Degenerative diseases of the retina (retinopathies) represent the most prevalent cause of registered blindness in both the working and retired sectors of the European population. The very real prospect of prevention of blindness caused by retinopathies represents, in scientific as well as socioeconomic terms, one of the most impelling and achievable challenges within the current arena of biomedical research. In this context studies on the basic biology of the retina and its specific functional elements will be an important contribution towards a knowledge-based pathophysiology of retinopathies and the development of rational therapies.

The specific objective of the Marie Curie Research Training Network "EUROPEAN RETINAL RESEARCH TRAINING NETWORK" ('RETNET') is the integration and networking of nine outstanding research teams in the context of a well-defined collaborative research programme that will formulate and facilitate a structured training programme for researchers in the highly-specialised field of retinal research. 'RETNET' will provide a unique and cohesive but flexible framework for the training and professional development of young researchers. These interacting centres bring together a critical mass of theoretical and applied research using a multidisciplinary approach. Each centre represents an existing working unit, having its own specific expertise and research agenda.

Over the last decade, the 'RETNET' consortium has been responsible for the genetic mapping and identification of more than 30 retinal dystrophy loci / genes. In addition, worldwide there are few consortia with a comparable expertise in developmental biology of the eye, creating animal models and developing therapeutical approaches dedicated to the study of retinal biology in health and disease. The planned European integration in this important field should be achieved through the interaction of the networking teams, exchange, training of PhD-students and Postdocs and secondments to create a unique network at the European level and progress towards the creation of a European Research Area of excellence.