11 December 2018

Much-Coveted EU Funding for Research in Bone Pain and Parkinson’s Disease

EU Funding

The European Commission has announced the names of the recipients of funding under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Networks programme. Two SUND researchers have received the prestigious grant, which will support their research in bone pain and diagnosing of Parkinson’s disease over the next few years.

Two large research projects at SUND have received the much-coveted Marie Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) grant. The recipients are Associate Professor Anne-Marie Heegaard and Associate Professor Matthias Herth both from the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology. 

ITN supports large research projects aiming to train 10-15 PhD students in a network covering a minimum of three European countries. As part of the grant the SUND researchers will act as heads of research and coordinators of their respective international research networks. Some of the students will be working at the university, while others will collaborate with industrial partners. However, all the PhD students must in the course of their training go on exchange across national borders, disciplines and sectors. 

Anne-Marie Heegaard
30 per cent of the adult European population suffer from bone pain often connected with diseases like osteoarthritis, bone diseases,  and cancer spreading to the bones. Even through the pain affects the quality of life of many people, the area has seen limited research. 

‘Bone pain affects a lot of patients, and there is still no available treatment. It is important that we get a platform and data enabling us to begin developing better treatments against bone pain. The new funding makes it possible to establish a unique network of bone and neuro researchers from all over Europe, exchanging knowledge and benefitting from the synergy of the multidisciplinary network’, says Associate Professor Anne-Marie Heegaard. 

The name of the educational network is BonePain II and it is targeted at young researchers and will train a total of 15 PhD students. The cross-disciplinary programme will also look into developing 3D in vitro microchip platforms and other advanced techniques for studying the key mechanisms behind bone pain. The project builds on a previous ITN grant received by Anne-Marie Heegaard. 

‘It is the second time we receive an ITN grant, and we are very pleased. But I would also like to stress that writing a good application is a big task. We were awarded an EUopSTART grant from the Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education, which allowed us to participate in a workshop on the EU ITN application, and also to hire a student for a month to help with the application. This kind of help is essential.”  , says Anne-Marie Heegaard. 

Matthias Herth
Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurological diseases, and in Denmark 7,300 people suffer from the disease. It cannot be cured and affects the patients differently. It can therefore be difficult to diagnose. 

Matthias Herth’s research project Pet-AlpfaSy looks at how Parkinson’s can be diagnosed at an earlier stage. The research group is trying to identify a marker that can facilitate early diagnosing. 

‘In Parkinson’s patients neurons in the brain die. We can tell by measuring the level of dopamine in the system. But we would like to be able to measure it before this process begins. However, there is no available molecular technique for doing so at this stage. Our goal is therefore to test new techniques to learn more about the brain of patients with Parkinson’s disease at this early stage and later be able to use this knowledge in the development of new treatments’, says Matthias Herth. 

He adds that the researchers, among other things, will be working with new molecular models and radioactive techniques that can make it easier to identify the signal protein alpha cytokine, which may play a main role in the development of the disease. 

Among other things, the EU funding covers wages for PhD students involved in the projects, travelling expenses, course expenses and other administrative costs. The network participants will also be training and teaching students within their respective fields of research both at SUND and at the international university and industry partners. 

‘Of course a main part of this funding is sharing our knowledge with the next generation of radiopharmaceutical researchers. In Europe there is a need for more researchers within this field as well as within what we call nuclear medicine. Therefore, in addition to research, we will also spend time and resources training new researchers to ensure that this important knowledge is used across borders’, says Mathias Herth.

Read more about Marie Curie ITN projects here: http://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/

Associate Professor Anne-Marie Heegaard, mail: amhe@sund.ku.dk and www.bonepain.eu
Associate Professor Matthias Herth, mail: matthias.herth@sund.ku.dk