industry, education, research, healthcare providers, and insurance companies within EIT Health opens the path to reduced time-to-market for added-value products and services. EIT Health outreach activities are expected to spread all over Europe – establishing new ties to expand innovation and growth.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. J. Schüttler, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine 

European Research Council (ERC)

During inflammation and infection, we are simultaneously confronted with both, self and non-self, in form of dying cells and microbes, respectively. Mechanisms that facilitate the non-immunogenic clearance of self-antigens derived from apoptotic and necrotic cells and that, in parallel, allow the initiation of an immune response against invading pathogens are incompletely understood.
Recent data from our laboratory show that the immune system actively sorts apoptotic cells (AC) and bacteria into distinct subspecies of macrophages and dendritic cells thereby enabling a segregated processing of self and non-self as well as a differential immune response against these two entities. Incorrect sorting and aberrant uptake of AC-derived self-antigens by pro-inflammatory and antigen-presenting dendritic cells, however, results in the break of self-tolerance and autoimmunity.
Due to technical limitations, the identification and fate-mapping of specific phagocyte subsets that mediate the simultaneous clearance of dying cells and pathogens in vivo has remained largely elusive. We thus plan to develop novel tools that are based on cutting-edge technologies to comprehensively elucidate the sorting of dying cells and pathogens under inflammatory conditions in vivo. We plan to generate TAT-Cre transgenic mice and bacteria that will be used in conjunction with R26-eYFP reporter animals to permanently track phagocytes after ingestion of endogenously accumulated dying cells and pathogens, respectively. These approaches will enable us to characterize the involved phagocytes, study molecular mechanisms underlying the differential processing of self and non-self and follow the phagocyte’s migratory behavior and its subsequent differentiation. The obtained data will not only provide insights into the pathogenesis of autoimmune and infectious diseases, but will also foster the development of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of such disorders.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Krönke, Department of Medicine 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology

HORIZON 2020 / 7th Framework Program

In a bid to stimulate the development of much needed treatments for osteoarthritis, a consortium of 24 partners comprising pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, academic institutions, not-for-profit organizations, small and medium enterprises (SME), and public bodies have joined forces in the pan-European APPROACH project, with total research funding of 15 million euros.

It is estimated that worldwide around 9.6% of men and 18% of women over the age of 60 years experience the debilitating symptoms of osteoarthritis, yet drug development for the disease has so far been disappointing due, in part, to complexities around identifying the right patients to treat. The APPROACH consortium will combine biomedical data for >10,000 patients and controls from nine existing cohorts into a unified bioinformatics platform. It will use this platform to generate several well-defined targetable patient subsets based on existing and newly developed biomarkers. Validation and qualification of the diagnostic tools will be performed in a 500-patient longitudinal study. The results of this 5.5 year program will be used to support the selection of patient cohorts for new disease modifying osteoarthritis drug (DMOAD) clinical trials. Ultimately, the identification of patients who are most likely to respond to a given treatment, should lead to improved drug development and diagnostic / prognostic tools that allow osteoarthritis patients to receive highly personalized treatment.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. W. Kalender, Prof. Dr. K. Engelke, Institute of Medical Physics

DESIRE is an FP7 funded project, involving 25 partners in 11 countries, with more than 250 researchers involved and 19 clinical centers involved in the clinical trial. DESIRE will focus on epileptogenic developmental disorders EDD, i.e. early onset epilepsies whose origin is closely related to developmental brain processes.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. Ingmar Blümcke, Institute of Neuropathology

EAVI2020 will provide a platform for the discovery and selection of several new, diverse and novel preventive and/or therapeutic vaccine candidates for HIV/AIDS. Emphasis will be placed on early rapid, iterative, small Experimental medicine (EM) human vaccine studies to select and refine the best immunogens, adjuvants, vectors, homologous and heterologous prime–boost schedules, and determine the impact of host factors such as gender and genetics.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. K. Überla, Institute of Clinical and Molecular Virology

