"A global collaboration to stop the epidemic" urges Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, in an article in Horizon Magazine.Read more
Au revoir: a farewell message from the past Chairman
After two terms of office, I have handed over the chairmanship of EURADIA to Michael Stumvoll and felt this might be an opportune moment to take stock of past achievements and visit potential new opportunities for the Alliance. I wish Michael the best of luck as Chairman, knowing as I do that he will do a brilliant job, bringing new vision and renewed élan to EURADIA.
EURADIA was created out of need. Diabetes had been dropped as a named disease from the draft document of the European Commission’s 6th Framework Programme (FP6: 2002-2006). All the major stakeholders in European diabetes research worked together at the highest level in order to convince the EU Commissioner for Research to correct this incomprehensible omission. We succeeded! Since that time, diabetes has featured as one of just a handful of named diseases in both FP6 and FP7, and thanks to EURADIA’s continuing advocacy, we are confident that this will also be case in the next Framework Programme, Horizon 2020.
This convinced the stakeholders’ group that working together, putting up a common front, was the key to success in advocacy. That was as true 10 years ago as it is today.
Past achievements: EURADIA’s major goal has been to put diabetes clearly on the European research agenda. This has involved public meetings, as well as frequent visits to Brussels to meet with Members of the European Parliament as well as key Commission staff. As a member of the European Coalition for Diabetes (ECD; EURADIA, FEND, IDF-Europe and PCDE), EURADIA has taken the lead in ensuring that diabetes research is placed alongside the other cornerstones of any future European diabetes plan or strategy. The Coalition worked closely with the co-Chairs of the European Diabetes Working Group (EUDWG) of MEPs that represents diabetes interests in the European Parliament, in preparing the European Parliament Resolution on Addressing the EU Diabetes Epidemic1 that was passed with a large majority in March 2012.
In 2007 EURADIA applied for a grant in response to a competitive call under FP7, resulting in funding for the landmark DIAMAP project. This was the first ever publicly funded research roadmapping exercise in Europe, focused on a single disease. It has served as the model for subsequent FP7 research roadmap projects in the fields, mental health and most recently cardiovascular disease. DIAMAP has been used by the European Commission Research Directorate to guide diabetes-related calls under FP7 since late 2010 and has offered greater visibility and credibility to EURADIA and all its members. I consider DIAMAP as the jewel in EURADIA’s crown in which we can all take the greatest pride.
Ever closer relations between EURADIA and policy makers Brussels across all parties as well as key civil servants at the Commission, based on mutual trust and respect, have transformed the way we work. I consider this too an achievement, and believe it stands us in good stead for future actions centred around Horizon 2020.
New opportunities: Last year we embarked on a lengthy process of self-assessment, identifying the strengths and any weaknesses of the Alliance, as a platform for development of a solid business plan to guide our activities over the next 5 years or so.
There is a need for better communication, to the general public as well as to politicians at the local, national and regional level. We must get our messages across more clearly. What is diabetes and why is it such a challenge to society? Why do we need more research? How will this help people with diabetes? How can investment in diabetes research be justified in these times of budget deficits?
Elections in the European Parliament in 2014 present a unique opportunity to meet with candidates and discuss diabetes with them. After all, around 8% of people voting in Europe will have been diagnosed with diabetes, and that number again as yet not diagnosed. All these votes would guarantee election with a healthy majority! The European Commission will also be up for renewal by the member states, offering an important opportunity for new dialogue.
All members of EURADIA agree that DIAMAP must not be forgotten, even if there will likely be no further support from the European Commission. The two databases need to be updated and the maps themselves remodelled to take recent research into account. The impact of the roadmaps on diabetes research must be evaluated. In the longer term it should be possible to determine whether DIAMAP has improved the wellbeing of people with diabetes in Europe, the ultimate goal.
The most significant recommendation of DIAMAP was the creation of the European Platform for Clinical Research in Diabetes (EPCRD). A Task Force led by Professor John Nolan (Denmark), has taken great strides in laying the groundwork for the creation of this essential clinical research resource. It will be for the new Executive Committee and its Chairman to decide how it wishes to implement the key recommendations of the Task Force as it starts to develop the Platform for the benefit of academia, industry and of course people with diabetes across Europe.
Thanks: My work as Chairman would not have been possible without the daily help and guidance of Sarah Hills, our Executive Director. I am greatly indebted to her for her devotion and outstanding work for the Alliance. I should also like to thank Regina Sautter who has been of such help to us in Germany but has now taken up fulltime employment elsewhere. Last but not least, many thanks to the members of the Executive Committee for their work and commitment, the more so understanding how much time this involves in addition to their “normal” working lives.
1. Joint motion for a resolution on addressing the EU Diabetes epidemic (12.03.2012)
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