Brussels, 26 May 2004
Cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of death in Europe, responsible in 2002 for five million deaths. This means over 50 per cent of all deaths are a result of cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, as the population ages (most heart failure patients are in the 65 plus age group), the incidence of heart failure has been rising alarmingly throughout the EU and Europe.
The European Commission is therefore providing nine million euro for the first and only European Network of Excellence in the cardio-vascular field. Financed under the thematic priority 'Lifesciences, genomics and biotechnology for life', the European Vascular Genomics Network (EVGN), a consortium of 25 academic and research institutes from nine European countries and Israel, will promote and accelerate knowledge transfer in biology to ameliorate the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
'EVGN represents a unique effort with the goal of bringing together the scientific potential of European research in the field of vascular biology,' said Alain Tedgui, the project manager from Inserm-Transfert in France. 'These objectives will be reached through the development of our joint research programme, but also thanks to the construction of a communication platform to simplify the exchange of data and research tools. A study and exchange programme will also be put in place for researchers.'
80 per cent of all cardio vascular illnesses are the result of atherosclerosis, the process in which fatty deposits build up in the inner lining of an artery. It is a multifactoral disease, for which a number of risk factors have been identified, such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, smoking, diabetes, and ageing. However, growing evidence suggests that the individual burden of those cardiovascular risk factors is not the only determinant of the disease.
There is, therefore, an urgent need for a more profound understanding of the critical mechanisms involved in atherosclerosis and its complications, in order to conceive novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches aimed at preventing or limiting the progression of the disease, as well as promoting the functional recovery of organs injured by ischemia.
EGVN will integrate the innovative technologies of post-genome research with the more traditional biomedical and biotechnological approaches to cardiovascular diseases. It is hoped this approach will optimise the conversion of research results into concrete health, social and economic benefits by identifying new diagnosis measurements and developing new pharmacological, gene and cell-based therapies.
The EVGN network will facilitate technology transfer between the participating centres and allow exchange of novel concepts, experimental methods and techniques. EVGN will also create a European training programme in vascular biology for PhD students with a particular emphasis on students from Eastern European countries.
Furthermore, 'given the general public concern regarding cardiovascular disease, EVGN will also communicate its major research discoveries and their implications in lay terms to the general public via [...] the EVGN website [...and] a coordinated series of presentations at selected accessible locations,' explained Dr Tedgui.
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