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BALTINFECT Report Summary

Project ID: 316275
Funded under: FP7-REGPOT
Country: Latvia

Periodic Report Summary 2 - BALTINFECT (Unlocking infectious diseases research potential at Riga Stradins University)

Project Context and Objectives:
Infectious diseases remain a major threat to human health and are responsible for 17% of global deaths. While there has been success in the reduction of the burden caused by some viral diseases, as new medicines are discovered, emerging epidemics and poverty-related diseases remain a major threat to societies, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Infectious disease research is an important focus area in Latvia, and the purpose of capacity development is to become a valuable member of the EU research task force. Together with developments in closely related areas – immunology, rare diseases research and dermatology – a strong synergetic research field for the project is established; strengthened via multidisciplinary modelling research.
This strategic objective is the strengthening of multidisciplinary infectious disease research in Baltic, European and global dimensions, as a critically important part of health research, by unlocking the research potential at Riga Stradiņš University (RSU). The overarching objective will result in a coherent work plan based on five operational objectives:
establishing two new laboratories at RSU and providing their necessary infrastructure: Laboratory of Digital Immunological Visualization and Laboratory of Infectious Diseases Modelling;
upgrading competencies of personnel in immunology visualization and in-silico and mathematical modelling in infectious diseases and rare disease research;
fostering integration in the ERA by profiling infectious disease as the specialization area of RSU in tandem with Latvia’s 3S priority in biomedicine and medical technologies;
rebuilding the innovation system at RSU according to the principles of the Innovation Union; and
obtaining quality evaluation, which will foster improved participation in the Horizon2020 program.
The objectives of BALTINFECT can be achieved only via intense collaboration and networking with three direct partnering organizations and eight future partners – the leading entities of infectious disease research in Europe. This approach provides intense exchange of knowledge, mutual enrichment of understanding of infectious diseases and gaining skills in new methodology.
Work package 2 – Exchange of know-how and experience – targets knowledge accumulation and experience exchange by increasing the permanent capacity of RSU researchers; 31 secondments are planned, and secondment for Research Process management..
Work package 3 – Recruitment of incoming experienced researchers increases RSU capacity and cooperation abilities by employing an experienced researcher on infectious disease, bringing valuable experience of research processes at EU advanced institutions and increasing RSU capacity by competitively employing two experienced incoming researchers in an open merit based competition and supporting the return of researchers.
Work package 4 - Equipment upgrade aims to improve the technological research capacity of RSU and increase research output at RSU.
Work package 5 - Organization of workshops and conferences aims to efficiently integrate RSU in the global infectious disease research landscape, increase international visibility and comparability of RSU research and create efficient networking with leading global researchers and identification of future research topics.
Work package 6 - Dissemination and promotional activities aims to propagate and demonstrate the achievements of the project, increase visibility of infectious diseases research and facilitate outreach to stakeholders, patient groups and regulatory bodies by garnering support from Latvian official institutions for EU initiatives on infectious diseases.
Work package 7 - Intellectual property development targets the development and accomplishment of strategic Intellectual property development plan for improving RSU innovation capacity.
Work package 8 – External evaluation aims to finalize the project through objective external evaluation and giving an independent seal of approval for infectious disease research at RSU and providing recommendations for optimal future development.

