viRgil: An integrated interdisciplinary European Network of Excellence

Poster number: 17

R. Bartenschlager(1), B. Lina(2), M. Manns(3), J.-M. Pawlotsky(4), M. Zambon(5), A. Hay(6), G. Pape(7), S. Ludwig(8), Johan Neyts(9), Willy Spaan(10), J. Oxford(11), J.-M. Cohen(12), S. Schalm(13), Jerome Weinbach(14) and Fabien Zoulim(15)

  1. Department Molecular Virology, University Heidelberg, Germany
  2. Centre National de Reference des virus Influenzae region sud, University Lyon, France
  3. Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Germany
  4. Department of Virology, Hopital Henri Mondor, Université Paris, France
  5. Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, London, UK
  6. WHO Influenza Centre, National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK
  7. Institute for Immunology, University Munich, Germany
  8. Institute of Molecular Medicine, University DĂĽsseldorf, Germany
  9. Rega Institute for Medical Research, Leuven, Belgium
  10. Department of Medical Microbiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
  11. Retroscreen Virology Ltd., University of London, London, UK
  12. Open Rome, Paris, France
  13. Erasmus MC, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  14. Inserm Transfert, 101 rue de Tolbiac, Paris, France
  15. INSERM Unit 271 and liver department, Institut Universitaire de Lyon, France.

Acute and chronic viral infections represent a major public health problem. Development of new antiviral drugs and new diagnostic tools in the past decade has played a major role in the treatment of viral diseases as well as improvement of patient care and quality of life. However, experience gained with HIV has shown that antiviral drug resistance is a major challenge in therapy resulting in treatment failure and enhanced costs for health care and society. It is expected that the same will be true for treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C a well as other viral diseases like influenza. It is the aim of a newly established European Network of Excellence designated ‘VIRGIL’ (for Vigilance against Viral Resistance), to anticipate the problem of antiviral drug resistance by integrating European research and developing appropriate strategies and concepts. Coordinated by Inserm (the French Institute for Health and Medical Research), the network’s activities started in May 2004 supported by a Euro9 millions/4-years grant from the Priority 1"Life Sciences, Genomics and Biotechnology for Health" programme in the 6th Framework Programme of the EU , with the initial task to integrate the fragmented European capacities and major expertise in the field into a single coherent Network of Excellence. More than 50 leading centres spread throughout Europe have been united in order to establish 7 complementary platforms. (1) a clinical surveillance system that will ensure the use of uniform criteria for the collection and reporting of drug resistance; (2) a virological surveillance system that will implement a virological detection and surveillance system for patients with high risk of development of resistant strains and a diagnostic platform for characterization of resistance; (3) a model systems platform that will develop in vitro, cell culture and in vivo system for drug resistance determination and characterization; (4) a ‘host’ subnetwork that aims at understanding and assessing at the clinical level the host determinants involved in virus resistance to antiviral treatments, including the host immunological and genetical predeterminant factors; (5) a research platform focussing on pharmacology and drug synthesis; (6) an innovation and technology research platform that will develop drug resistance testing tools and promote their transfer to commercial partners; (7) a research subnetwork dedicated to the evaluation of societal impact of drug resistance in terms of morbidity, monitoring and treatment costs. Overall the implementation of this unique consortium will allow tackling antiviral drug resistance with a broad, comprehensive and integrated approach that should be applicable beyond viral hepatitis and influenza.