The EURO EWING Consortium is a UCL coordinated collaborative project involving 20 European partners, which has recently been awarded funding through the European Union’s Framework Program 7 (FP7). Ewing Sarcomas (ES) are fatal, rare bone cancers particularly affecting young people. About 60% of patients achieve long term survival with current treatment, but there has been no improvement in this proportion for 25 years. Treatment is unsuccessful because chemotherapy fails to prevent the development of, or to effectively treat established, metastases. The Euro Ewing Consortium is a coalition of clinical study groups bringing together the most active clinicians and scientists in Europe dedicated to improving survival from ES. Through collaborative working, the EEC will provide ES patients with greater access to clinical trials, allow efficient acquisition of knowledge and deliver clinically meaningful results within 5 years, thereby contributing to improved survival from ES.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. M. Metzler, Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

The European collaborative project EpimiRNA aims to understand molecular mechanisms, diagnostics and develop novel therapeutics for epilepsy. The project emerged from recent scientific breakthroughs that identified a new family of molecules that affect brain cell structure and function called microRNA. The EpimiRNA project will focus on identifying microRNA changes in the brain during epilepsy development and how this affects the disease. The project will explore the potential of targeting microRNA using designer drug-like molecules. We will also determine whether variation in the genetic code for these molecules is present in patients with epilepsy. Finally, we will look for changes in blood levels of microRNA as potential biomarkers of epilepsy.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. H. Hamer, Department of Neurology

The GAPP project intends to improve the therapeutic perspectives of children who suffer from chronic pain, providing them with a drug, gabapentin, which seems to be effective and safe, as already demonstrated in adults, and which was included in the European priority list of off-patent pediatric medicines worthy of research grants.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. R. Trollmann, Prof. Dr. A. Neubert, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. W. Rascher, Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

As part of Horizon 2020 (the EU framework program for research and innovation), the European Commission is seeking to set up coordination structures to which some of the management of research programming (budget administration, collection of information for calls for projects, introduction of European recommendations, etc.) will be delegated. One of the aims of these “umbrella” structures will be to simplify the procedures and optimize the costs of coordinating European research.

The main purpose of the OPERRA project (Open Project for the European Radiation Research Area) is to meet this requirement in all radiation protection research fields (risks associated with low doses of ionizing radiation, radioecology, management of radiological and nuclear emergencies, dosimetry, medical uses of ionizing radiation, etc.), particularly by implementing EU calls for research projects.

OPERRA aims to set up a tool that will be used to develop a research strategy common to all players in radiation protection which will have greater visibility worldwide. Most notably, it should provide greater coherence between national research programs in radiation protection and EU programs, and it should also identify all the finance mechanisms available. It brings together the bodies involved in radiation protection research.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. U. Gaipl, Dr. B. Frey, Department of Radiation Oncology

Tertiary sector buildings sector consume a sizable proportion of EU total energy consumption and the majority of consumption is directly attributed to the operational phase of the building life-cycle. Occupant behavior is a major cause of this consumption. OrbEEt proposes an ICT-based framework to induce behavior change toward energy efficiency by transforming energy measurements into personalized feedback delivered through engaging user interfaces. To achieve this challenge, OrbEEt foresees dynamic, spatially fine-grained extensions of building-level Operational Rating methodologies and Display Energy Certificates to provide a detailed view of energy use in office spaces, business processes and organizational entities rather than entire buildings. The fusion of information from Building Information Models, Business Process Models and real-time energy use measurement via a comprehensive ICT cloud service – the Systemic Enterprise Operational Rating framework – will enable energy use tracking and will establish direct accountability of people, processes and spaces toward overall consumption.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. P. Kolominsky-Rabas, Department of Neurology

