News of the WeekINTERNATIONAL HEALTH

U.S., Italy Plan Joint Research Effort

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Science  01 Aug 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5633, pp. 579
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5633.579b

ROME—Italy's Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) have signed an agreement to cooperate on research covering a wide range of health topics, from cancer to women's health to HIV/AIDS. The pact grew out of closer links between the two governments in recent years. A delegation from the United States headed by House appropriations committee chair Bill Young (R-FL) and NIH Director Elias Zerhouni sealed the deal in Rome on 28 July. According to the letter of intent, the project will also emphasize work that involves “developing countries and economies in transition,” aiming to reduce global disparities in health.

Italy's minister of health, Girolamo Sirchia, has agreed to commit about P10 million to this effort in the first year, according to Enrico Garaci, president of ISS in Rome. Garaci said that the work will go forward on “two parallel tracks”: ISS will manage several health initiatives, and the health ministry will finance projects on “bioterrorism, rare diseases, and the pharmacogenomics of tumors” in accord with a separate ministerial agreement signed in April. Zerhouni declined to specify how much money the U.S. side will contribute, saying only that funds will come from NIH's intramural program. Although the format of the agreement is unusual, Zerhouni stressed that proposals will be chosen for funding through the NIH and ISS international peer-review processes.

This week, a scientific delegation from ISS left Rome to consult with experts at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, about their joint cancer research portfolio. Teams of Italian scientists from outside ISS also hope to participate in the project; the official announcement indicates that the competition will also be open to groups working on projects related to these ISS interests. The details should be made public later this year. Italian scientists say they hope that this high-profile launch will be followed by a period of expanded international collaboration.

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