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Intervention strategies against malaria

Final Report Summary - INTERMALTRAINING (Intervention strategies against malaria)

NTERMALTRAINING (public website address for details) is an European Commission (EC)-funded Initial Training Network (ITN) under the Seventh Framework programme (FP7) coordinated by Dr Michael J. Blackman of the United Kingdom (UK) Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), London. INTERMALTRAINING involves 13 partner institutions (beneficiaries) as well as nine affiliated research laboratories and four industrial partners, from 10 different nations across Europe, Africa and Asia. Its objective is to bring 14 early stage researchers (ESRs) to PhD level through advanced research training and an interdisciplinary collaborative PhD programme that emphasises the path from fundamental research to translation into malaria control strategies.

All milestones have been met:

1. In July 2008, advertising and publication of INTERMALTRAINING vacancies was initiated on numerous internet sites. The programme was officially launched on 1 October 2008 (start date of the general agreement). As planned, a part-time project manager was appointed at once (Nathalie Modjeska from partner 8, University of Montpellier 2, France).
2. A successful international recruitment process was implemented (WP3). By the application deadline (5 September 2008), nearly 1000 registrations had been received through a dedicated web-based 'System 8' server. From these, 320 complete applications were evaluated by the principal investigators (PIs) who each short-listed five candidates. The scientific board ranked these and in October 2008, 40 candidates came to the European molecular biology laboratory (EMBL) Heidelberg, Germany for a two-day interview process. This involved individual interviews of each applicant on the first day and one panel interview the next day. Finally, the INTERMALTRAINING supervisory board (all PIs and industrial partners) met to reach a final decision regarding applicant selection and allocation to projects. This resulted in recruitment of 14 highly qualified ESRS (nine women and five men) into the programme. The gender balance of 64 % female satisfies the recommended level of 40 % female researchers. Six ESRs hold European nationalities (British, Italian, French, Swiss, and Portuguese), four come from Africa (Kenya, Cameroon, South Africa), and four from Asia (India and Taiwan).
3. In December 2008, a prefinancing sum of EUR 1 792 950 was received from the European Commission (EC) by the coordinator and redistributed to the partners. A Consortium Agreement was subsequently signed by all partners.
4. In January 2009, all ESRs took part in a two-week introductory training course ('An Introduction to malaria') organised by Prof. Catherine Braun-Breton from UM2 (partner 8) in Montpellier, France. All ESRs were in post at their host institutions by the end of that month. Declarations of Conformity were submitted on SESAM for all appointed researchers and hard copies sent to the EC.
5. At the end of the first year of the network a first progress report was filed with the EC (this report, as well as the consortium agreement, the annexes, and a number of other documents describing other important milestones in the programme, are all available on the INTERMALTRAINING website).
6. In January 2010, a second training workshop / ESR retreat entitled 'Scientific writing and presentation', took place in London, UK. This was held jointly with the programme's qualifying assessment, in which the ESRs presented on their scientific progress to the supervisory board. All were assessed as satisfactory, and formally deemed eligible to continue in the PhD programme.
7. A satisfactory mid-term review meeting was held in Heidelberg, Germany on 3 May 2010, attended by the EC Project Officer and another REA representative, all ESRs, and representatives of all partners. A presentation on the overall progress of the programme was made by the coordinator, and all ESRs presented their research projects. The ESRs then met privately with the REA representatives before a final summing up meeting. The third intermaltraining workshop 'The enterprise world in biology 1', organise d by partner 6 (University of Heidelberg) then took place.
8. The fourth INTERMALTRAINING workshop, entitled 'The enterprise world in biology 2' took place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Kolymbari, Crete between 3 and 8 April 2011, organise d by MRC-NIMR the coordinator with the help of Dr Siden-Kiamos of FORTH (partner 4) in Heraklion, Greece. The four-day workshop comprised lectures by an industrial partner plus five internationally-recognise d senior researchers from outside the network together with a poster session and PhD retreat.
9. Seven INTERMALTRAINING ESRs have successfully completed their PhD project work, written up and defended their theses. All fellows are expected to receive their doctoral degree by the end of 2012 / early 2013. Four graduates have moved on to postdoctoral positions while most others are planning to continue into academic research. A few of them are trying to enter the world of industry.
10. In April 2011 the coordinator received EUR 747 062.50 as an interim payment subsequent to the acceptance by the EC of the costs claimed in our first periodic report. This sum was entirely redistributed among the partners in June 2011. Combined with the initial pre-financing of EUR 1 792 950, this brings the total pre-financing so far received by the consortium to EUR 2 540 012.50.
11. Outcome and impact: INTERMALTRAINING has produced a cohort of mobile research scientists equipped with basic research skills and an appreciation of the principles underpinning the application of basic biological knowledge to disease control. INTERMALTRAINING focuses on a disease that impact on the lives of around two thirds of the world's population, responsible for widespread poverty and untold suffering. It will thus have both a direct scientific and a wider sociological impact.