Since 2000 and the adoption of EC regulation No. 141/2000 on orphan medicinal products, the European Union has been helping to make rare diseases a public health priority, which is essential in fully taking into account the needs of close to 30 million citizens in the EU.

The challenge for Europe is to build permanent tools or mechanisms in order to sustainably account for the specificities of rare diseases on the scientific, economic and organisational levels.

In Article 12, Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients' rights in cross-border healthcare sets up enhanced collaboration between member states and defines the objectives of future European Reference Networks.


In December 2016, 24 European Reference Networks, including the ERNICA network (European Reference Network on Rare Inherited and Congenital Anomalies) covering the same diseases and disorders as those of the FIMATHO network, were officially approved by the European Commission.

 The European Commission created a poster on the European Reference Networks (ERN), with the purpose of explaining their role and their involvement in treating rare diseases.





ERNICA (European Reference Network on Rare Inherited and Congenital Anomalies) is a European reference network dedicated to congenital abdominal and thoracic diseases and disorders. 

It brings together the expertise of several European countries and is coordinated by Prof. Wijnen (Erasmus Medisch Centrum - Rotterdam).

All reference centres in the FIMATHO network became part of it, following a call for projects launched in 2016. FIMATHO has provided its strategic and methodological support in putting together candidate files. 


The launch meeting of the ERNICA network took place in Rotterdam in April 2017. On that occasion, working groups were defined and implemented.

Five members of FIMATHO head up such working groups:

  • Prof. F. Gottrand, coordinator of the CRACMO reference centre, co-leads the  "Congenital malformations and diseases of the oesophagus" workstream and the "Capacity building and training" work package;
  • Prof. J.-P. Hugot, coordinator of the MaRDi reference  centre, co-leads the  "Intestinal diseases” workstream;
  • Prof. O. Goulet, coordinator of the MaRDi constitutive reference centre, co-leads the  "Intestinal failure" workstream;
  • Prof. L. Storme, coordinator of the Diaphragmatic Hernia reference centre, leads the  "Research” work package;
  • Prof. A. Benachi, coordinator of the Diaphragmatic Hernia constitutive reference centre, co-leads the  "Fetal Medicine” work package with Jan Deprest.

Annual meeting of the ERNICA network

An annual meeting is held each year in one of the ERNICA member countries.

The fourth annual meeting took place in Lille, France, on Thursday 30 September – Friday 1 October 2021.
Watch the video below for a review of the meeting : 5th ERNICA annual network meeting, CHRU Lille, France - YouTube

In 2024, the annual ERNICA meeting was held in Wroclaw, Poland, from 10 to 12 April 2024 - more information: HERE