Complications related to infectious diseases have significantly reduced, particularly in the developed countries, due to the availability and use of broad-range antibiotics and wide variety of antimicrobial agents. Excessive use of antibiotics and antimicrobial agents increased significantly the number of multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria. This has resulted in a serious threat to public health. The inexorable rise in the incidence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens, coupled with the low rate of emergence of new clinically useful antibiotics, has refocused attention on finding alternatives to overcome antimicrobial resistance. Novel strategies aiming to reduce the amount of antibiotics, but able to prevent and treat animal and human infections should be investigated, evidenced and approved. Among the various approaches, the use of graphene and its derivatives is currently considered a highly promising strategy to overcome microbial drug resistance. In line with this interest in graphene by the European Commission through the graphene ‘flagship’ initiatives, we respond in this consortium by exploring the utility of novel graphene based nanocomposites for the management and better understanding of microbial infections. The anti-microbical potential of the novel graphene based nanomaterials, the possibility of using such structures for the development of non-invasive therapies together with the understanding of the mechanism of action will be the main focal points of the proposed project entitled “PANG”, relating to Pathogen and Graphene. The  multidisciplinary project uniquely suits high-level interdisciplinary and cross-border training.

Contact within the Faculty: Dr. Luis Munoz, Prof. Dr. G. Schett, Department of Medicine 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology

PROMISS (PRevention Of Malnutrition In Senior Subjects in the EU) is a multi-country project aiming to turn the challenge of tackling malnutrition in community-dwelling older persons into an opportunity for healthy ageing for the future. The PROMISS consortium contains worldwide expertise in epidemiology, clinical trials, geriatrics, nutrition, physical activity, microbiomics, as well as in behavior, consumer, sensory  and computer sciences. It builds on strong collaborations with food industry and SME to strengthen innovation of the European agri-food sector and their market position. Existing data from scientifically well-established prospective aging cohorts and national nutritional surveys from Europe and ‘third countries’ will be combined with new data from short- and long-term intervention studies in older persons at risk. Its holistic approach will provide insight in the causality of the links between diet, physical activity, appetite and malnutrition and underlying pathways, thereby providing the necessary evidence to develop optimal, sustainable and evidence-based dietary and physical activity strategies to prevent malnutrition and enhance active and healthy aging. PROMISS will also deliver food concepts and products as well as persuasive technology to support adherence to these strategies. The dietary and physical activity strategies and food products will be specifically developed with older user involvement to meet the needs and fit the preferences of older consumers. In close collaboration with stakeholders, PROMISS will translate these strategies into practical recommendations to guide policy and health professionals at EU- and Member States level. Dissemination and implementation takes place through strong dissemination partners operating on an European level and linked to national networks across Member States. PROMISS promises prevention of malnutrition, additional healthy life years and a strengthening of EU’s food industry.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. C. Sieber, PD Dr. E. Freiberger, Institute for Biomedicine of Aging

