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Measuring the impact of post-genomics on Mediterranean populations

A recent Genomed-Health 2005 workshop in Tunisia, supported by the European Commission, highlighted the role of the life sciences in improving health in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Delegates at the event also discussed the importance of Euro-Mediterranean partnerships in order to capitalise on post-genomic research.

The life sciences ?in particular following the mapping of the human genome ?offer vast opportunities to improve scientific knowledge and approaches to improving human health and welfare. The workshop, organised by the Pasteur Institute in Tunisia earlier this month, set out to explore how discoveries in this field can help the Mediterranean region.

Once research priorities were identified, delegates went onto to explore which mechanisms would best serve Euro-Mediterranean partnerships in the health research domain. The workshop also laid the groundwork for networks of potential partners to meet and discuss project ideas they could submit in answer to the December 2004 call for proposals under the INCO-MPC (International Co-operation-Mediterranean Partner Countries) scheme.

Under the Sixth Framework Programme’s (FP6) ‘Specific measures in support of international co-operation? project proposals from MPCs are being sought to help the European Union integrate and strengthen the European Research Area, as outlined in FP6. Ideas for coordinated actions (CAs), specific targeted research projects (Streps), specific support actions (SSAs) are welcomed and, according to the Genomed-Health website, all areas of the FP6 thematic priority one, ‘Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health?are open to INCO partners.

Biotech for health
The workshop organisers explained to delegates that the aim of this research priority, among others, is to help exploit ?in this post-genomic era ?the “unprecedented opportunities for generating new knowledge and translating it into applications that enhance human health? To ac hieve this, they continue, fundamental and applied research is needed and supported, stressing integrated, multidisciplinary and coordinated effort.

The two-day workshop highlighted not only the impact of recent progress in genomics on human health in developing countries, but also identified the ethical, social and legal issues (including intellectual property rights, IPR) underpinning this important scientific development. Samir Brahmachari of India’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), kicked off day one (4 March) with his keynote address called ‘Predictive medicine and health research in the post-genomic era?

Later on day one, Ayoade Oduola of the World Health Organisation, asked “How can we tackle the ‘genomic divide?between the developed and developing nations??Following up on this theme, Maxime Seligman of France discussed the ‘North-South co-operation and ethical issues?in genomic research.

The second day of the workshop (5 March) focused more closely on health research in the context of the EU-MPC partnership. Michel Pletschette, representing the Research Directorate-General, which helped support the event, gave an overview of the EU-MPC programme: its past, present and future. Round table discussions were organised later that day on how the EU-MPC co-operation is working to alleviate communicable and non-communicable diseases in the region.



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