The COEN initiative is based on a joint programme initially agreed between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Deutsche 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.
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 Joint Programming Initiative in Neurodegeneration (JPND), although it operates as an independent entity.
The first phase of the initiative involved a call for proposals for pilot projects (up to two years in duration) involving Centres of Excellence (CoE) in two or more countries. Eight collaborative projects totalling £3.7m (€4.6m) were funded, including research projects which spanned the development of new disease models, the identification of biomarkers and the harmonization of methodologies for clinical studies.
The second phase of COEN involves ‘pathfinder’ grants seeking innovative approaches to better understand disease mechanisms and provide new avenues for therapeutic development, with the potential for “programme” level support to take forward successful pathfinders.