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Strengthening the University of Plovdiv Research Potential in Plant Systems Biology and Food Biotechnology

Final Report Summary - BIOSUPPORT (Strengthening the University of Plovdiv Research Potential in Plant Systems Biology and Food Biotechnology)

Executive Summary:

4.1 Final publishable summary report
Executive summary (not exceeding 1 page)
The BioSUPPORT proposal aims at supporting the development and increasing the visibility of the research excellence of University of Plovdiv – Faculty of Biology (UoP-FoB) in the area of plant systems biology, food testing and biotechnology. The main BioSUPPORT objective is to further consolidate the full research capacities of the University of Plovdiv’s Faculty of Biology with the support of affiliated scientists from two other faculties by supporting its action plan for future devel-opment in one common field.
As a result of implementation of the project the following results have been achieved:
A. Training of Bulgarian researchers:
• Researchers from UoP trained abroad at European laboratories for different periods – 122.
• Researchers from UoP in International Conferences as invited speakers - fifteen (15).
• Secondment (over 3 month) of Bulgarian scientists in European Research Institutions – 15.
B. Secondment of experienced European researchers to University of Plovdiv: Prof. Prof. Alisher Touraev (Austria); Prof. Ruud de Maagd and Dr. Sujeeth Neerakkal (The Netherlands).
C. Workshops organised in Bulgaria – three (3):
• Bioinformatics and miRNAs (2010);
• Future and perspectives of Plant Molecular Farming (2010);
• Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products (2012).
D. Research Conferences organised in Bulgaria - two:
• Conference of Molecular Basis of Plant Stress (CMBPS - 2011). Participants – 140, Invited speakers fifteen (15), from US (Purdue University) – 2; UK – 2; Netherlands – 2; Germany – 4; France – 2, Belgium – 2, Ireland – 1. http://cmbps.bio.uni-plovdiv.bg/.
• The International Conference on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, (BIOCOMP 2012). Participants – about 100; Invited Lecturers - 8 (http://biocomp.bio.uni-plovdiv.bg/).
E. Organisation of new Laboratories, based on purchasing of new equipment (around 1 mill. Euro):
• Lab of Bioinformatics. Aim – software, microRNAs, oncogenes regulation, NGS statistics.
• Lab of Microspore Cultures. Organised by Prof. Touraev. Aim: Doubled Haploid Plants.
• Lab of Metabolomics and Proteomics. Based on LC-Mass Spectrometer Q-Exactive.
• Lab. of Confocal Microscopy. Aim: Cell Biology. Based on LSM 710 CM from Zeiss.
• Lab. of Next Generation Sequencing. Highly innovative. Based on Illumina GA IIa NGS.
• Lab. of Atomic Force Microscopy. Aim: Plastics for food preservation testing etc.
• Lab. of Food&Biomaterial Testing. Based on ICP-OES-iCAP-6300 from Thermo Scientific.
• Lab. of New methods for probe preparation. Milestone Ethos One Microwave Digestion System.
F. Promotion and exploitation of BioSupport activities:
• Technology Transfer. Technologies from UoP transferred to Bulgarian industry and SMEs.
• Joint Patenting. Materials for medical and food industry (Bulgarian and European SMEs).
• Synergy between the Biosupport and Structural funds – two new SF project financed 2012.
G. Dissemination of the project results:
• Publication in the European Journal “International Innovation” – tree articles.
• Short video done by the EC about the Biosupport as a success story in Bulgaria.
• European Commission Publications – Research & Innovation and CORDIS pages.
• Dissemination Trough Participation in various COST Actions – GRC joined 6 new Actions.
• Creation of web pages – Biosupport project (1); Conferences (2); Links to Workshops and University web site.
H. Management.
• Establishment of new procedures and network management structure,
• Implementation of specific administrative and financial management,
• Implementation of project technical co-ordination and assuring quality check.

Project Context and Objectives:
Summary description of project context and objectives (not exceeding 4 pages).
The BioSUPPORT proposal aims at supporting the development and increasing the visibility of the research excellence of University of Plovdiv – Faculty of Biology (UoP-FoB) in the area of plant systems biology, food testing and biotechnology.
