APC Scientists Attract Key Funding on IBS

APC Microbiome Ireland researchers, Dr Gerard Clarke and Professor John F. Cryan have recently been awarded key research funding under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme to understand the role of the microbiome and gut-brain axis in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The researchers at APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre and Departments of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioural Science and Anatomy & Neuroscience at University College Cork  are partners in  the grant ‘Development, dIagnosis and prevention of gender-related Somatic and mental COmorbiditiEs in iRrItable bowel syndrome in Europe’ (DISCOvERIE) which is valued at €6 million overall.  The project involves researchers from eight European countries and a number of European SMEs and aims to better diagnose, prevent and treat this common debilitating condition.

IBS is a very common gastrointestinal (GI) disorder characterized by abdominal pain, excess gas and diarrhoea or constipation, predominantly seen in young and middle- aged females. The experience of illness in a significant number of patients with IBS is greatly complicated by the additional presence of psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety or depression, as well as conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Patients with such comorbidities often have more treatment failure and impaired quality of life. Improving our knowledge of the underlying biology for these overlapping symptoms is the core objective of this project.

The urgency of this research is reflected in the societal impact of IBS and psychiatric comorbidities. In Europe, IBS represents a serious burden to the healthcare systems with current estimates indicating that 85 million citizens suffer from IBS and as many as 1 in 5 people in Ireland are affected.  The annual societal cost for IBS is around €43 billion in Europe. It is a combination of this societal impact and a thus far unmet medical need that has driven the creation of this pioneering project in Europe in the study of IBS and its comorbidities. The DISCOvERIE consortium is distinguished by its innovative and disruptive approach to finding new solutions. This is particularly visible in the focus on age and sex/gender-related differences, and lifestyle factors that we believe will support a better diagnostic approach in clinical practice and facilitate the development of novel therapeutic options.

The Clarke and Cryan labs have a longstanding interest in stress-related gut-brain axis disorders and their role in this important project will be focused on understanding the common biological pathways which lead to the concurrent presence of both gastrointestinal and psychiatric symptoms in IBS.  This grant also synergises with the complementary gut-brain-microbiota research programme at APC which is heavily focused on stress-related disorders.