Invitation for the EuroEPINOMICS General Assembly in Tübingen

We need to talk. Much has happened in EuroEPINOMICS land ever since the launch of this Eurocores activity in 2011. Back then, exomes were still a realistic, but somewhat remote possibility and the complexity and ambiguity of the human genome was only beginning to be revealed. Now, roughly two years later, we have witnessed major breakthroughs in understanding epilepsy through genetic findings and we have generated large datasets on common and rare epilepsy syndromes that require an unanticipated effort for data mining and sharing. The EuroEPINOMICS Consortium will hold its 2013 General Assembly in Tübingen, Germany, from 30.10-01.11.2013. This meeting will connect all four Collaborative Research Projects and will be the central meeting of this year to jointly discuss our current activities and plans for the future.

The provisional program for the EuroEPINOMICS General Assembly in Tübingen, Germany.

The provisional program for the EuroEPINOMICS General Assembly in Tübingen, Germany.

Who we are. Let’s take a brief look at who we actually are and what happened to EuroEPINOMICS over the last years. EuroEPINOMICS is the final Eurocores activity of the European Science Foundation (ESF), a European institution that coordinates national funding programs into a comprehensive and coherent research network. Back in 2008, we had suggested a network activity on epilepsy genetics, which was eventually approved. ESF network activities are structured into so-called Collaborative Research Projects (CRP), which are smaller, connected research projects. Within the EuroEPINOMICS projects, these CRPs are CoGIE, RES, Epiglia and EpiGENet. CoGIE and RES are the two genetics projects dealing with rare epilepsies and common epilepsy syndromes. The goal of Epiglia and EpiGENet is to understand the function of glia and epigenetic factors, respectively.

Network activities. One advantage of the Eurocores project was the availability of network resources for joint meetings, exchange programs for junior researchers and social media. This blog actually is part of such a EuroEPINOMICS network activity and probably would not have been realized without such a network structure. I believe that we have learned to appreciate the role of these network structures over the last few years. Understanding the genetic basis of epilepsy is a collaborative effort of many different groups and individual researchers. The era of the lonely genius researcher is over and we have managed to turn the rich diversity of European research groups into a strong research network. Transitioning from individual research to collaborative research is not a trivial thing – it involves giving up autonomy for the sake of a greater good. The complexity of the human genome makes such a collaborative effort necessary, and I believe that we can be proud of the fact that we have a research network in place to successfully address this challenge.

The future. After the completion of the EPICURE project, EuroEPINOMICS has been the natural successor and has expanded the group of collaborators. Being a connection of projects supported by national funding agencies, the EuroEPINOMICS project has had one major shortcoming from the beginning: many groups could not participate as their national funding agency decided not to participate in this project. We have tried to “correct” for this flaw by actively approaching and including research groups whose national funding agencies had refused to join. The EuroEPINOMICS project will conclude in 2014, even though many of the research activities will carry on past the actual funding period. At the current point, a large joint European program capable of addressing the future challenges of epilepsy genetics is not in sight. Discussing how the European epilepsy community will continue its collaborative research will be one of the major tasks of the Tübingen meeting. This will be particularly important because we have finally arrived at a point where we can translate genetic findings into novel therapeutic strategies and better patient care.

Registration. The 2013 meeting will be organized by Snezana Maljevic, Birte Zurek and Holger Lerche from the Tübingen group. On behalf of the EuroEPINOMICS community, I would like to say thank you for taking on this task. If you have not received the email invitation, you can use the attached form. Also, please don’t forget to bring your own pumpkin for Halloween and a costume. Please register through the registration form or send us an email through the contact form below.

Ingo Helbig

Child Neurology Fellow and epilepsy genetics researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), USA and Department of Neuropediatrics, Kiel, Germany

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