The project is intended to integrate post-genomic research into the more established biomedical and biotechnological approaches to cardiovascular disease.
Participating in the consortium on behalf of the Hebrew University is Eli Keshet, the Woll Sisters and Brothers Professor of Cardiovascular Diseases at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School. He is the only Israeli representative in the group, which is intended to promote multidisciplinary interaction by uniting 25 basic and clinical institutions, two biotechnology companies and one management company from ten EU member or associated states.
EVGN is one of the networks of excellence funded by the European Union within its 6th Framework Program -- Life Science, Genomics and Biotechnology for Health -- aimed at integrating and strengthening this area of European research. EVGN has a budget of more than 59 million euros. Its goal ultimately is to improve diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Europe, accounting for over five million deaths each year. Half of all deaths in Europe in 2002 were from cardiovascular diseases. Heart attacks and stroke, which predominantly result from atherosclerosis (fatty deposits) in arteries, account for 80% of deaths from cardiovascular diseases.
EVGN is headed by an Executive Committee consisting in 15 European leading scientists in vascular biology, coordinated by Dr. Alain Tedgui of Inserm, Paris.
The research activities of EVGN will concentrate on three major areas of cardiovascular disease and therapy:
1. Endothelial dysfunction that plays a crucial role in the development of atherosclerosis (the endothelium is the inner lining of blood vessels);
2. Instability of the atherosclerotic plaque that is the main cause of arterial thrombus (blood clot) formation leading to coronary artery occlusion and heart attack (the atherosclerotic plaque is an accumulation of scar tissue, blood cells, cholesterol, and other fatty substances into the artery wall; the buildup of plaque narrows the arteries and slows the flow of blood);
3. Therapeutic angiogenesis that opens avenues for novel treatment of heart disease meant to improve cardiac oxygenation and reduce heart failure (angiogenesis is the science that studies the formation of new vessels which would improve cardiac blood perfusion).
Each of the three areas has the potential for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies that will provide permanent benefits for patients.