Research > Candy – ADHD, Autism & Epilepsy

Co-morbid analsys of Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Epilepsy

The Project

The Candy Project started on 1 January 2020 with an end date of 31 December 2024. During this time, ADHD Europe gave input as described below with our member organisation, ADDISS to disseminate and share information on our European communication channels and more. Funding for this project was awarded via the  European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Grant agreement ID: 847818.

Background information – Between 50 to 75 million children and adults in Europe suffer from early onset neurodevelopmental disorders. These disorders include autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Intellectual Disability and language disorders, and pose an enormous burden for patients and their families, and for society as a whole. This burden is due to the high prevalence, the overlap of these disorders with each other, and the frequent combination with somatic diseases such as epilepsy, allergies, immune and gastrointestinal diseases, and visual and auditory handicaps. Patients with these disorders die on average 20 years earlier than individuals in the general population. State-of-the-art clinical care is able to manage clinical symptoms, prevent further complications and improve outcome in some patients. The main problem however is that there are no curative treatments for these disorders, and that our understanding of the underpinning pathophysiology is still only fragmentary. 

The goal of the project is to improve the understanding of the crosstalk between genetics, the immune system, and the bacteria in the gut (microbiome), and thereby provide a compelling novel conceptual framework to understand the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Specific aims
1) Elucidate the causal mechanisms that underlie these disorders and the combination with somatic disease
2) Deliver novel biomarkers to guide early diagnosis and prevention, stratification and/or treatment monitoring
3) Propose and lay the groundwork for new strategies for prevention and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders,and epilepsy
4) Open-up new avenues for research new avenues for research in ASD, ADHD, ID, and epilepsy

Evidence – For instance in ASD the combination of ID and epilepsy is associated with a reduction in lifespan of ~ 20 years; and an economic cost that is greater than cancer, stroke, or dementia. Yet, the research spend on NDDs is less than 1% of those disorders. Hence, we lack effective new treatments for NDDs and do not understand why they co-occur. There is hope, however. Recent evidence shows that rare genetic variants increasing risk for NDDs are shared, converge on final common pathways (e.g. synaptic plasticity, glutamate and GABA neurotransmission, and excitation/inhibition imbalance), and a key role is likely played by immune dysregulation. CANDY’s innovation is to test, for the first time, if NDDs, and their common mental and somatic multi-morbidity, are caused by a combination(s) of common and rare genetic variants and immune activation acting at different ‘sensitive periods’.

Since mapping the entire human genome nearly 20 years ago, scientists have made tremendous progress in understanding the genetic basis of many diseases. However, there is never a one-to-one link between a single gene and a single illness. Several neurodevelopmental disorders often occur together and, further, are associated with other somatic illnesses. This combination significantly affects a person’s length and quality of life and there are no effective treatments. The EU-funded CANDY project is following a trail of rare and common genetic variants that are shared in many neurodevelopmental disorders and the possibility that immune dysregulation and microbiome at some point plays a role. Insight could point to personalised treatment and a drastic reduction in suffering for affected patients.

ADHD Europe Involvement

Andrea Bilbow, past President of ADHD Europe (2014-2020) was responsible for the collaboration of ADDISS (national organisation based in UK, partner of the research consortium) and our ourselves, ADHD Europe during the timeframe of the project. 

Patient support organisations help individual families with evidenced-based information when available via research consortia such as the ‘Candy’ project once released into the public domain. The information can range from Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and intellectual disability (ID) that are clinically heterogeneous, that often co-occur, affect ~15% of the EU population; and are associated with somatic illnesses (e.g. epilepsy, autoimmune and gastrointestinal disease) that lead to a significant increase in morbidity and mortality for individuals and families.

These scientific outcomes gave the opportunities for ourselves as support organisations to voice the actual lived experiences of people living with various conditions for researchers to gain insight and knowledge from support organisatoins.

Our role in the ‘Candy’ project is attending various workshops and annual partner meetings (face-to-face and online) when research was presented with outcomes to all project partners. The project’s multi-disciplinary team of world leading academics SMEs are working on the following 

1) identify novel mechanisms underpinning NDDs and their multi-morbidity

2) develop new strategies for prevention and treatment

3) deliver novel biomarkers to guide early diagnosis, stratification and/or treatment monitoring

4) provide open-access databases, translational test batteries, and tools and targets for valorisation.

In the hope, that together we will transform the landscape for people with NDDs and make possible personalized medicine approaches that target particular mechanisms, in specific subgroups of individuals and at different life stages.

Public Information

Up-to-Date information when available about Biomarkers, Microbiome, Neuro-inflammation
and Critical Periods

There are two clinical research studies:
1. The CANDY PIP study
2. The Multiplex study

More information

Further Information

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