The University of Plovdiv, and in particular the FoB, is very well recognised within the Bulgarian scientific society as a result of the quality of its research, research projects and the high level of edu-cation it provides. Indeed, the UoP-FoB offers a variety of programmes of interdisciplinary studies – both theoretical and practical – which is rare in Bulgaria. The University has also established strong links with European research groups and important research initiatives.
The Faculty of Biology (FoB) has attracted a substantial amount of research grants from both European and national programs. The number of scientists involved has increased mostly on the basis of research grants and today the Faculty of Biology employs around 40 people working in the field of Genomics, Systems Biology and Bioinformatics and around 40 affiliated researchers working in the field of food tests analysis from the Faculty of Chemistry and Faculty of Physics.
Despite its success and positive trend, the UoP-FoB’s weaknesses needs to be addressed urgently, in order to stimulate the research done within the Faculty, the attention given to it and, by extension, regional development as a whole. The UoP-FoB still needs:
- Additional staff to reach a critical mass of researchers on the level of other research groups, as many positions are currently filled by postgraduate students;
- Additional training of young researchers;
- Substantial improvements to the research infrastructure;
- The development of wider links of cooperation with the European research structure, espe-cially in the field of bioinformatics;
- More active participation of researchers in international events, which is currently limited by the shortage of sufficient resources;
- Organization of more research events at UoP-FoB.
Indeed, the main BioSUPPORT objective is to further consolidate the full research capacities of the University of Plovdiv’s Faculty of Biology, with the support of affiliated scientists from two other faculties, by supporting its action plan for future development in one common field.
This reinforcement should lead to the establishment of a larger, stronger and more efficient research structure in the field of Systems Biology and Biotechnology.
The project will help to make full use of the University’s research and human capacities, turning UoP-FoB into a structure with a strong regional significance in R&D. The ambition is for the uni-versity to also become a national reference research centre in the field of genomics and bioin-formatics and in some areas of Food Biotechnology in Bulgaria, as well as to become an im-portant research actor in Europe.
Thus, the overall goal of the project, as well as that of the second project period, would be to foster the integration of the University into the wider stage of European Research and to contribute to the competitiveness and growth of South-Eastern Europe as a whole. Strong cooperation with SMEs and food industry as a whole is another important objective, achieved both by including SMEs in the project team and through external support from the major industry players in the field of Biotech-nology in the country. This is especially regarding the technology transfer which was very actively implemented during the second period.
In order to achieve this ambition, the specific project objectives could be presented in measurable and verifiable terms as it is seen in the Table 1.
Table 1. Objectives, activities, results foreseen and expected impact for the second period
Specific objective BioSupport activities Results within BioSupport Expected impact
1) To develop stra-tegic partnerships with other research groups • Exchange of scientists with 21 EU research or-ganisations and 2 SMEs
• Organise workshops
• Organise conferences
• Organise short term visits • UoP-FoB received 43 researchers for 1or 2 weeks and 2 researcher for 1 month,
• One common workshop
• 66 researchers from UoP have visited other research entities
• Two international conferences Better connections with leading EU organisations will help to raise the scien-tific level of UoP-FoB; dissemination of scientific results; better planning of future research
2) To better connect with the industry and local needs • Visit industry
• Invite industry to events
• Technology transfer
• Projects with industry • 10 visits in Bulgarian biotechnol-ogy companies
• Participation of industry to the workshops and conferences
• TT to SME and industry Closer connections with the industry will facilitate the exploitation of the research results and transfer of knowledge; new SF project with industry financed
3) To develop re-search capacity • Hire new researchers
• Buy equipment • 1 new experienced researcher seconded to UoP-FoB (RdM)
• Six (major) new pieces of equip-ment; a number of small comput-er and research hardware More research capacity will help to better exploit the research potential of UoP-FoB
4) To improve research capa-bilities • Secondment of scientists, participation to conferences • Report on the each secondment
• Report on the participation to the conference
• Workshop reports Better capabilities will improve the scientific per-formance of UoP-FoB
5) To disseminate scientific results • Present results at 9 con-ferences
• Organise two conference
• Website and other com-munication material • Report on the participation to the conference
• One website and several commu-nication materials Better communication of results will improve the image of UoP-FoB and will facilitate the knowledge transfer
The project has been divided in the following Work Packages, which will be reported here, except the WP6 – management activities.
