The overall aim of the Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration (COEN)
is to build collaborative research activity in neurodegeneration research across borders, focusing on the critical mass and excellence. COEN is aligned with the broader Joint Programming Initiative in Neurodegeneration (JPND), although it operates as an independent entity.
The initiative is based on a joint programme initially agreed between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Deutsche Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (DZNE, Germany) and the Medical Research Council (MRC, United Kingdom), established in June 2010. The initiative was subsequently joined by the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology (VIB Flanders, Belgium), the Health Research Board (HRB), Ireland / Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), and the Ministero della Salute (MDS, Italy) in October 2011. The Instituto de Salud Carlos III (Spain) and the Ministry of Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic joined the initiative in October 2012.
The first phase of the initiative involved a call for proposals for pilot projects (up to two years in duration) involving Centres of Excellence (CoE) in two or more countries. Eight collaborative projects totalling £3.7m (€4.6m) were funded, including research projects which spanned the development of new disease models, the identification of biomarkers and the harmonization of methodologies for clinical studies.
The second phase of COEN involves ‘pathfinder’ grants seeking innovative approaches to better understand disease mechanisms and provide new avenues for therapeutic development, with the potential for “programme” level support to take forward successful pathfinders. The Centre for Systems Medicine successfully earned funding for the project Neuro-miR.
COEN also aims to provide a mechanism for industry to link to its Centres of Excellence, and to develop novel and effective industry partnerships in pre-competitive research. Workshops are held, involving participants drawn from the COEN executive, researchers from the COEN centres and representatives from the biopharma and diagnostics sector.
The 3U Partnership brings together the pre-established and internationally-competitive Centres to work in a focused and collaborative manner as a Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration (COEN). These three centres are the Centre for the Study of Neurological Disorders, RCSI; International Centre for Neurotherapeutics (ICNT), DCU and Neuroanalytics plus the associated spin-out company, Cerebro, at NUIM Moreover, accomplished research clinicians at RCSI and specialist neurologists at the Beaumont Hospital will exploit the outcomes of the basic research for medical applications, through early phase clinical trials.