Fields of pharmaceutical research, molecular biology, microbiology, neurobiology, psychology
Good health and well-being of citizens are among the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN, which have been accepted and agreed to by all member states. Referring to the European Commission’s resolution, the OECD emphasizes that these goals can only be achieved by comprehensive innovations including significant R&D activity. Thus, health has become one of the central subject areas of Hungarian RDI, scientific education, consultancy, and science popularization in line with global goals as well as domestic needs and priorities.
The mortality and morbidity data of certain diseases in the Hungarian population are highly unfavorable. These disease types, e.g., diseases of the central nervous system, cardio-vascular and tumorous diseases, are among the priority research subjects of relevant ELKH research centers and institutes.
The ELKH research sites – especially the Institute of Experimental Medicine (KOKI), the Biological Research Centre (SZBK), the Research Centre for Natural Sciences (TTK), the Centre for Ecological Research (ÖK), the Centre for Agricultural Research (ATK), the Institute for Veterinary Medical Research (ÁOTI) and partially other institutes of the ATK and the Centre for Economic and Regional Studies (KRKI) – regard health-related research as their top priority. Therefore, most of their activities focus on research into diseases that constitute a challenge from the perspective of public health, competitiveness and national strategy.
Diseases of the central nervous system place a significant burden on the individual, the public health service and society. Research in KOKI focuses on neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases: memory, sleep and rhythmical brain activities, fear reactions, anxiety, the frontal lobe, which is responsible for the highest level functions of the nervous system (decision-making, planning and self-awareness), the thalamus, schizophrenia, epilepsy and chronic pain.
In the field of pharmaceutical research and innovation, KOKI’s overall aim is to understand information processing both at the cell and the network level and both in the healthy and the pathological brain, and to find new targets for medicines and novel diagnostic methods based on that. In collaboration with TTK, KOKI aims to develop active agents against Parkinson’s disease with a new target. The development of medicines faces significant challenges today. The strategic aim of the researchers at SZBK is to develop competitive biological drug development technology and therapeutic methods unique in Hungary.
It is a strategic aim of SZBK to enhance the chances of healthy aging. The focus of biological research on aging has moved from extending life span to extending the health span. SZBK’s projects aim to identify the molecular switches responsible for healthy/pathological aging with the expressome and the secrotome in focus; and also to find aging-related biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets.
One of the leading causes of mortality in the developed world, including Europe is cancer. Numerous research groups in TTK, in cooperation with other institutes, participate in designing methods that take the individual characteristics of tumors into consideration, and in putting these methods in therapeutic application. New protein targets can be identified by characterizing tumors at the molecular level. If these are inhibited, the tumorous cells of certain patients can be killed selectively and effectively, which may be a breakthrough in the treatment of cancer. The main objective of researchers is to elaborate a uniform tumor diagnostic method that is easy to use.
The reasons for resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs are being investigated at SZBK, as is the identification of drug molecules acting against resistance. The strategic aim of researchers at SZBK in cooperation with groups from TTK is to explore the reasons for resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs and to identify drug molecules that are capable of blocking this resistance.
The fast development of medical biology research enables the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic processes for numerous diseases that are regarded as a severe risk to public health. A prerequisite for these developments is to elaborate relevant disease models, to explore the pathological mechanisms at the molecule, cell and organism level, to identify the genetic and epigenetic factors influencing the therapy, and to translate these results to the level of pharmaceutical development and clinical application. One of the primary aims of TTK’s researchers is to develop diagnostic biomarkers, to identify new biomarkers, besides creating novel therapeutic solutions designed for new targets and drug treatments based on pharmacogenetic grounds.
Additionally, TTK’s researchers aim to develop, synthesize and apply bioactive molecules, pharmacological probes, drug candidates, fluorescent signaling molecules and molecular switches. They put special emphasis on the latest development trends of pharmaceutical chemistry, the targeted degradation of abnormal proteins, the irreversible chemical modification and the inhibition of protein-protein interactions.
Due to the unprecedented development of clinical genetics, the genetic background of several thousands of human diseases has been identified by researchers, but only a small number of such diseases can be cured by therapeutic processes. A strategic aim of SZBK is to create and operate the first drug repositioning research site in Hungary. Researchers are focused on new therapeutic solutions by developing disease models for the cell level and the whole animal level (Drosophila – fruit fly), and by creating and using highly permeable filtering techniques suitable for filtering molecule inventories.
One of the greatest environmental challenges of our time is the emergence of new contagious diseases, as climate change (see below), urbanization and globalization all facilitate the survival of pathogens and the spread of vector species responsible for spreading them. At present, two research groups are working in ÖK that are monitoring mosquitoes, ticks, and the pathogens spread by them. They are also paying special attention to urban epidemic hotspots and to the investigation of invasive species appearing in the Hungarian fauna due to climate change, and the diseases brought into the country by them. These research activities rely on the systematic application of the DAMA (Document, Assess, Monitor, Act) Protocol.
In the past ten years, 75% of new diseases affecting humans have been caused by pathogens from animals or products prepared from animals. Therefore, a crucial aim of ATK ÁOTI is to explore the properties of pathogens causing zoonotic diseases, and to further develop methods for their diagnosis and protection against them. Another research focus is the problem of antimicrobial resistance, as it has been proven at several levels that bacterial resistance can spread from animals to humans.
Newly emerging diseases represent national security and existential risks for all countries, especially for urban inhabitants in technologically developed countries. Climate change and global trade facilitate the emergence of numerous pathogens at new places and in new host organisms, thus boosting epidemics in humans, farmed animals and crops. Consequently, the research conducted in ATK ÁOTI and ÖK focuses on contagious animal diseases that threaten our animal stock at the national level, and the effect of urban epidemic hotspots and new species and the diseases spread by them, which all occur due to climate change.