Table 2. Work packages
Work package
No Work package title Type of activity Lead partici-pant No Lead partici-pant short name Person-month Start
month End
month
WP1 Enhancing research mobility SUPP 1 UoP-FoB 21 1 36
WP2 Strengthening human resources and research potential SUPP 1 UoP-FoB 169 1 36
WP3 Renewal of research equipment SUPP 1 UoP-FoB 7 1 36
WP4 Organising a conference and workshops SUPP 1 UoP-FoB 12 1 36
WP5 Promotion of BioSupport activities SUPP 1 UoP-FoB 19 1 36
WP6 Management MGT 1 UoP-FoB 36 1 36
TOTAL 264
Every work package has its main aim achieved by special activities and actions:
WP1 aims at encouraging the exchange of know-how and experience through secondment of re-searchers.
WP2 is for strengthening the human resource research potential through the organisation of short term visits to other research organisations, participation in European conferences, hiring of experi-enced researchers and networking with industry.
WP3 concerns the renewal of the research equipment and increase of attractiveness to researchers.
WP4 covers the organisation of three workshops and one international conference, promoting the scientific dissemination and the visibility of the project results.
WP5 involves dissemination activities with the design of a web-site, the organisation of an infor-mation campaign and the publication of communication materials.
As a result of WP performance a set of deliverables for the first period are anticipated, the one for the first 18 month period shown in the next table:
Table 3. Deliverables list (delivery dates for the second period have been extended with six months according to the extension of the whole project).
Deliverable
No Deliverable name WP No. Lead Ben-eficiary Estimated Indicative PM Nature Dissemina-tion
level Delivery
Date
D.1.2 Reports on the secondment 1 UoP 1.5 R PU 42
D.1.3 Report of the seminar 1 UoP 0.5 R PU 42
D.2.3 Second Intermediate report on short term visits and recruitment 2 UoP 1.5 R PU 42
D.2.4 Report of the Steering Committee on Management 2 UoP 1.0 R PU 24
D.3.1 Report on acquisition and use of equipment 3 UoP 1.5 P PU 42
D.4.1. Web pages on each workshop and conference 4 UoP 2 O PU 42
D.4.2. Workshop and conference reports 4 UoP 1.5 R PU 42
D.5.1. Dissemination reports 5 UoP 2.5 R PU 42
D.5.2. Draft RTDI strategy 5 UoP 1.5 R PU 42
D.6.2. Final report 6 UoP 3.2 R PU 42
TOTAL 23


Project Results:
A description of the main S&T results/foregrounds (not exceeding 25 pages)
WP1. ENHANCING RESEARCH MOBILIT
Staff exchange
According to the detailed planning of the staff exchange prepared during the first project period and presented as a Deliverable D.1.1 mobility continued according to the staff-exchange program during the second period. The research centres for mobility shown in the first report were mainly the European supporters of the project. Those centres are described in details in the Description of the Work (DoW). Additionally, some research and public institutions important for implementation of the project were also visited, like EFSA (Parma, Italy), the European Commission (Brussels, Belgium), the Laboratory for Biophys-ics at the University of Geneva, the University of Basel, the University of Bern (Switzer-land), etc.
The results of the staff exchange are shown in details in the Deliverables D1.2 D.2.2 and D.2.3 where detailed figures for travel both ways can be seen. The results of the travel for staff exchange are explained in details in the participants reports, presented after the return.
Secondment implementation
After completing the revised secondment schedule, the participants from different research groups continued to fulfil the plan. As a result of this task, 112 Bulgarian researchers visited their European partners for a total period of about 164 months.
59 European researchers spent almost 23 months in Bulgarian laboratories, exchanging knowledge, presenting their work and delivering seminars at their counterpart research groups.
