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Global Challenges

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A 50 Year Roadmap for the Future of Medicine

Health challenges and their related socio-economic implications are increasingly global and, therefore, the future of medicine can only be efficiently addressed by applying an international and interdisciplinary scope.

Diseases related to ageing societies will result in increased healthcare costs causing fundamental threats to the global economic stability. Globalisation of travel, human and animal mobility has been a benefit to society but it can also be the basis for the transfer of pathogens or their vectors into new regions. Today’s most pressing environmental problems such as climate change, global warming, and lack of quality in water supplies will affect health in general. They are of a scale or complexity that goes beyond the reach of most national resources.

These emerging threats can only be addressed by innovative solutions developed in an international and interdisciplinary collaborative scientific effort. Across all scientific disciplines, research activity increasingly involves international collaboration. This represents a means to balance the supply and demand equation, with the scale of challenges increasingly global in impact. The urgency affixed to important societal issues requires remarkable efforts to bring together a critical mass of expertise, to integrate and structure resources, and to streamline research efforts to common goals.

In this context, a systems-based understanding of diseases will be required to prepare the way for new type of personalised and preventive medicine. Systems-based approaches - involving the integration of genomic, molecular and physiological/clinical data - are equipped to address the complexity of disorders and to understand the interplay of genetic and environmental factors impacting on human health.

In order to support a systems-based-understanding of diseases, the establishment of a new research framework that integrates and coordinates current lead initiatives, such as ESFRI research infrastructures, Innovative Medicines Initiative, Joint Programming, FET-Flagships, and other programmes is required. In recent years there has already been a shift from individual research groups focusing on very specific aspects to large distributed teams following a more holistic approach. The fragmentation of scientific communities is an obstacle to attaining improved insight into complex mechanisms and systems such as those underlying human health: a proper framework for the collation of resources as well as the access to and integration of high-end technologies and expertise required to efficiently address key scientific questions has become an imperative.