Reference networks for rare diseases

The European Commission is establishing between EU countries reference networks for centres of expertise and professionals in healthcare. The aim of the networks is to make it easier to find expertise in rare diseases from another country if this is not available in the patient´s own country. The aim is for the networks to begin operations at the end of 2016.


European reference networks (ERNs) refer to networks covering the EU area where healthcare professionals and centres of expertise specialising in rare diseases in various countries can exchange knowledge and expertise relating to treatment. The work of the reference networks is based on the voluntary participation of healthcare professionals and organisations. By establishing reference centres, the aim is to boost research on rare diseases and strengthen cost-effective use of resources.

The European reference networks

  • Apply the EU´s joint principles to rare diseases requiring specialised treatment
  • Function as centres of research and expertise in the treatment of patients from other EU countries
  • Ensure the availability of treatment services, where necessary.