Germany funds research into rare diseases

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is making available EUR 21 million for the next four years to study rare, "orphan" diseases. The funding package reflects the BMBF's plans to increase its commitment to fighting these illnesses.

Nurse usind medical technology
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The program was announced in conjunction with "Rare Disease Day," which takes place annually on the last day of February. The BMBF says the aim is to promote application-oriented basic research, clinical research and investigation of ways to treat rare diseases. The ministry also fosters cooperation between different disciplines to develop new diagnostic methods and innovative therapies.

In Europe, rare diseases are defined as those affecting fewer than one in two thousand people. This results in lack of knowledge about the causes, symptoms and ways to treat these diseases. Furthermore, there is little business interest in investing in the development of diagnostic techniques or drugs for them.

Since 2003, the BMBF has been supporting research networks dedicated to studying and treating orphan diseases. Bringing together specialists who are working on specific disease groups can mitigate the problem of small patient numbers and enable the concentrated collection and evaluation of information.

BMBF Parliamentary Secretary of State Thomas Rachel said, "Only together and by going beyond the limits of individual disciplines can we help people who suffer from rare diseases. That's why we need research areas that work well and bring scientists together. We want to support that with our funding program."

What is more, as part of its efforts to intensify its commitment to rare diseases, the BMBF has named the city of Ulm as an additional German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), in addition to the six DZNE that already exist in Germany. This after researchers in Ulm identified the fundamental mechanisms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Huntington's disease in recent years. After a transition phase, the BMBF will, together with the state of Baden-Württemberg, provide the DZNE in Ulm with EUR three million annually starting from 2021.