The European Commission announced the recipients of the latest Horizon2020 ERA-CHAIR grant call.

ERA Chair is one of the Widening Programmes of Horizon2020 which promotes the creation of Centres of Excellence. The committee top-ranked the project proposed by IBG, which aims to boost the ‘Rare Disease Research and Innovation’ capacity of Izmir Biomedicine and Genome Center. Along with the ERA Chair holder who has proven research excellence on Rare Diseases and will be recruited at IBG, the project involves coordinated efforts of several research groups and the Project Office from IBG.

IBG Director and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Rare Diseases Project Prof. Dr. Mehmet Öztürk said, “Receiving the ERA-CHAIR grant represents a very important advancement for both IBG and the country. I, hereby, would like to thank IBG’s group leaders who contributed extensively to the development of the project, especially Stefan Dimitrov, Gerhard Wingender, Neşe Atabey and Yavuz Oktay.”

Prof. Dr. Öztürk added, “TUBITAK, TUSEB and IZKA Presidencies and rare diseases patient organisations supplied the letters of support for our application to the grant call. In addition, TUBITAK has taken in charge the initial fees related to the preparation of the ERA Chair project. Their support encourages us on our way to be an internationally recognized centre on rare diseases. I, hereby, would like to thank these associations for their support on behalf of IBG.”

Project Coordinator of the ERA Chair Rare Diseases Project, Dr. Gerhard Wingender, a group leader at IBG said, “The main aim of our project is to boost IBG’s research on rare diseases, which is also why we named the project ‘RareBoost’. Rare diseases can be defined as any disease afflicting less than 1 in 2000 people. So yes, few people suffer from any particular rare disease, which is good. But when you consider that there are over 6000 different rare diseases, altogether they cause a major burden for human well-being and health systems. Unfortunately, because these diseases are rare, the research and the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches on them is often hampered by limited resources and interest. However, over 90% of all rare diseases are currently without approved treatment, which means there are over 300 million patients worldwide without a proper treatment. This is where IBG wants to step in and help bring this number down, so that more patients with rare diseases are recognized and better treated, to reduce their suffering.”

Dr. Stefan Dimitrov, who is the Head of Research Programs at IBG and one of the members of the Steering Committee of RareBoost Project, stated “The attribution of the ERA Chair award to IBG reflects its impressive potential to address important questions in the field of rare diseases. The ERA Chair award will help IBG to further improve its research and developmental capacity to analyze both the genetic and epigenetic origins of rare diseases in depth. The close collaborations with the physicians at Dokuz Eylul University, as well as with the physicians at other medical institutions at both local and national level, will allow us to transfer the acquired knowledge to the hospital and to help patients. The ERA Chair funds will also assist the collaboration with leading rare disease organizations in both Europe and North America, which will be of great benefit for Turkish medical research.”