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MedUni Vienna coordinating EU project to unravel the interplay between infectious diseases and noncommunicable diseases

Funding totaling €8.4 million as part of "Horizon Health"
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(Vienna, 12 January 2024) The Medical University of Vienna is coordinating an international research project to understand how infectious diseases (IDs) together with environmental and genetic factors trigger the onset of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The project entitled “ID-DarkMatter-NCD”, with a total funding of €8.4 million from the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, includes 12 European consortium partners.

Immune-related noncommunicable diseases include chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases or rheumatoid arthritis. In recent years, it has increasingly been appreciated that infectious diseases can trigger NCDs, however for most NCDs, the exact microbial culprits remain unknown. Furthermore, in the great majority of cases, exposure to an ID alone does not trigger development of an NCD and additional genetic and environmental aspects are believed to be involved.

In “ID-DarkMatter-NCD”, the consortium aims to unravel this complex interplay of IDs, genetic, and environmental factors in triggering immune related NCDs by following a multi-disease and multi-omics approach.

Thomas Vogl, from the Center for Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna will coordinate the project. Michael Bonelli from the Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine III will focus on the pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Studying the impact of immunological and genetic factors on NCDs
To accomplish this ambitious vision, ID-DarkMatter-NCD consists of a multidisciplinary team bringing together clinicians, immunologists, geneticists, biologists, and data scientists to study several NCDs with a multitude of complementary approaches. “By applying a combination of cutting edge immunological and genetic methods, we will draw a holistic picture of different NCDs” explains Thomas Vogl. “Thereby we can identify microbes influencing the onset of these diseases, as well as allowing to screen for individuals at risk, and paving the way towards novel therapeutic approaches”.
Given that these data sets are exceptionally large, the consortium also includes experts for artificial intelligence and machine learning, allowing to develop novel diagnostic algorithms.

Details of the project
ID-DarkMatter-NCD will run as part of the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation "Horizon Health" (HORIZON-HLTH-2023-DISEASE-03).
•    Total project: €8.4 million
•    MedUni Vienna's share: €2.5 million
•    Consortium: 12 partners
•    Duration: 60 months
•    MedUni Vienna participants: Center for Cancer Research (Thomas Vogl, coordinator), Division of Rheumatology (Michael Bonelli)

Project partners:
Medical University of Vienna (Austria)
Karolinska Institute (Sweden)
Sorbonne University (France)
University Medical Center Groningen (Netherlands)
Leiden University Medical Center (Netherlands)
Eutema Research Services (Austria)
Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (Spain)
Biological Research Center Szeged (Hungary)
Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet Zu Kiel (Germany)
Assistance Publique Hopitaux De Paris (France)
Universitatsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein (Germany)
An associated partner in Switzerland has additional funding of approximately €1.2 million:
University of Basel

Public kick-off meeting
ID-DarkMatter-NCD will run from January 1st 2024 until the end of 2028, and all project partners are convening for a kick-off meeting in Vienna. There will be a public session on January 16th 2024 in the Jugendstilhörsaal in the rectorate building. From 13:30 to 16:00, the partners will present the project and their research expertise. Colleagues from the Medical University of Vienna interested in immune related NCDs and the role of infectious diseases are warmly invited to attend.

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