12 Dec 2013   |   News

Health in Horizon 2020 - A move towards personalised healthcare

As the first calls are launched and the details revealed, Science|Business examines the Horizon 2020 draft programmes. Here is the programme for Health, demographic change and well-being

The European Commission seems to have taken the old adage, “health is wealth” to heart when finalising the budget for Horizon 2020. As Europe continues to age and the challenges to its health-related sectors increase, there are many opinions on how to best go about dealing with these issues.

With a total of around €7.47 billion to be invested in the societal challenge, ‘Health, demographic change and wellbeing’, the opinions will now shift to how well that money is invested. ScienceBusiness examines what the Commission will fund in 2014-2015, with a look at the first work programme.

In a speech at the 5th World Health Summit in Berlin in October, José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission said, “Health…is a value in itself, but it is also a crucial component [of] economic success. The importance of this sector and Europe's long tradition and wide experience in this field provides plenty of opportunities for future growth.”

For the societal challenge ‘Health, demographic change and wellbeing’, the path for growth is predominantly in the area of personalised health care. The Commission has argued that by better understanding the causes of health and disease and making best use of Big Data, Europe's ability to develop better diagnostics, therapies and drive forward health promotion and disease prevention strategies will be greatly improved at the personal and societal level. This will also work towards increasing employment and developing new and improved technologies in one of the faster growing sectors in Europe.

Magda Chlebus, Director of Science Policy at EFPIA, is largely happy with the first calls, which she says, “Set a tone that is very complementary with the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) 2 Strategic Research Agenda, as well as the various projects supported by IMI1, which cover a range of research areas from  Alzheimer’s disease to antimicrobial resistance.”

But Chelbus sees a missed opportunity in the decision on the budget, “We are just disappointed that the EU decided to cut the Horizon 2020 budget by 12.5 per cent,” she said. “At a time of crisis, investment in research and health more than ever should be seen as investment in the future.”

Dual focus, one goal

The societal challenge ‘Health, demographic change and wellbeing’, will involve two calls in 2014 and 2015, with a budget of €549 million in the first year. The ‘Personalising health and care’ call  is structured into seven main themes with a total of 34 topics:

  • Understanding health, ageing and disease
  • Effective health promotion, disease prevention, preparedness and screening
  • Improving diagnosis
  • Innovation treatments and technologies
  • Advancing active and healthy ageing
  • Integrated, sustainable, citizen-centered care
  • Improving health information, data exploitation and providing an evidence based for health policies and regulation
For the Commission, the choice to focus on personalising health and care is informed by the ageing of the European population, an increasing communicable and non-communicable disease burden and the fall-out from the economic crisis. “In combination, these factors are jeopardising the sustainability and equity of European health and care systems, on which Europe already spends nearly 10 per cent GDP.”

The second call, ‘Co-ordination activities’ has a total of 16 projects dedicated almost entirely to ERA-NET, a scheme launched in 2002 under the Sixth Framework Programme, which is designed increase the cooperation and coordination of research activities carried out at national and regional level in the Member States and associated countries, through two specific actions:

  • Providing a framework for actors implementing public research programmes to coordinate their activities e.g. by developing joint activities or by mutually supporting joint calls for trans-national proposals.
  • Providing, in a limited number of cases with high European added value, additional EU financial support to facilitate joint calls for proposals between national and/or regional programmes

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