The aim of the mobility programme was strongly connected with the areas mentioned in the table of secondments. As a result, the researchers have improved their knowledge in method-ology and current advances of their area of research, and would also disseminate their knowledge to the hosts. The result of the secondments is shown in details in the Deliverables.
The exceptional contribution of Prof. Antonio Canals from the University of Alicante, Spain (project partner institution) was very important. Over the last 15 years, he has dedicated time and efforts to support the ongoing fruitful collaboration with the analytical team in Plovdiv. For his outstanding achievements and contribution in partnership with our university, Prof. Dr. Antonio Canals was awarded “Doctor Honoris Causa” of the University of Plovdiv by the rector. The official ceremony was attended by the BIOSUPPORT team. The event was a part of the celebrations dedicated to the 50-th anniversary of the University of Plovdiv and was organized during the 9-th Chemistry Conference 14th-16th of October 2011 with the BIOSUP-PORT Workshop “Trace Components Analysis in Foods”. Our Bulgarian colleague Dr. D. Hristozov, who works in USA – Food and Drug Administration, attended the meeting, together with international guests from 9 countries. During the workshop, the achievements of the partner research groups have been announced and discussed.
At the end of each secondment, every person prepared an “Activity Report” to document the results of the experience. Those reports are published in the WEB page of the project and are announced among the other participants. A common e-mail address is prepared for all the participants of the project (biosupport@uni-plovdiv.bg) which is used for an-nouncements, dissemination, informing, etc.
In order to disseminate best the experience acquired after the secondment, every researcher delivered a seminar in their groups or in the Genomics Research Centre.
Young researchers have followed the seminars to hear advice and best practices from the sources, and would therefore benefit from such a valuable experience.
WP2. STRENGTHENING THE HUMAN RESOURCES RESEARCH POTENTIAL
Work was divided into two phases focusing on the further training of UoP-FoB staff and the further increase of the human potential by stimulating employment and, therefore, growth.
Short term visits
In this sub-task 3, short visits to leading European Centres (EU-Partners) were performed; 10 short visits of researchers from European Supporting Institutions to UoP, mainly for the ad-visory board meeting which took place during the CMBPS Conference.
Training of UoP-FoB staff
A. Training in special courses, events and mobility
• Secondments for training in approaches in metabolomics – two 3 months periods in Max Plank Institute.
• Attending a workshop abroad for Confocal Microscopy – Brno, Czech Republic.
• Organising a training workshop for Confocal Microscopy at the Genomics Research Cen-tre.
• A visit to the headquarters of Waters and Agilent Technologies in Manchester, U.K.
• Organising presentation for new equipment by companies – producers of equipment:
a. THERMO Scientific – presenting LC-MAS and Orbitrap technology.
b. WATERS - three seminars in the period March, 2010-November, 2010, one of them with the participation of the WATERS MS Business Development Manager Dr. Mat-thew Kennedy – Theoretical seminar on metabolomics.
c. Agilent Technologies organized five seminars on Q-Toff technology for LC-MAS and GC-MAS- two of them by participation of the Business Development, Mass Spectrom-etry Manager Shaun Bilsborough and the Business Development Manager Branko Slavica. The two companies were asked to perform similar test investigations with probes provided by the GRC, Bulgaria.
d. Seminar from Agilent Technologies for implementation of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM).
e. Applied Biosystems&AB SCIEX (two seminars) presenting new Tripple-Toff LC-MAS machine.
f. BRUCKER - presenting LC-MAS spectrometer.
g. SHIMDZU - presenting LC-MAS spectrometer.
h. Online seminar and a seminar at the Genomics Research Centre from Illumina for Next Gen High Throughput sequencing by Lawrence Murphy, EMEA and Europe Regional Manager for Illumina.
All other equipment is ready for purchase; the specification of the equipment is well devel-oped and the public tender is published. Some reconstruction of the lab facilities has already started to receive the new equipment. After the receiving the equipment several new labs were organised, based on purchased equipment. The laboratories are described elswerei this docu-ment. In this way at the end of the project the UoP is an absolutely unique centre for Systems Biology and Food Biotechnology in Bulgaria.