Project Results:
The results during the first two reporting periods are in line with work plan.
WP2 has progressed as planned with 35 total secondments to Steinbeis Research Center Technology Management Northeast in Rostock and the Universities of Greifswald and Rostock (regional cooperation), Karolinska Institute, Uppsala University, Medical University of Silesia, Catholic university of Louvain collaboration course and individual training in Rome, London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, Institute of Innovative medicine Lithuania (IIM), University of Helsinki. Incoming secondments were from the Institute of Experimental Morphology, Pathology and Anthropology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Karolinska Institute, LSHTM, IIM, Würzburg University, Republican Research and Practical Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology, Belarus.
WP3 resulted in recruitment of an incoming experienced researcher for Infectious Diseases, an experienced researcher for Modelling of Infectious Diseases and an experienced returning researcher for Immunological Visualization. The researchers continue their work at RSU also after M36.
WP4 resulted in the purchase of three equipment units for the upgrade of in-vitro research capabilities: FRET module for protein-protein interaction studies, complementary to confocal system; Luminex 200 multiplex analysis system; and upgrade of the BD FACSAriaII with Yellow-Green Laser Set allowing up to 16-multicolor analysis/sorting and using up to 16 fluorochrome-labeled antibodies simultaneously. Furthermore, the geneXplain was acquired for modelling and systems medical analysis purposes, and MatLab biopackage for dynamic modelling.
As part of WP5, the workshop New Trends in Immunology: From basic science to clinical research, was organized in Riga on 3-4 April 2014, Conference . The Common Research Strategy protocol was prepared as a deliverable of the Workshop, which will determine future research directions. 1st Baltic International Conference „Immunological Modelling: Theory and Practice” with participation of 30 international researchers took place in Rīga Stradiņš University on 13 – 15 May 2015. Mathematical Modelling workshop “Current and Future Perspectives of micro- and macro modelling of infectious diseases: from system biology to control and dynamics” was accomplished on January 13-15 2016. International brokerage with SMEs took place March 10-11 2016, together with lab visits by potential commercial partners.
Dissemination and promotional activities (WP6) range from development of a dedicated webpage to printed media, promotion of major conferences and 40 sources in the press and Internet. Film on virology, dedicated SCOPUS indexed Journal issue strengthen the visibility.
The Intellectual property development plan has been developed in WP7 and implemented fully. 4 invention’ commercialisation has entered next market close stages after the plan’s accomplishment.
The upgrade in personnel and technological capacity allowed for exceptionally strong participation in the HIVERA ERA-NET joint transnational call improved participation H2020. RSU has become participant in H2020 immunology Research projects PERFORM and VACTRAIN and coordinates a novel COST action 15111 European Network on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis /Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (EUROMENE).

Potential Impact:
By establishing two new laboratories, major modernization of infectious diseases research has taken place at RSU making it comply with modern approaches and technologies in biomedical investigation. New discoveries have become possible without previous limitations in traditional research topics.
Project final outcomes:
• Research process management reassessment and optimization. An improved research process management handbook has been prepared and research managers have been trained. This guarantees improvements in present research management quality, as well as building a basis for development and dissemination of best management practice;
• Direct two-way secondments increased RTD research potential and the scope of research technologies;
• Three experienced incoming researchers are employed and integrated into RSU activities;
• Secondments are increasing the research capacity of RSU researchers and personnel, and PhD students benefit from knowledge transfer;
• Workshops are increasing the networking ability of the staff by promoting multi-discipline and cutting-edge research;
• Conferences will update knowledge and generate new ideas for researchers and PhD students through a network format;
• Best practice in infectious disease research will be collected, edited and printed in a special book that will benefit researchers and, especially, PhD students by providing future potential at RSU;
• Technology reports in comprehensive forms will deliver novel information to broad circles of stakeholders and financing bodies; and
• Equipment upgrades are improving the technical capability of RSU, thus, addressing one of the major weaknesses indicated in SWOT analysis. Reducing technical backwardness advances research development at RSU.
International scientific collaboration by RSU has been regionally constrained for a long time. The BALTINFECT project allows for broadening of scientific contacts and encouraging knowledge acquisition from European centres to RSU. Awareness of research possibilities at RSU stimulates EU research institutions to collaborate for their mutual benefit. RSU improves its potential to participate in Horizon2020 proposals as coordinator and/or participant.
Substantial progress is on-going in regional profiling and smart specialization: infectious disease research is a priority in bio-medicine and bio-pharmacy, a promising sphere for SMEs and midcap activities, which address global challenges such as AMR. RSU, with upgraded personnel and technological capabilities and as part of European research community, contributes to tackling challenges posed by infectious diseases in the 21st century, as well as emerging epidemics and poverty-related diseases.
Upgrading research capacity and reducing the limitations of research potential in Latvia is a valuable contribution to EU research competitiveness. By synergistically joining resources, we create niches of excellence with a global future in convergence regions. Infectious diseases – their impact on global health (2nd largest cause of mortality) and uneven sharing of the burden between countries – makes research a driving force for achieving more equal access to care, delivering prompt responses to new challenges and opening new research fields.

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Uldis Berkis, (Head of Department)
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Record Number: 194552 / Last updated on: 2017-02-15
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