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Supporting environmental microbiology and biotechnology research potential in Western Greece

Periodic Report Summary - MICROBEGR (Supporting environmental microbiology and biotechnology research potential in Western Greece)

The detection, identification, characterisation and management of:

(a) microbial communities in the environment and
(b) microbial pathogens as well as of insect pests and disease vectors pose significant challenges for the agricultural, environmental and medical communities.

The emergence of new pathogens, pests and diseases problems, the growing concern of the public over pesticide use, and the more stringent environmental regulations have generated the need for developing and applying new technologies for identifying, characterising, and detecting microbial communities, pathogens, pests and disease vectors towards crops and environment protection.

The overall aim of MicrobeGR is to support the environmental microbiology and biotechnology research potential in the prefecture of western Greece with a focus on microbial diversity, environmental genomics and metagenomics, and biotechnological applications.

The specific objectives of the project are:

-(a) to acquire new research equipment and get in the front line of technology,
-(b) to transfer knowledge through the recruitment of experienced researchers in the area of DNA microarrays and microbial community assessment/proteomics,
-(c) networking/twinning with experienced research teams in the same research areas and enhancing our know-how and experience through training of our senior research members,
-(d) based on the acquisition of the know-how and expertise, to unravel and develop a multiplex pathogen detection assay system as well as to assess the hidden microbial diversity towards its potential use for biotechnological applications.

In the first six months of the project, a user-friendly web portal was developed and established describing:

-(a) the MicrobeGR initiatives and objectives, -
-(b) current research activities of the research team,
-(c) dissemination activities are described and relative material can be downloaded,
-(d) a news feed with updates on scientific events and useful publications,
-(e) workshops and tentative agenda's,
-(f) personnel section and links to web pages of our collaborators and
-(g) an updated record of the publications of our research team.

Experienced researchers in DNA microarrays, DGGE, microbial ecology and proteomics were recruited that utilise and excel with the newly acquired equipment. The experienced researchers provide support and initiate new research areas in the fields of Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology.

In the frame of the MicrobeGR activities, a microarray facility has been established for the study of microbial diversity and the characterisation of pathogens. In addition, a genetic analyser, a denaturating gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) that includes a DNA imaging system and an anaerobic chamber have been established.

The acquired equipment has been installed in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Ioannina. All systems are fully functional and are utilised not only by the departments' personnel but are also accessible to research teams of other Institutions as well as of SMEs of the prefecture of Western Greece.

During the first two years of the project, six twinnings of the MicrobeGR personnel took place. Three members of the MicrobeGR team visited the labs of Prof. Daniele Daffonchio, Prof. Henk Braig, Prof. Tim Vogel and Dr Abdelaziz Heddi.

The first MicrobeGR Workshop entitled: 'Molecular approaches to unravel the hidden microbial world' took place on the 15-17th October 2009. In the frame of this workshop, twelve invited speakers presented their research activities covering all aspects of the molecular microbial ecology field.

It should also be noted that members of the MicrobeGR team participated in several national and international conferences and meetings, promoting research activities and the objectives of MicrobeGR.