Grants totalling €150 million for nine research projects targeting the most prevalent diseases in the cardiovascular, cancer and neurodegenerative categories have been awarded by the Dutch Centre for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM).

Based at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven and funded 50% by the Dutch government, 25% by academia and 25% by industry, the CTMM is a public-private partnership committed to the development of molecular medicine technologies for the early diagnosis and personalised treatment of cancer and cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases.

The focus is firmly on the translational aspects of molecular medicine, so that any new advances can be moved into clinical practice as quickly as possible. Operating through an open-call procedure, the CTMM invites, assesses and funds multidisciplinary projects involving active participation by Netherlands-based academia and industry.

Qualifying projects, which are judged by an independent international advisory board and approved by a supervisory board, must not only be translational by nature, of premier research quality, based on a technology platform and complementary to other projects, but must also be equally funded by academia and industry, the CTMM notes.

The latest round involves Dutch university medical centres, a broad spectrum of small and medium-sized enterprises, industry leaders such as Organon (Schering-Plough) and Philips, and the Dutch government.

According to Professor Rob Reneman, chairman of the CTMM’s International Scientific Advisory Board, the nine R&D projects selected for funding are “highly innovative and tackle some of the biggest challenges in modern medicine, including finding better ways to diagnose early and treat disease such as heart failure, diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias, childhood leukaemia, Alzheimer’s disease and various types of cancer”.

Many of the projects are aimed at identifying biomarkers, such as abnormal proteins in the blood, that often appear long before symptoms develop. As such, the CTMM points out, molecular medicine “has the potential to allow diagnosis and treatment at a much earlier stage than symptom-based diagnosis”, raising the possibility of less aggressive interventions, fewer side-effects, better patient outcomes and more effective use of healthcare resources.

A second call for project proposals will go out in autumn 2008.