The European Commission, in honor of Rare Disease Day 2013, has announced $187 million of new funding for 26 research projects on rare diseases. The projects will help improve the lives of some of the 30 million Europeans suffering from a rare disease.
The selected projects bring together over 300 participants from 29 countries in Europe and beyond, including teams from leading academic institutions, SMEs and patients' groups. The goal is to pool resources and work beyond borders to better understand rare diseases and find adequate treatments.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European commissioner for research, innovation and science, said, "Most rare diseases affect children and most of them are devastating genetic disorders resulting in greatly reduced quality of life and premature death. We hope that these new research projects will bring patients, their families and health professionals closer to a cure and support them in their daily battle with disease."
The 26 projects cover a broad spectrum of rare diseases, such as cardiovascular, metabolic and immunological disorders. They will aim to develop substances that may become new or improved therapies for patients, understand better the diseases' origins and mechanisms, better diagnose rare diseases and improve management of rare diseases in hospital and healthcare settings.
Teams will work on varied challenges, including a new 'bioartificial' liver support system to treat acute liver failure; powerful data processing operations to develop novel diagnostic tools, biomarkers and screening strategies for therapeutic agents against rare kidney diseases; and the clinical development of a drug to treat alkaptonuria, a genetic disorder which leads to a severe and early-onset form of arthritis, heart disease and disability for which there is currently no effective treatment.
Many of the new projects will contribute to the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium (IRDiRC), the biggest collective rare diseases research effort worldwide. Initiated by the European Commission, together with national and international partners, its key objective is to deliver, by 2020, 200 new therapies for rare diseases and the means to diagnose most of them. The new projects will bring the number of E.U.-funded collaborative research projects related to rare diseases to close to 100 over the last six years.
A disease or disorder is defined as rare in Europe when it affects not more than 1 in every 2,000 persons. Yet, taken together the 6,000 to 8,000 rare diseases affect a significant share of the population. In the E.U., as many as 30 million people suffer from a rare disease, many of them are children.