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Health-promoting cross-talk between intestinal microbiota and Humans

Final Report Summary - CROSS-TALK (Health-promoting cross-talk between intestinal microbiota and Humans.)

Cross-Talk project is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network focusing on health-promoting interactions between the microbiota and the human-host ( a very dynamic field of research at the scientific forefront. The consortium is composed of 10 academic and industrial partners and 4 associated partners. In the frame of this network of trans-sectorial researchers, 14 young scientists funded by the project and 4 associated young researchers partially supported by the network implemented their career development plan through personalized research, mobility and training projects.

Trainings being the core activity of the Marie Curie ITN projects, Cross-Talk offered to its fellows and its network, opened meetings. Cross-Talk orientated its trainings, which are the heart activity of the Marie Curie ITN, towards the emergence of a supra-discipline: the human microbiome metagenomics. This new scientific discipline calls for multiple competencies in molecular biology, microbiology, cell biology, immunology, and animal and human physiology. Cross Talk aimed at developing new concepts and trans-discipline trainings based on an integrated scientific program, laboratory exchanges and frequent contacts with industrial partners. Beyond the promotion of scientific excellence, Cross Talk insisted on the parallel development of fellows’ transferable skills like management, communication and networking.

In the framework of its project, Cross-Talk organized:
• The Kick-off meeting permitting to present the scientific concepts of this ITN

• 3 Network meetings dedicated to research projects presentations and discussions with all the network members. Gathering on average 44 attendees, a total of 15 recognized scientists were invited to give a lecture, 18 travel grants were attributed to early stage researchers and early researchers.

• 3 Network schools which were adapted to the fellows’ needs, from the implementation of individual training plans to career objectives and job strategy. Elaborated together with the LABIP industrial platform, external specialists were in charge of the trainings.

• 3 meetings of the fellows’ Graduate schools representatives, who (i) proposed a list of training available to all Cross-Talk young scientists wherever they were working, (ii) tried to determine the paths leading to twin PhD diploma and (iii) build together with the other network members the future of the project.

• 3 Workshops opening research to other related scientific fields and emerging questions. The first one was co-organized with the MetaHIT project (HEALTH-F4-2007-201052) in Shenzhen, China. This event was highly valuable for the project since it was the 1st international conference on human metagenomics. The second workshop held in Milano focused on pathogens interactions and the last and third one taking place in Oslo was oriented on cross-talk in-vivo obtained from animal models to human patients. Gathering an average of 80 attendees, a total of 38 internationally recognized scientists accepted the invitation to give a lecture and 25 fellowships were awarded. Our industrial associated partner LABIP awarded at each event two prizes: the best oral presentation and best poster presentation.

• The Final Symposium, showcase of the scientific achievements obtained by the fellows, was the last Cross-Talk event. It was the opportunity for each fellow and their supervisors to present their overall results. More than 110 persons registered, 8 European’s leading scientists joined this event and presented their work, and 7 travel grants to external young researchers were awarded.

The overall scientific goal was to answer the unexplored problematic on the dialogs between non-pathogenic bacteria, their mechanisms and the human-host in the development and maintenance of health. Holding 18 individual research projects, the Cross-Talk ITN was built on 3 scientific pillars which are i) the identification of biological components and strains with high health potentials, ii) proposition of path(s) for the rational selection and use of probiotics and iii) the formulation of recommendations regarding in-vitro and in-vivo. Each fellow was co-supervised by 2 different partners and their work for 10 of them was conducted in both laboratories, they also had access to the partners’ facilities.

All the research projects had started by September 2009. One of the key issues of the project was to better understand the molecular mechanisms of the interactions between commensal bacteria and probiotics and their human host. The project focused on a large panel of bacteria, including lactic acid bacteria (Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli), Gram-positive commensals (Roseburia, Akkermancia, Clostridi,etc) as well as metagenomic clones.
Using relevant cellular models, new pathways of interactions were identified and deciphered during the project. The pathophysiological impacts of these interactions were further analyzed using animal models and human ex-vivo approaches. The potential therapeutic interest is still under investigation and it concerns 11 of the 18 research projects.

The expected final results were as follows.
1) Publication of major scientific advances in the field of microbiota and human health. In Dec 2012, 19 scientific articles are published in peer-reviewed journals with exceptional or excellent notorieties. In the following 6 months, 11 additional papers have been published although only 8 of the 17 foreseen PhD have been defended.
2) Preparation by research practice, intense training program and mobility, completion and defense of 15 PhD projects by the end of 2013. Currently 6 new Doctors have received their PhD diploma and are either working or looking for positions both in the private and public sectors
3) Creation of the Cross-Talk scientific network gathering all the partners of the ITN; the newly created association: Cross-Talk Scientific Network – CTSN, was born in September 2012 and is now open to a larger scientific and industrial audience and is supported by the LABIP industrial platform (including Danone, Nestlé, Unilever, Friesland Campina, NIZO…).