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CORDIS - Résultats de la recherche de l’UE

Synapses: from molecules to higher brain function and diseases

Final Report Summary - SYMBAD (Synapses: from molecules to higher brain function and diseases)

Publishable Summary – SyMBaD Periodic Report II
SyMBaD ("Synapses: from Molecules to higher Brain function and Diseases") deals with the study of synapses and extends from molecules through higher brain function to diseases. This international and research program is part of the Marie Curie Initial Training Network. It particularly aims to better understand the structure and function of the synapse in the normal and the pathological brain.

The members of the SyMBaD consortium include 6 academic institutions (Alicante-SP, Bordeaux-FR, Bristol-UK, Geneva-CH, Göttingen-D, Milan-IT) and 9 private companies (Amplitude Systèmes-FR, Aptuit-IT, BioXtal-CH, Explora Nova-FR, Femtonics-HUNG, GSK-UK and China, Lilly-UK, Neurosearch-DK and Noscira-SP).
The 23 teams from the 6 academic centres represent an important fraction of the internationally recognized and highly qualified leading European researchers in the field. These scientists are already well integrated in European scientific collaborative networks and have an outstanding track-record of training young researchers. They have been a great support for the research of the early stage researchers (ESRs) by teaching some of the very sophisticated techniques required in Neurosciences and, in many cases, employing cutting-edge technologies and emergent techniques. Moreover the SyMBaD network allowed the development of already existing and evident synergies between complementary research teams.
The private companies are either involved in the development of new therapeutic strategies to combat brain diseases in which synaptic dysfunction is established or involved in developing molecular tools or imaging techniques to be used in synaptic research and beyond. They participated as full or associate partners to host the ESRs for some months (up to 6) within the framework of collaborative projects with the academic teams.

In total 147 students applied and participated in the selection. 24 PhD students were recruited in the programme as ESRs and started their research in autumn 2010. They came from 13 countries: 8 EU (France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, United-Kingdom) and 5 third countries (Brazil, China, India, Korea, Sudan). The SyMBaD network included also 9 associated PhD students, hired by the local partners.

Training activities
From the beginning of the project the ESRs participated in local and network-wide training activities according to the planned objectives.
Seven workshops were organized in the academic institutions. They were attended by 63 students and associated students from the SyMBaD network and 89 external scientists were invited to present lectures and innovative techniques.
Four annual meetings were held in: St Emilion-F (October 2010), Balatonfured-HUNG (October 2011), Alicante-SP (November 2012), Stresa-IT (October 2013).
The kick-off meeting allowed gathering the network members, discussing the recruitment status and the training activities and officially starting the project implementation.
The second annual meeting comprised the presentation of progress report by all the ESRs and the Mid-Term Review Meeting, which the representative of the REA attended. The annual meeting was combined with the 3rd European Synapse Meeting, which SyMBaD contributed to fund, providing an invaluable opportunity for ESRs to attend a high profile international meeting.
The third annual meeting started with a workshop on synaptopathies and R&D, organized by pharmaceutical companies and research institutes. Scientific presentations by all the ESRs and by the associate students and the student advisory panels (SAPs) meetings followed.
During the fourth annual meeting, in prevision of their PhD defence, all the ESRs presented their research followed by a discussion in a plenary session.
The supervisors met together several times in the preparatory phase in order to plan the actions and implement the project. Moreover, 8 Steering Committees and 4 Supervisory Boards were organized over the four years of SyMBaD in order to discuss and update all the aspects of the project.
Two editions of the European Synapse Summer School were organized at the University of Bordeaux and granted by the SyMBaD program, the FENS-IBRO and the Bordeaux Neuroscience Federation. The schools combined lectures by renowned scientists with methodological training, which are achieved by guiding the students through hands-on experiments within the frame of short scientific projects. A website ( is available for each edition of the school and gives an extensive information on the event.
SyMBaD also granted two editions of the European Synapse Meeting, which were attended by the fellows.
A large number of ESRs attended the proposed training/dissemination activities and has already published or submitted some publication in peer-reviewed journals. The majority of them obtained their PhD at the time of the report. The remaining ESRs will defend it over the following months.

A website ( was created in order to describe the program of SyMBaD and to show its main aims and challenges as well as the opportunities given to the PhD students. The list of the consortium members, the description of the research projects and the training activities (secondments, courses for complementary skills, annual meetings, workshops, synapse summer school) are also illustrated.

Socio-economic impact
Brain diseases represent a considerable social and economic burden in Europe. Emerging evidence indicates that synaptic dysfunction is associated with the majority of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Novel therapeutic approaches rely on a better knowledge of the synapse and its pathologies. To challenge social and economic burden of brain diseases in a highly competitive environment, the network has greatly participated in fulfilling the need to train a new generation of European researchers and increase knowledge in the field of synapse and synapthopaties. With an excellent scientific background and a strong network of European contacts, these ESRs will bloom as competitive scientists either in the academic or in the private sector.
SyMBaD has made European Neuroscience more attractive to young scientists. It has catalyzed multi-level collaborations and has created a mind-set among ESRs to work in a collaborative manner across disciplines, across sectors and beyond frontiers in Europe. This action is of great benefit for the future of European neuroscience and will help foster intersectorial exchanges to advance in the study of some of the foremost health issues of the European Community.

In conclusion the SyMBaD program largely achieved the planned objectives, focusing on technological innovation and multi-level approaches and facilitating constructive interactions between the academia and the industry in Neuroscience. The program offered PhD students an outstanding training in scientific basic research in academic laboratories, the possibility to apprehend research in private companies and to integrate European and international collaborative networks.

Scientific coordinator: Project manager:
Dr. Christophe Mulle, CNRS Dr. Antonella Caminiti
University of Bordeaux, France University of Bordeaux