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DZNE, MRC and CIHR cooperation: Milestone for research on neurodegenerative diseases

Representatives of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), the UK Medical Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research today signed a cooperation agreement that aims to establish and apply harmonized guidelines and technologies for research on neurodegenerative diseases. At the signing of the agreement, the representatives of the German, British and Canadian governments emphasized the importance of international cooperation in tackling the challenges presented by an aging society.

All three cooperation partners possess special expertise in various fields ranging from basic to clinical research. The DZNE can contribute special know-how in the area of biomarkers and clinical studies. Prof. Pierluigi Nicotera, Scientific Director and Chairman of the Executive Board at the DZNE, is thrilled that the institution can contribute to the effort: "This cooperation is of great importance for German research on neurodegenerative diseases. We hope to be able to contribute our expertise to develop new strategies to preventing and curing these diseases." Prof. Nicotera emphasised that common technological platforms and the international standardisation of approaches are crucial to facilitating the transfer of fundamental discoveries into patient benefits.

To ensure that the results are applied in clinics as soon as possible, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has tasked the DZNE with working closely with university hospitals all over Germany. "The DZNE has intensified research on neurodegenerative diseases in Germany, improved the coordination of efforts and ensured that research is aligned with the requirements of clinical practice," said Dr Helge Braun, Parliamentary State Secretary at the BMBF. But he pointed out that international partnerships are needed to solve the scientific and clinical issues regarding dementia. "Therefore we wholeheartedly applaud the pooling of resources across borders. The partnership between the MRC, CIHR and DZNE sets new international standards," State Secretary Braun said at the press conference in Berlin. The British and Canadian governments also support the partnership. The two countries were represented by Christopher MacLean, Commercial Counsellor at the Canadian embassy, and British Ambassador Sir Michael Arthur, who said: "I am delighted that the UK represented by the Medical Research Council is participating in this international partnership. In a time of increasingly aging societies, new preventative strategies and innovative therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases are becoming more and more important."

The Medical Research Council has injected significant funding to neurodegenerative research since that this area was reorganised in 2008. "We welcome this exciting opportunity to join with aligned activities in Germany and Canada," said Prof. Chris Kennard, Chair of the MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Board. "It's through first-class international partnerships such as this one that we will build on our knowledge base and accelerate our understanding to more rapidly combat these debilitating neurodegenerative diseases." Prof. Kennard went on to say that the links between the respective centres of excellence will create an international network that will enable them to attract the best scientists, provide access to cutting-edge technologies, standardise methods and their application and promote the highest level of quality in international research. The MRC can contribute a wealth of experience in working with animal models. Even at the basic research stage, standardised models and methods are crucial to ensure that findings can be compared.

The CIHR conducts both basic and clinical research and is working to standardise imaging methods and the evaluation of the images they generate. "We are proud to work with our colleagues in Germany and the UK to fund research addressing neurodegenerative disorders, in particular on Alzheimer's disease. We firmly believe that it will require a concerted common research effort to better understand these disorders, improve diagnosis and treatment, and ultimately find a cure for diseases that affect millions of people," said Dr Rmi Quirion, Executive Director of the International Collaborative Research Strategy for Alzheimer's Disease at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

To reach their goals, each of the three centres will allocate 1.2 million. This will serve as starting capital to finance various measures in the three centres. In addition to workshops and the compilation of guidelines, the money will also be specifically used to fund projects in the centres that work according to these guidelines and methods and will advance the research field as a whole. Reactions to the initiative launched by the three partner institutions have been favourable in other countries, and negotiations are underway with other European research organisations.The German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases belongs to the Helmholtz-Association and is funded by federal and state governments in relation 90:10.


Contact: Sonja Juelich-Abbas
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

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