neurodegenerative diseases
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The work of the EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND) which aims to tackle the challenge of these diseases, in particular, Alzheimer’s, is discussed here

The EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND) is the largest global research initiative aimed at dealing with the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases, in particular, Alzheimer’s. It is worth noting that this initiative is supported through funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, under grant agreements No 643417 and No 681043.

The aim of JPND is to increase coordinated investment between participating countries in research which sets out to discover the causes, developing cures and seeking appropriate ways to care for those with neurodegenerative diseases. JPND’s ultimate objective is to find cures for neurodegenerative diseases and to enable early diagnosis so that early targeted treatments are possible. Having said that, JPND points out on their website that it is not possible to give definitive predictions on how long this might take to occur.

It’s worth noting here that for now, JPND has identified common research goals that would benefit from joint action between countries, in their Research Strategy. The aim of this to accelerate progress on solutions that can alleviate the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, and to decrease the economic and social impact of it for patients, families and health care systems. This important work of JPND can be divided into the following three main components, which set out to improve:

  • The scientific understanding of neurodegenerative diseases;
  • The medical tools available to doctors to identify and treat it and;
  • The social care and structures available to assist patients, their families and health service providers.

This enables patients to receive nothing but the optimum level of care during all stages of their illness.

Joint Programming

I also want to point out that Joint Programming concerns new collaborative approach to research, whereby, countries come together to define a common vision, a strategic research agenda and a management structure, so that the ‘grand challenges’ facing EU society in the future can be addressed. It is true to say that challenges like neurodegenerative diseases, food and energy security, as well as climate change, are viewed as being beyond the scope and resources of a single country to tackle and as such, they would hugely benefit from a coordinated approach to research that benefits society.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s

Looking at the topic of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are debilitating and largely untreatable conditions that are strongly linked with age. Certainly, Europe has a rapidly ageing population and according to JPND, 16% of today’s European population is over 65, and this figure is expected to rise up to 25% by 2030.

Focussing on dementia, we know that this is responsible for the greatest burden of disease, with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders impacting no less than 7 million people throughout Europe. Unfortunately, this figure is predicted to double every 20 years as the population lives for longer in Europe.

In terms of the cost of dementia care across Europe, the JPND highlight that today, it costs in the region €130 billion every year to care for people with dementia, so age-related diseases are one of the leading societal and medical challenges faced by EU society.

Considering Alzheimer’s disease, this is especially costly to manage due to the length of time over which the condition extends itself, its insidious onset and its ever-increasing levels of disability. The average duration of this disease lasts from two to 10 years when patients will need special care that is a significant burden for societies and caregivers, JPND note.

JPND also explain that the major investments made in other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, have resulted in significant improvements in patient outcomes and treatment. To date, JPND says that neurodegenerative diseases have not received the same level of funding, even though they have a negative impact on healthy life years. This is indeed a challenge, but as we see below, it’s not all doom and gloom.

JPND-supported projects

In closing, it’s worth noting that many of the JPND-supported projects can lead to new scientific discoveries, which of course, have positive impacts on patients and families, not to mention opening up new possibilities for broader society, as well as industry.  Also, we know that JPND is all for transnational research projects and working groups so that researchers can collaborate across borders to tackle the global challenge of neurodegenerative diseases.

It’s a very appropriate time to highlight JPND’s plans to tackle the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases, following the 10th anniversary of the 10 JPIs (Joint Programming Initiatives) in November 2018. The fact that JPND brings together 30 countries shows that they are serious in tackling the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.


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