B. Training by participation in European Conferences.
During the project 14 people have participated in 15 international conferences, presenting mainly oral talks and taking active part in conference discussions, as chairs and reporters. The materials are published in the conferences reference book.
Training by participation in international conferences organised in Bulgaria
In the second period of the project, large-scale training of young researchers at national sem-inars and international conferences held in Bulgaria was done, along with training abroad at European research institutions. This was possible since the secondment of young researchers was much cheaper and more feasible given the project resources. Both conferences organised were on a very high level, with prevailing participation from European researchers and a very high quality of invited key note speakers. For this purpose, all young scientists participating in the project were seconded for the duration of the conferences at the venue of the event. Some of them participated with posters and actively took part in roundtable discussions.
Participation at the conferences was also used to make additional contacts with other young researchers or experienced scientists. In some cases, this led to the possibility of new collab-oration, the hiring of young students to PhD positions, cooperative research, as well as to organise of new training at the supporting European institutions and laboratories. This could be regarded both as a follow-up of the project and also as a dissemination of its result. The clear result in this respect was the improvement of collaboration with the Max Plank Institute in Potsdam, with further collaboration and training in the field of plant metabolomics.
Training of young researchers during the second period of the project was done at some SMEs and industry, as mentioned above. Those were mainly the companies Komihris LTD, Velboy Ltd. and the Laboratory and Consultancy Center for Food Safety Alimenti BG. Some of the students were hired to work at these laboratories. This is especially true for Alimenti BG and Komihris, who have modern equipment and substantial financing from the private sector.
C. Training on FP7 and project management
For the implementation of this sub-task, several visits were performed to certain meetings for training, several info-days for participation in FP7 and certain events for training in project management. Altogether, eight short visits were performed for this aim.
Events:
1. Training in the frame of the National Contact Points for FP7 in the field of the mecha-nisms of research financing in different European countries. The event was organised by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) – the national funding institution for applied research and development in Austria. The event took place on 28.07.2011 in Vi-enna. The event was financed by the FP7 project BioNet. Prof. Ivan Minkov participated the training.
2. Training in the frame of the National Contact Points for FP7 in the frame of a workshop dedicated to the role of national contact points of KBBE in Horizon 2020.Thiswas com-bined with a brokerage event interwoven with the Meet4LifeSciences event, jointly or-ganised by Euresearch, Switzerland (NCP), FitForHealth, Enterprise Europe Network and BioNet project. The event took place on 25th-27th of June, 2012 in Basel, Switzer-land. The event was financed by the FP7 project BioNet. Prof. Ivan Minkov and Dr. Val-entina Toneva participated the meeting. The GRC Ltd. was presented. (http://www.b2match.com/meet4lifesciences/profiles/2326).
3. Brussels, 25th-27th of January, 2012. Meeting at the European Commission – KBBE, dis-cussion, and briefing. Prof. Ivan Minkov participated the meeting.
Stimulation of employment
Attract national young scientists (Brain Gain)
For this sub-task, 4 young researchers were employed to increase the human potential of the UoP in the fields of Systems Biology and Food Biotechnology. Their expertise is described in more detail in Deliverable for the first period of the project:
Mr. Sotir Sotirov
Experience in Lasers and Laser technologies, Spectroscopy, Informatics; Sensors, nonlinear-optical techniques, Gas discharge lasers, Ultra short lasers, Vacuum technique. Contribution to the scientific objectives: He is working with the existing equipment at the Faculty of Physics and will work with the new equipment purchased for the project in the field of materials and foods testing (atomic force microscope). He is introducing new methods of measurement mainly in spectroscopy and laser techniques.
Mr. Sotir Sorirov continued to work for the project during the second period. He was mainly involved in the purchase and introduction of the new Atomic Force Microscope and the intro-duction of the area of investigations by using the AFM technique. Mr. Sotirov had good ex-pertise with using such equipment, making him a very valuable person in this task. Together with the company and other staff members from the Physics Department (Dr. Maria Marudo-va), Mr. Sotirov installed the instrument and started using it for the measurement of plastic coatings for medical and food implementation. At the end of the project and as a result of his excellent performance, he was offered a permanent position at the University and appointed as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Physics. He is still responsible for the AFM equipment usage.
