BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union's Christmas present to the biotechnology industry was a Dec. 22 announcement of €628 million ($750 million) funding for health research in 2007. Individual grants of up to €12 million are being made available for projects across a broad range of biotechnology and human health.

The long list of eligible fields is headed by large-scale collaborations, such as unifying genetic variation databases or networking biobanking initiatives across Europe, and developing standards and norms for human sample biobanks. Other large-scale areas of inquiry include temporal and spatial proteomics studies in biological processes, ground-breaking techniques for DNA sequencing and genotyping and in-vivo image-guidance for cell therapy.

There also are possibilities in integrating biological data and processes for large-scale data gathering, such as structure-function analysis of membrane transporters and channels for the identification of potential drug target sites; molecular epidemiological studies in well-characterized population cohorts; studies of genetic variation in humans aimed at characterizing a reference population in Europe; and characterization and variability of microbial communities in the human body. Also eligible for funding are genome-wide association studies in mammalian non-rodent models for the identification of genes relevant to human health and disease, modelling of T-cell activation and fundamental approaches to stem cell differentiation.

Provision also is made for smaller-scale research focused on alternative testing strategies for assessing the toxicological profile of nanoparticles used in medical diagnostics, or the development and production of new generation antibodies.

Translational research in major diseases will be supported with projects such as deriving novel diagnosis and therapy strategies from knowledge of non-coding RNAs linked to the aetiology of cancer, translating technology in genomics, proteomics, metabolomics into innovative cancer biomarkers, or studying genomic instability and genomic alterations in pre-cancerous lesions or the genetic factors of osteoporosis.

Research project proposals will be evaluated in mid-2007, and negotiations will be conducted on shortlisted proposals in July or August.