NGFN: A Portrait

The National Genome Research Network in the Program of Medical Genome Research

It takes close cooperation among various experts to shed light on the intricate activities of genes and to understand the function of the many yet unknown building blocks of the cell.

And that is why the NGFN, the National Genome Research Network, was launched in 2001.
In a large-scale project that is unique in the world, scientific groups have been successfully linked to form this network. The common strand weaving the genome network together is the endeavor to research diseases that have a high incidence in Germany or that are particularly important for health policy due to the prolonged suffering and premature death of the people affected. These diseases include cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diseases of the nervous system. Moreover, infections and inflammation as well as diseases linked to environmental factors are being investigated. Only the knowledge of the complex interplay of the genes and their products is providing consolidated findings. For this reason the scientists are examining the genes in their entirety, the “genome”.

The National Genome Research Network – with the two focal points of funding NGFN-Plus and NGFN-Transfer - is since mid 2008 with the new Program of Medical Genome Research in the third funding period. The primary aim of the participating research groups is to clarify which role our genes play in the development of the aforementioned diseases. Genes program the “wiring diagram” for all processes in our body. Therefore, it is important to know which errors in this wiring diagram lead to a disease since that is the starting point for new therapies.

NGFN scientists already identified disease genes for many diseases, for example for allergies, chronic intestinal inflammation, alcoholism, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and sarcoidosis. The development of DNA-Microarrays for the detection of gene alterations involved in kidney and breast cancer, leukaemia or congenital heart defect attracted worldwide attention.

The success of the network is due to the intensive cooperation of scientists from all disciplines. Thus, the Program of Medical Genome Research gathers biologists, chemists, physicians and computer scientists. They work in clinics, universities and research institutes all over Germany.

One excellence of the National Genome Research Network in the Program of Medical Genome Research is the interlocking of science and industry. Selected companies of all scales are partners of the NGFN.

The fruitful collaborations in the NGFN are also the basis of cooperative efforts with international universities and research institutions. Partner institutions of the NGFN are located in nearly all countries of the European Community as well as in many countries of the world.

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