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Welcome to CERMO-FC

The Center of Excellence in Research on Orphan Diseases – Fondation Courtois (CERMO-FC) founded at UQAM brings together more than 60 researchers across Quebec and internationally. The Center’s mission is to develop and deepen knowledge on orphan diseases through fundamental and applied research, and in doing so, to identify therapeutic targets to improve patient care and follow-up. and their quality of life. At the same time, CERMO-FC is preparing the next generation in this field through education and training.

Be actor in sciences research | Orphan diseases

What is an orphan disease?

An orphan disease is a pathology that does not benefit from effective therapy(s), mainly due to a lack of knowledge. These medical conditions are generally rare (affecting less than 1 in 2000 people) and also include neglected infectious diseases, with low prevalence in wealthy countries (eg Zika and Dengue virus infections). There are more than 7,000 rare /orphan diseases in the world, 80% of which are of genetic origin. Most of these diseases are fatal and about 75% affect children. According to the Regroupement Québécois des Maladies Orphelines (RQMO), nearly one person in 20 is affected by or carrier of a rare disease in Quebec, i.e. approximately 690,000 people in Quebec. While the identification of the causes of orphan diseases has come a long way, much research is still needed to understand the pathogenic mechanisms and develop therapies.

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Why a zebra?

The zebra became the symbol of rare diseases in the 1940s, following a reflection by the doctor Theodore Woodward to his students:

“When you hear the sound of hooves behind you, think of horses, not zebras.”

This metaphor was intended to teach that when diagnosing a disease, physicians should first think about common diseases. On the contrary, orphan diseases are more present than we think in our society. Thus, the zebra has become the symbol of rare diseases; he reminds us that they should not be forgotten.

The International Rare Disease Awareness Day takes place on February 29 because of its rarity, as it happens every 4 years. The day is moved to February 28 for non-leap years.

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