Work has begun on Neuromics, a major project headed by Tübingen's Professor Olaf Riess; the project beat out ten other first-class applications to attain €12m euros in EU funding over five years.
The University of Tübingen's Institute for Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics is to work with 18 cutting-edge research partners in Europe, the US and Australia for the next five years - setting new standards in the field of rare genetic disease diagnostics and treatment. The project, coordinated by Professor Olaf Riess, concentrates on certain groups of rare neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. Approximately half a million people are affected by such diseases in Europe alone.
The Neuromics consortium, comprised of leading academic institutions as well as businesses, aims to use the latest technologies to revolutionize diagnostics and to develop new treatments based on the mechanisms of each disease. The consortium will target ten types of disease - including ataxia, spastic paraplegia, Huntington's disease, muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy - to get results which hospitals can apply directly, giving patients immediate benefits.
Professor Riess says: "The focus of our work is the especially rare neurological diseases. So we are very glad that we were able to convince the reviewers of the value of our project. The next five years will offer an unrivaled opportunity to establish diagnostics for most of these rare neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases and to develop treatments for some of them."
State-of-the art sequencing technology provides the opportunity to analyze many genes or gene sequences simultaneously. Both the finding of recognized genetic alterations and the discovery of new ones is now easier, faster and cheaper. For rare neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases, diagnosis is no longer like searching for a needle in a haystack. Neuromics makes it possible to examine every straw in the haystack individually.
The University of Tübingen's Institute of Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics (Professor Olaf Riess, Professor Peter Bauer) and the Center for Neurology (Professor Ludger Schöls) have already made important progress in the diagnosis and treatment of the ataxia group of diseases and spastic spinal paraplegias. Diagnostic panels have been developed for both, enabling the analysis of more than 50 genes in parallel for disease-causing genetic alterations. For some patients, establishing the disease's genetic bases can have implications for treatment - and for all patients, it at least means they know the cause of their illness, and can have important implications for other family members.