Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - CODEAGE (The role of Chronic DNA damage in Ageing and Age-related pathology)

To maintaining the health of our population and the European economy amid a growing proportion of elderly people it is imperative to identify strategies to prevent or delay age-associated decline in organ function and disease. Aged individuals have an increased risk of developing numerous debilitating diseases, including osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, diabetes and cancer. However, in order to develop therapeutic strategies for delaying age- related pathology, a better understanding of the underlying causes of ageing is required. The CodeAge ITN included several genetic model systems (S. cerevisiae, C. elegans, Mus musculus, human cells) employing cutting edge technologies. This integrated approach is likely to provide a pioneering groundwork into the basic mechanisms of age-related pathology driven by chronic DNA damage. In combination with the expected identification of accessible biomarkers, allowing monitoring of intervention studies, this program contributed to a better knowledge-driven drug development to prevent or counteract age-associated pathologies in order to improve quality of life to the elderly.
The project “The role of Chronic DNA damage in Ageing and Age-related pathology” with the project acronym “CodeAge” brought together young researchers and leading experts in the field of DNA damage and Ageing from universities, research institutes and Biotech companies in order
1. To establish the foundations for systems biology approaches of the chronic DNA damage response (DDR) in ageing by integrating research from basic mechanisms to translational research and clinical applications.
2. To create an excellent European research network dedicated for the training of ESRs in key technologies promoting their independent career and enabling them to achieve their own scientific goals and enhance their future employment prospects. To reach this goal, we aim at establishing platforms of excellence for biological tools, technology, training and dissemination that will form the core of the CodeAge ITN.
3. To transform our current fruitful, long-term collaborations into a stronger intellectual and training network and build links between the participating labs and the industry (SMEs) and thus provide complementary ESR training in academia and the private sector.
In summary, CodeAge developed well and in line with the Grant Agreement. All fellows had initially been recruited and all ESRs as well as the ER have implemented the expected person months. The fellows actively participated in the program and succeeded in developing into mature scientists. Their research contributed to the state of the art with an extraordinarily high output with the main publications being expected to appear after completion of the program as life science PhD projects take about four years. The fellows learned to develop and present their scientific projects to an international audience. They profited from a structured and highly organized training network that clearly set them apart from a normal PhD path and has opened new opportunities for their future.
General Management
To ensure a decent running of the project a part-time management position was created at the University of Cologne (P1). A project manager was employed (January 2013 - November 2016). She assisted the coordinator and the Steering Committee in the overall management of the project. With the realisation of the management strategy set out in Annex I of the Grant Agreement all actions in CodeAge were coordinated and in concordance with the EU regulations specified in the Grant Agreement. As planned, the Steering Committee (SC) was collectively responsible for the implementation of all project activities and was composed of all PIs of the Network. It had been completed during the 1st Annual Meeting in Milan, Italy in 2013, where the CodeAge fellows elected their two representatives for the SC, ESR4 Diletta Edifizi and ESR12 Esther Nkuipou Kenfack in their first “CodeAge Fellows Meeting”. The SC meetings as well as the fellows’ meetings took place during each annual meeting of the ITN which ensured valuable feedback to the project management. The Training Supervisory Board (TSB) had been set up according to Annex I of the Grant Agreement: As external member, Prof. Gerald de Haan (Groningen, The Netherlands), coordinator of the Marie Curie ITN Marriage, could be appointed. The first task of the TSB was to agree on the CodeAge Career Development Plan template (mo7). The first meeting of the TSB took also place during the 1st Annual Meeting of CodeAge where the next steps of the training and secondment schedule had been discussed. Linking CodeAge to other ITNs allowed CodeAge to join forces and maximising the impact of the ITN. Both networks are focused on DNA damage responses (aDDRess) and DNA damage and Aging (CodeAge) with overlapping partners and research strategies. The coordinator (Schumacher) and project manager of CodeAge cooperated with the aDDRess coordinator (Garinis) and aDDRess project manager. Both networks joined forces to jointly organize workshops and Summer Schools. This decision has been proven to be a great benefit for the ESRs/ERs of both networks and the ITNs themselves.
The first website was set up in project month 1 by partner 2 (FORTH). After having realised that a dynamic website based on a content management system would be more usable, the steering committee decided to change the static website to a dynamic one hosted by the coordinator. The re-launch of the website took place in June 2013. It from then on provided information on the project activities, the involved researchers and job vacancies. Instead of the initially planned internal area, an area where the fellows could actively report on their secondments in a blog-style format had been implemented in the second half of the project.
In accordance to Annex I, the Kick-off Meeting as well as four Annual Meetings in addition to the Final Conference had been taken place in connection with four Scientific Workshops as well as Complementary Skills Workshops during the whole project period.
Recruitment and Training
The CodeAge program strongly benefited the career development of the fellows. Our ITN attracted talented young aspiring scientists and allowed them to build pan-European networks and exchange scientific ideas. The topic of the ITN was state of the art and thus has trained young researchers to tackle one of the most pertinent issues in European society that is to find solutions for the aging society and the burden of aging-associated diseases. The fellows were sensitized to this issue and developed cutting edge science along these lines. They received a thorough scientific training that was complemented with transferrable skills thus enhancing their employment prospects across sectors. The partners strongly contributed to the training program and we attracted additional training in translation research and other sectors. The added value was tremendous and sets the fellows on highly promising career paths.
All ESRs got employment contracts and full social security. Each fellow had an ESR Advisory Committee (EAC) with at least two to three members. Thereby, the partners exchanged on standards of PhD supervision and defined good practices. The ESRs complemented their practical and theoretical knowledge by attending local courses and trainings offered by the individual host institutions. They have been enrolled in Doctoral Programs. Weekly lab meetings enabled the ESRs to participate in team problem-solving, decision-making and idea-sharing. The accompanying journal clubs on recent papers from the specific research field were a great educational experience for the ESRs, who learned not only how to design a study, choose appropriate methods, analyse data and draw conclusions, but also how to judge the validity of the study and recognize a high-impact discovery. Furthermore, language courses had been taken up by many of the fellows for everyday purposes. Summer Schools and International conferences had been attended by most of the fellows. (see also list of training activities in attachment). A broad variety of topics were presented during the CodeAge Scientific Workshops to the fellows.
Gender Equality
CodeAge strived at attracting and encouraging female researchers towards a scientific career. Therefore, gender equality had been considered on all levels of the network: among the 13 (16) recruited ESRs were 10 (12) women, i.e. the recommended 40% quota is with 77% (75%) more than reached.
Ethical Issues
All required ethical permits and licences have been submitted by partners 2, 5, and 8.
Outreach activities
One of the main aims of ageing research is not only to promote new scientific discoveries, but also to spread a general knowledge about science and its impact on society. Besides the continuous update of the CodeAge website all participating PIs as well as fellows of partner institutions acknowledged CodeAge in their publications as well as poster presentations at the different national and international conferences and meetings.
The overall research output of the CodeAge ITN was unusually high with a range of high impact publications. Many publications will follow after completion of the ITN program as PhD students require an additional year in life sciences. The fellows incorporated new knowledge and technologies that they were exposed to through interactions with CodeAge partners across sectors and countries. The CodeAge program has strongly contributed to scientific excellence in Europe. The scientific productivity of the fellows in the network was extraordinarily high and has set them on promising careers path for leadership in European science.
CodeAge partners and fellows have publicly disseminated results and actively contributed to societal awareness of aging research in Europe through numerous public news outlets and social media.
Please see complete list of outreach activities in the Periodic Report.

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Life Sciences
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