Dr. Penka Shegunova
Graduated at the UoP. Experienced in instrumental analysis, metrology and quality assurance. Specializations: Ph.D. thesis “Heavy metals and priority organic pollutants in soils of Bulgar-ia” defended in Germany - Freie Universität Berlin, Dept. Earth Sciences. Two years of post-doc in Research Centre of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology (RECETOX). Con-tribution to the scientific objectives: She was included in the Food Biological Analysis group and was working to improve the expertise of the group with heavy metal testing. She will work with the Atomic adsorption spectrometer for food analysis which will be purchased.
Dr. Shegunova was included in the Food Biological Analysis group and worked to improve the expertise of the group with heavy metal testing. She was heavily involved in the process of purchasing and the installation of new equipment in the group – the ICP Mass Spectrometer – and continues to help with the implementation of the equipment for food analysis and biomaterials analysis. At the end of the first period of the project and as a result of her excel-lent performance, she was offered a permanent position at the University and appointed as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Chemistry.
Dr. Elena Apostolova
PhD thesis defended at the Agrarian University in the field of marker assisted selection and plant breeding. Experience in the field of Plant breeding and selection; Inter- and intraspecific hybridization in conventional breeding; DNA-finger-printing for variety identification and bio-diversity studies; cell mutagenesis. Nine months research work at the Universidade do Algarve, Portugal, on mapping genome of almond (AFLP, ISSR, and RAPD) and develop-ment of ISSR and RAPD markers for common bean.
Dr. Apostolova continued her work for the project during the second period in the fields of plant breeding and selection, DNA-fingerprinting for a variety of identification and bio-diversity studies and cell mutagenesis, as well as using AFLP, ISSR, and RAPD DNA mark-ers. Dr. Apostolova was involved with the purchase of the new equipment for the biological groups – the Confocal Microscope, the LC Mass Spectrometer and the NEXT Generation Sequencing machine. She also took part in the Bioinformatics group. At the end of the project and as a result of her excellent performance, she was offered a permanent position at the Uni-versity and appointed as an assistant professor at the Department of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology.
Dr. Milena Kostova
During the project Dr. Milena Kostova was included in the staff of the newly formed Labora-tory for Plant Microspores. She took over the responsibility of developing suspension cultures from the Paulownia tree and attempting to produce artificial seeds of this plant – both of which were tasks with a high practical demand in agriculture. At the end of the project, Dr. Kostova was heavily involved in the micro propagation of Paulownia for practical implemen-tation and worked with the Velboy Ltd. Company. She later took over a European project from the S.E. European program, aiming to develop a strategy in the food sector in Bulgaria. Even after the project, Dr. Kostova is still maintaining the new lab.
Sub-Task 2.2.2 Employment of new experienced researchers
Three extensive with high experience in the field were employed at the beginning of the pro-ject and they continue in the second period. They were developing innovative areas of sci-ence at the University of Plovdiv and their experience is shown in the Deliverables.
Prof. George Andreev
Prof. Andreev was hired during the first period of the project and continued for a good part of the second period. He is extremely experienced and with a very good publication record in the field of spectroscopy (especially in Raman and infrared spectroscopy), experimental chemistry and food testing by different spectroscopic methods. He was involved with the purchase of the mass spectroscopic equipment for the project (LC Mass and ICP Mass) and also after their installation and use.
Dr. Sujeeth Neerakkal
Pursuing PhD in the field of Plant Molecular Biology at the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB), University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Supervisor: Prof. Jacques Hille. Post-doc. Experience in oxidative plant stress. Good paper record. Overall scientific experience – 8 years. Dr. Neerkkal was a very useful employee of the project during the second project period. The results of his work are published in several research papers in the field of molecular basis of oxidative plant stress, in good quality peer review journals (CMLS, Gene etc.). Dr. Neerakkal was very important member of the group of Oxidative Plant Stress. He actively used the infrastructure of the University of Groningen to implement research problems specifically for the Group and the University of Plovdiv.
