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Babraham scientists collaborate in €6M EU research initiative – AgedBrainSYSBIO – to tackle neurodegenerative diseases

Babraham scientists collaborate in €6M EU research initiative – AgedBrainSYSBIO – to tackle neurodegenerative diseases

The Babraham Institute has joined forces with a consortium of leading European academic laboratories and industrial scientists from small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to study human brain ageing and age-related diseases. The four year project – AgedBrainSYSBIO on the systems biology of synapse proteins & ageing – has received €6M from the European Commission under the 7th Framework’s Health Work Programme and was officially launched in Paris earlier this month.

Cognitive decline is emerging as one of the greatest public health challenges of the elderly; nearly 50% of adults over 85 are afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. It is estimated that over 35 million people world-wide have dementia, with 4.6 million new cases each year - a new case every 7 seconds. Dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion annually and, with current treatments only delaying disease progression, it is therefore a significant challenge not only in terms of cost but also in terms of cause, cure and care.

The multidisciplinary consortium of 14 academic and industrial internationally-renowned research teams from Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Israel, United Kingdom and Switzerland, are combining integrated systems biology and comparative genomics approaches to investigate the complex process of ageing. It is hoped that this project will identify and validate new molecular targets and biomarkers associated with late-onset Alzheimer's Disease.

Dr Nicolas Le Novère, Cambridge Neuroscientist and Group Leader in Computational Biology at The Babraham Institute who will also co-ordinate research with collaborators at EMBL-EBI, explained, “Neurodegenerative pathologies, such as Alzheimer's disease, affect complex molecular and cellular machineries in a multimodal manner. In order to understand the mechanisms leading to these age-related dysfunctions, and propose new ways of fighting the resulting diseases, a systems approach is required.”

“Integrating genomics and functional genomics experimental results obtained by the consortium with information available in the biomedical literature, our team at the Babraham Institute will reconstruct the biochemical pathways involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease. We will then develop mathematical models to obtain a dynamic and mechanistic view of the disease development and possible intervention strategies.”

Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) carried out in recent years have been instrumental in identifying genes that mediate genetic risk associated with Late-Onset Alzheimer Diseases (LOAD). These approaches based on the genetic comparison of large cohorts of patients and healthy aged persons, have involved three academic partners (Inserm U894; Institut Pasteur Lille, University of Antwerpen), and been largely funded by Europe. The AgedBrainSYSBIO project will take advantage of large-scale ageing databases, information from Drosophila and rodent models of disease, together with considerable know-how and technologies from consortium partners to generate results that may more readily be translated into preclinical studies.

INSERM, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, is the coordinating partner of the project. Michel Simonneau, MD PhD, Professor at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan, who co-ordinates this project said, “This ambitious project integrates numerous European initiatives as well as national research programmes, which address the scientific and societal challenge of neurodegenerative diseases. This project receives the decisive input of four small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) allowing us to get candidate solutions for curing and preventing common age-related diseases. The links between academia and industry is the driving force of this work programme and in the end will hopefully be of benefit to all of us.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, welcomed the news: “It’s always good to see new funding for research into dementia, and we’re pleased to see researchers across Europe joining forces to share resources and knowledge in this way. Collaboration is vital for research to make progress, and by combining different approaches this project should help advance our understanding of complex diseases like Alzheimer’s – the first step on the road to much-needed new treatments. Dementia is one of the greatest medical challenges we face today and we urgently need ways to tackle the diseases that cause it, but this can only be made a reality through investment in high quality research.”

The Babraham team will be working closely with two SMEs, Quretec (Estonia) - a key partner for data management solutions and bioinformatics data analyses and Hybrigenics (France) - a world leader in comparative proteomics and protein-protein interaction analyses. It will collaborate with the Heinrich Hein University of Düsseldorf that will use induced pluripotent stem-cells from patients with Alzheimer's disease to generate in vitro models of the human ageing disease, as a platform to test predicted pathway therapies.

Dr Claire Cockcroft, Babraham’s Knowledge Exchange Manager said, “This consortium of world-leading systems biologists will play a vital role in driving forward our understanding of the complex relationship between ageing and the onset of age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Interaction between academic and industrial partners will be instrumental in generating the models from which new drug targets may be identified and predictions made, as well as validating therapeutic strategies, to address a significant global healthcare challenge.”

The Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is a world-leading centre for studying the basic biology of signalling processes inside and between cells, supporting BBSRC’s mission to drive advances in fundamental bioscience for better health and improved quality of life.


Dr Claire Cockcroft

Head, External Relations


Tel: +44 (0)1223 496260

Mobile: +44 (0)7786 335978

Dr Nicolas Le Novère


Tel: +44 1223 496433


The Babraham Institute
Babraham Research Campus

Cambridge CB22 3AT

Coordinator:  Pr. Michel Simonneau, Inserm, Email:
Senior Project Manager:  Dr Christiane Dascher-Nadel
Tel: +33 4 91 82 70 13

Posted on 12/04/2013

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