No challenge is greater than that of understanding the brain. The EBC explain why more research is key to confronting brain disorders in Europe.

Non-profit organisation the European Brain Council (EBC) brings together patient associations, major brain-related societies and industry to promote neuroscience with the aim of improving the quality of life of the 179 million people living with brain disorders in Europe.

In April, EBC launched its Brain Mission, a dedicated effort to understand the brain, develop new treatments for related diseases, and enhance patient outcomes. The Brain Mission was conceived in recognition of the fact that brain disorders have been largely absent from the health research agenda, despite their significant contribution to both healthcare costs and the global disease burden.

Speaking to Health Europa, EBC president Professor Monica Di Luca discusses the mission and shares her hopes for brain research in the upcoming ninth European research and innovation framework programme, Horizon Europe.

 

The Brain Mission was launched by EBC after a consultation with all our members. Its goal is to fully understand the brain and to cure its disorders, which we have identified as the main need and challenge of the 21st Century. The cost of brain disorders in Europe is enormous, reaching €800bn each year. In terms of people, one in three European citizens is going to experience a brain disorder during the course of their life, and epidemiological studies show that increased life expectancy will result in more and more brain disorders. In the future, treating them will become unaffordable.

In order to reduce the burden of brain disorders in Europe, we need to take a step back and begin with a full understanding of the brain itself. The brain is the most complex human organ, and for many years this has hampered our ability to fully understand both it and the pathogenic mechanisms of brain disorders. This is a crucial point: a full understanding of the brain is a prerequisite to curing and tackling the challenge.

Collaborative research is one of the added values of the framework programmes, and that was especially clear in the Sixth Framework Programme and FP7. EBC has played a key role in informing the European Commission of the needs and gaps in the research community.

Now, it appears that this effort has been lost in Horizon 2020. One of our requests, therefore, is that collaborative research be reintegrated into Horizon Europe.

EBC has recently launched a project called EBRA (European Brain Research Area) that aims to harmonise the different brain research and funding initiatives in Europe. We’d like to sit down with the JPND, the Human Brain Project and ERA-NET NEURON to discuss how we can achieve that and also reduce fragmentation in both funding and research, as well as to identify where the gaps in knowledge are and how we can facilitate translation. 

 

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