Prof. Alisher Touraev
Prof. Touraev is extremely experienced and has an excellent publication history – he has pub-lications in Plant Cell Rep, PNAS, Plant Mol Biol, Protoplasma, etc. (http://lib.bioinfo.pl/auid:1622481). Prof. Touraev continued to work for the project during the second period. He is one of the best specialists on plant microspore cultures and plant re-generation in Europe. He has three patents on plant breeding and male sterility plants. During the second project period, he took supervised a PhD student from the Department of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology. He also promoted collaboration with industry – the com-pany Velboy Ltd., where he is consulting in the fields of plant propagation and developing new lines of the fast growing tree Paulownia (see above). Alisher Touraev is now a full pro-fessor at the Moscow University. (http://www.bio.msu.ru/news/view.php?ID=594).
Dr. Ruud De Maagd (http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=M_OmiogAAAAJ&hl=en)
Dr. De Maagd is a newly employed specialist to the project. His secondment started mainly in the second period of the project and continued to its end. We consider it a good success for the project that we have attracted one new, very successful and experienced scientist from the Plant Research International University of Wageningen – Dr. Ruud De Maagd, one of the longest lasting collaboration contact points of the Department of Plant Physiology and Mo-lecular Biology in The Netherlands, starting from the TEMPUS projects back in 1994. He is one of the European scientists who devoted immense selfless efforts for establishing a whole area of Green Biotechnology at the University of Plovdiv and at least 15 researchers have benefited from this connection during this long collaboration. He has since joined the Bioin-formatics Group and introduced some new approaches in studying the tomato genome. He organised the development of a new bioinformatics tool for locating new miRNAs in tomato. As a result of this work, we expect an article in a well recognised peer review journal to be published and one PhD student to finish his thesis.
Dr De Maagd’s areas of work can be seen at:
http://www.wageningenur.nl/en/Persons/dr.-RA-Ruud-de-Maagd.htm.
WP3. RENEWAL OF RESEARCH EQUIPMENT
The main idea was to acquire modern equipment and the tools needed for molecular biolo-gy, bioinformatics research, food and biomaterial testing as a whole, to upgrade the research equipment of the UoP-Faculties of Biology, Physics and Chemistry, as well as to increase the visibility and attractiveness of the UoP especially for the purposes of better participation in FP programs.
Purchase of necessary equipment
This is the main task of the WP. In the beginning of the project, a plan for the priorities for equipment acquisition and placement was developed by the consortium group of representa-tives. This plan was followed during the second period of the project. It calls for the develop-ment of a Bioinformatics infrastructure with priority, as this is where the group's highest ex-pertise is and also because the purchase of necessary equipment was an easier task and no large spendings were necessary. Bioinformatics is one of the most important parts of Systems Biology – one of the main aids of the BIOSUPPORT project. The second stage calls for the obtaining of the rest of the equipment, which requires an elaborative investigation of the exist-ing situation, the companies which will produce the necessary equipment, the long process of negotiations, presentations of the technical data, etc. A good part of it was done at the end of the first period and during the beginning of the second period.
After a number of consultancy meetings on the project (February-December, 2011), a final list of equipment to be purchased was finalized, agreed upon and approved by the project officer. The main issues were the purchase of a Confocal Microscope and Next generation Sequencing Equipment. The arguments and procedure are explained in the report for the first period.
During the second period of the report, the main part of the equipment was obtained and sub-sequently, several specialized laboratories in the field of Systems Biology and Food and Ma-terial testing were organised.
1. Laboratory for Bioinformatics. This laboratory was established mainly during the first period of the project. Nevertheless, some additional equipment was added during the second period of Biosupport, mainly due to the introduction of Next Generation Sequencing to the project (explained later). The laboratory obtained a powerful dedicated server (seen on the picture above) with a large storage system and a UPS system with very high capacity – all placed in a modern rack-system, forming the main node of the Bioinformatics hardware core. The whole IT sector of the Laboratory and the whole participating structure was updated will all new computer systems of the new equipment – Next Generation Sequencer a Confocal Microscope, an Atomic Force Microscope, an LC-Mass spectrometer and an ICP-OES spec-trometer.
