Network of Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration (COEN)

About the cooperation

The COEN initiative is based on a joint programme initially agreed between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (DZNE, Germany) and the Medical Research Council (MRC, United Kingdom), established in June 2010. The initiative was subsequently joined by the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology (VIB Flanders, Belgium), the Health Research Board (HRB), Ireland / Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), and the Ministero della Salute (MDS, Italy) in October 2011. The Instituto de Salud Carlos III (Spain) and the Ministry of Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic joined the initiative in October 2012. In 2015, Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), France, became the ninth member of the cooperation.

The overall aim of the initiative is to build collaborative research activity in neurodegeneration research across borders, focusing on the critical mass and excellence. COEN is aligned with the broader European Joint Programming Initiative in Neurodegeneration (JPND), although it operates as an independent entity.

To date, COEN has initiated three calls for joint project proposals, resulting in 24 collaborative projects with awards totaling £12.3 m (€15 m; CA$20.9 m). Projects

The CoEN Phase I funding call was held in 2011 for pilot projects (up to 24 months) to address key barriers to progress in neurodegeneration, and to underpin future studies in the field. Projects spanned the development of new disease models, the identification of biomarkers, and the harmonization of methodologies for clinical studies.

CoEN Phase II and III were ‘Pathfinder’ calls and were held in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Pathfinder calls set out to encourage the community to think ‘outside the box’, to stimulate new and unconventional approaches and creative solutions to the challenges of neurodegeneration research by undertaking high-risk / high-payoff research, and welcomes unconventional and novel bids.

The scientific remit for ‘Pathfinder’ awards is broad in scope, and projects may include studies to illuminate our understanding of neurodegenerative mechanisms, or create technological advances to support novel diagnostic or therapeutic approaches. Applications are invited from joint bids from investigators within identified Centres of Excellence (CoE), and projects must include researchers from CoE in two or more countries.

COEN also aims to provide a mechanism for industry to link to its Centres of Excellence, and to develop novel and effective industry partnerships in pre-competitive research. As a first step to engagement with industry a one day workshop was held in November 2013, involving over 40 participants drawn from the COEN executive, researchers from the COEN centres and representatives from the biopharma and diagnostics sector. More information about the meeting can be found here.