(Vienna, 14-01-2016) A new project funded by the European Commission (Horizon 2020) is devoted to the research of chronic autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis and the development of individualised therapies for afflicted patients. The international project "RELENT" is coordinated by MedUni Vienna (Renate Kain, Department of Pathology). The project started on 1 November 2015.
The objective of the project RELapses prevENTion in chronic autoimmune disease – common mechanisms and co-morbidities ("RELENT") is the development of improved therapies for chronic autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis. The consortium of several European, American and Australian universities and companies is planning to research mechanisms common in these diseases which are responsible for the persistence and life-threatening developments of the diseases. The results of the study are intended for clinical application as soon as possible in order to be able to help patients faster. Nearly six million Euros has been awarded to the RELENT consortium for the next 4.5 years by the European Commission under its Horizon 2020 programme.
Which patients will develop a severe course of autoimmune diseases?
Autoimmune diseases affect approximately five percent of the population in industrialised countries. In many cases, the disease has a mild progression, but they can also lead to a chronic and serious illness such as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), multiple sclerosis, systemic Lupus erythematosus and various forms of systemic vasculitis.
Typically, these diseases progress in episodes; which requires long-term treatment with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive medications. These medications may have severe side effects, including an increased susceptibility for infections, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
"There is currently no means to distinguish at the outset those patients who will suffer from frequent relapses, and therefore need intensive early treatment, from those who do not. Titrating the use of immunosupression to the disease activity and developing novel treatment strategies consequently requires the application of precision medicine to autoimmunity – a concept already established in cancer treatment,” states Prof. Renate Kain, coordinator of the project.
In order to better understand the common mechanisms of these diseases, the RELENT consortium will jointly analyse data from a variety of measurements (clinical, serological, genetic, transcriptome) and thus develop new bio-markers for these diseases. These should allow the tailoring of the most efficacious treatment to each patient with a chronic autoimmune disease.
On 20 January 2016, the project partners presented their scientific contributions at the Van Swieten Saal of the MedUni Vienna in a scientific symposium open to the public.
The RELENT Consortium
MedUni Vienna is the coordinator of the consortium and is in charge of the project management together with GABO:mi. Further members of the consortium are the University of Cambridge (UK), University Medical Center Groningen (The Netherlands), Helmholtz-Zentrum München (Germany), the University Clinic of Bonn (Germany), Ludwig Maximilian University Munich (Germany), KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), Mayo Clinic (US), Monash University (Australia), EMC microcollections (Germany), Hycult Biotech (The Netherlands) and Phenocell (France).
About the Horizon 2020 Programme
Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. RELENT is funded as part of societal challenges “personalising health and care” in a specific call on “Understanding common mechanisms of disease and their relevance in co-morbidities”. In this call, the European Union emphasized that the development of new treatments is greatly facilitated by an improved understanding of the pathophysiology of diseases. RELENT is now addressing this need for better disease prevention, health promotion, therapy development and the management of co-morbidities for severe autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.