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Europe urged to step up applied cardiovascular research

Cardiovascular research in Europe urgently needs funds for continent-wide applied research projects, more than 100 researchers argued at a conference in Brussels in March.

According to John Martin, a researcher at University College London and the European Society of Cardiology’s chief liaison to the European Union (EU), the conference’s main purpose was to lobby for funds from Europe’s Seventh Framework Programme, set to distribute up to €30 billion between 2006 and 2010.

Early ideas for the program have suggested focusing on basic, rather than applied, research, as the former is expected to benefit many diseases. But favoring such ‘horizontal’ funding over a ‘vertical’ approach would not sufficiently benefit the fight against cardiovascular disease,Martin said.

Despite declining mortality rates in western and northern countries, cardiovascular disease is Europe’s top killer. What’s more, said Daiva Rastenyte of Lithuania’s Kaunas University, death rates in eastern and central Europe are on the rise.

EU money is needed for large-scale clinical studies not carried out by pharmaceutical companies, said Silvia Priori of the Salvatore Maugeri Foundation. Priori noted that several questions remain over the safety and efficacy of drugs in distinct European populations, women and elderly patients. She also pleaded for surveys of clinical practice across Europe, as notions on optimal therapies vary wildly among countries.

It is not yet clear how the European Commission (EC) plans to respond. Because EU money accounts for just 6% of all European public research funds, the commission’s health director,Octavi Quintana Trias, said he would hesitate to divide it into smaller chunks earmarked for many diseases. In principle, he said, the commission tends toward a horizontal approach. But,“we will still need some special attention for diseases that represent a major burden.”

The first EC proposal on the Seventh Framework Programme is expected to be published in May.

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