We are proposing a four-year program of knowledge transfer and networking between Aston University (ASTON, UK), Universitätsklinikum Erlangen (UKER, Germany) and Redoxis AB (Redoxis, Sweden). Our proposal targets an emerging area of biology, i.e. reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated regulation of immune responses; it brings together the application of small molecule candidate drugs to generate ROS, with use of innovative approaches to biomarker identification in models of chronic inflammatory disease. This research has significant potential for application in human health and is of particular relevance to the aging population. Research training, innovation and knowledge exchange for early career researchers, achieved by combining our cutting edge expertise, is important to extend the EU’s reach in this emergent area. Interchange in this way will facilitate and promote our early career researchers to develop into tomorrow’s research leaders of redox biology in chronic inflammation. It will encourage new, cross-European collaboration between academia and industry ensuring that we maintain our leading position world-wide.
This tri-partite consortium brings together groups with highly complementary expertise to exchange knowledge and develop staff: ASTON – in the biochemical analyses of ROS, the effects of immune cell thiol oxidation in vitro and ex vivo and biomarker identification; UKER – in animal models of chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; and Redoxis – in development of novel drugs that stimulate production of ROS from the NOX2 enzyme as means to modulate chronic inflammation. The project objectives and challenges present a balanced mix between industrial application and basic science, which is focused on knowledge transfer and drug development. Through future collaborative funding, we anticipate far-reaching applications of redox modulators to manage chronic disease and increases in knowledge of both autoimmunity and aging of the immune system.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. G. Schett, Department of Medicine 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an important public health problem worldwide, especially in older people. Indeed, population aging in industrialized countries is accompanied by an increase in the prevalence of CKD and its complications. Although its prevalence and the importance of an early diagnosis to prevent complications such as end-renal stage disease (ESRD), screening program in Europe are highly heterogeneous, fragmented, being in most cases based on opportunistic rather than structured assessments of patients. The main objective of the SCOPE project is to evaluate a large scale screening program for CKD in the older population (age 75+) in Europe. Specific objectives are (i) to assess existing methodologies to screen for CKD among older adults, including the use of Comprehensive Geriatric Assessments (CGA); (ii) to investigate innovative biomarkers potentially useful for CKD screening; (iii) to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of CKD screening in a population at high risk of kidney function decline and ESRD; (iv) to provide evidence for further development of European recommendations, as well as an education program in this field. This will be achieved also thanks to the creation of a large observational database including a cohort of older people aged 75 years or more, enrolled within the framework of an observational, multinational, multicenter, prospective study with a 2-year follow up. The SCOPE database will include a CGA-based screening and a collection of biological samples at baseline and at regular intervals during the study.
The SCOPE project will provide evidence for the increased use, or discontinuation of, existing screening and prevention programs in the field of CKD, allowing informed decisions by policymakers. It will contribute to capacity building in the assessment of such screening and prevention programs in an equitable and cost-effective manner, thus improving health outcomes in the older European population.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. C. Sieber, PD Dr. E. Freiberger, Institute for Biomedicine of Aging

Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)

Current medical needs, the growth of targeted therapies and personalized medicines and escalating R&D costs result in formidable cost pressures on healthcare systems and the pharmaceutical industry. Clinical research is also growing in complexity, labor intensity and cost. There is a growing realization that the development and integration of Electronic Health Record systems (EHR) for medical research can:
  • enable substantial efficiency gains
  • make Europe more attractive for R&D investment
  • provide patients better access to innovative medicines and improved health outcomes.

EHR can now be designed to seamlessly integrate with existing research platforms and healthcare networks to create opportunities for many stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical and bio-pharma industries. However, key challenges are compliance with various ethical, legal and privacy requirements (and acceptance by the general public, patients, and medical professionals), providing a platform that works across many EHR systems and is sustainable within a scalable business model. A 4-year project, EHR4CR will involve a team of recognized European academic and industrial partners.

The project will build a platform to enable the use of EHR for more efficient medical research and run pilots (on interoperability, security, data quality, data storage solutions, organizational issues,accreditation and certification, etc) to demonstrate the viability and scalability of an EHR4CR business model.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. H.-U. Prokosch, Institute of Medical Informatics, Biometry, and Epidemiology

The EMIF project aims to develop a common information framework of patient-level data that will link up and facilitate access to diverse medical and research data sources, opening up new avenues of research for scientists. To provide a focus and guidance for the development of the framework, the project will focus initially on questions relating to obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. P. Lewczuk, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

Be The Cure’ (BTCURE) is an IMI (Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), Europe’s largest public-private initiative aiming to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients) funded research project which aims to develop new therapies against rheumatoid arthritis. With a total budget of 35 million euros and 37 partners from all over Europe, it is hoped that by combining academic and industrial resources within BTCURE, basic understanding of disease processes and therapeutic development will be enhanced.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. G. Schett, Department of Medicine 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology

Frailty has a dramatic impact on the quality of life of many elderly people; the frail are at greater risk of falls and disability, and are more likely to be hospitalized. But what is frailty, and can it be prevented? The ultimate aim of the IMI project SPRINTT is to improve elderly people’s quality of life by paving the way towards a treatment for frailty. The project will do this by identifying the specific characteristics of frailty and testing whether frailty can be prevented by a treatment program that combines exercise, dietary advice, and the use of modern technologies.

Contact within the Faculty: Prof. Dr. C. Sieber, PD Dr. E. Freiberger, Institute for Biomedicine of Aging