Millions for LifeLines?

The RUG and teaching hospital UMCG are figuring out whether they can maintain the research programme LifeLines with additional financing of up to three million euros a year.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

That possibility is discussed in the UMCG budget. LifeLines is a large-scale population study in which participants across three generations are monitored for at least 30 years in order to map the progression of chronic illnesses. The programme is supported by subsidies through to the end of 2017, but after that, the money runs out.

The university and UMCG are now looking into new financing options. ‘The solution is still uncertain’, the budget, which was formulated late September, read. The hospital, therefore, is bearing in mind that the RUG and UMCG will have to contribute annually in order to maintain the research programme.


In its budget, the teaching hospital assumes that UMCG will be contributing two million euros annually starting in 2018, and that the RUG will contribute one million euros. ‘This arrangement still has to be confirmed with the Board of Directors at the RUG’, writes Bert Schoenmaker, managing director of Research and Education at the Faculty of Medical Sciences.

LifeLines needs to raise approximately nine million euros annually, the research programme’s annual report shows. In order set up the research and to do the first and second participant screening, the research programme  received a total of 106.1 million euros from the government, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the municipality, the RUG, and UMCG.

RUG and UCMG spokespersons have said that neither institute has made a decision about potentially contributing to LifeLines. The research programme’s board is ‘working hard on financing’, a spokesperson says. ‘Talks are being had.’ The board would not discuss the issue further.

Too few sick people

A year ago, scientific manager Ronald Stolk predicted would be unable to stand on its own two feet. One of the reasons is that the data and samples of human tissue will only become interesting to researchers and companies in five to ten years. ‘At the start of our research, all our participants were healthy, and you can’t track the development of diseases unless they actually occur’, he said.

Last week, the SP said they were ‘shocked’ by ‘LifeLines’ failure’. ‘Approximately one hundred million euros of public money has been spent on LifeLines over the past few years. The programme had the promise of hundreds of jobs, economic growth, and interest from the business world. None of that came to pass, and now the money’s run out’, says faction chair Sandra Beckerman.

LifeLines managing director Saakje Mulder did not wish to comment on the SP’s remarks. ‘We’re not going to respond to everything in the media’, according to the spokesperson.

According to Dagblad van het Noorden, the municipality of Groningen has decided not to offer financial help to the research project. The Provincial Executive feels the government should help out. ‘We expected more to come of this’, representative Patrick Brouns (CDA) told the newspaper. He considers LifeLines scientifically interesting, but feels the municipality has barely benefited from it. ‘When it comes to employment opportunities and what it means to small and medium-sized regional business, LifeLines hasn’t shown much potential. ‘

Photo: LifeLines



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