The focus of the Bioinformatics Laboratory (its main user is SMART smallRNA Team, http://bioinfo.uni-plovdiv.bg/) at DPPMB is on the development of new methods, algorithms and computational software for the exploration and interpretation of genomic data in a framework of automated sequence analysis. Our current emphasis is on the small RNAs (mi-croRNAs and small interfering RNAs) in plants and animals.
The performance of the newly-formed lab is on very high level, which can be seen from the increase in publishing activity – over the last two years, the lab has published four articles in very high-level international peer review journals and several new ones are already on the way. In the May 2011 issue of GENOMICS, a key chart of the group paper “Implementation of a de novo genome-wide computational approach for updating Brachypodium miRNAs”. Vesselin Baev, Ivan Milev, Mladen Naydenov, Elena Apostolova, Georgi Minkov, Ivan Minkov, and Galina Yahubyan was published on the front page of the issue (see the picture above).
2. Laboratory for Next Generation Sequencing. This laboratory was formed on the basis of the Illumina “Genome Analyser IIa,” which so far is unique not only in Bulgaria, but also in the near region. This machine can sequence whole genomes of eukaryotic organisms, both as de novo sequencing or re-sequencing, as is the case with the human genome. This powerful machine has very high potential in use in human genetics and medicine, as well as in the whole of molecular biology.
This unique machine enables the sequencing and analysis of the genome of an individual. Scientists will eventually be able to use genomic information to predict what diseases a person may suffer from in the future and attempt to either minimise their impact or avoid them altogether, through the implementation of personalised, preventive medicine. Full genome sequencing will rapidly lead to Predictive and Personalised Medicine and will mark a signifi-cant leap forward in the clinical genetic revolution. What is more, we will be able to sequence de-novo genomes of important organisms. We intend to sequence one ‘resurrection’ plant – Haberlea rhodopensis. This is an incredibly drought resistant plant, sequencing from which could provide a ‘recipe’ for the creation of highly drought tolerant crops.
What applications will the new equipment and NGS Lab have?
• Transcriptomics sequencing for establishing the genes which are expressed under different conditions, such as investigating the influence of different conditions on gene expression. The most common use at the DPPMB will be the study of plant reaction to different external fac-tors – heat, drought, etc. A typical example would be the plant mentioned above (Haberlea rhodopensis Friv.), which is highly drought resistant.
• RNA sequencing. Whole-transcriptome analysis with total RNA-seq captures a broader range of gene expression changes and enables the detection of novel transcripts in both coding and non-coding RNA species. This aspect the sequencing of the whole set of microRNAs (miRNA) is the main target of SMART team.
• Whole genome sequencing “de novo”. A very challenging goal is to sequence the genome of Haberlea rhodopensis Friv. “de novo,” which would give us important insight into the drought and oxidative stress tolerance mechanisms in higher plants and their evolution in the plant kingdom.
• Cancer whole-genome sequencing (WGS) provides a comprehensive view at base-pair resolution of the unique mutations present in cancer tissue, including those affected by the surrounding normal tissue and tumour clonality. The NGS systems we have offer high-throughput, high sample coverage and ease of use, enabling researchers to employ cancer whole-genome sequencing cost-effectively, with which to compare tumour and normal sam-ples, and identify de novo and somatic mutations.
• Statistic implementation in NGS and new software development. The NGS produces enormous sequencing data, which requires thorough processing to assure statistically signifi-cant results. In many cases, the machines' own software is not enough for some specific pur-poses. This requires the bioinformaticians in the group to develop new internet-based free access software tools, which are already published in high rating international journals (Ge-nomics, Genes etc.). Some examples are “IsomiRex” (FEBS Letters, 2013); “miRTour” (Bi-onformation, 2011); the de novo genome-wide approach for computational identification of novel plant miRNAs (Genomics, 2011). The developing and publishing a new tool for inves-tigation the miRNAs in newly sequenced tomato genome is also underway.
3. LC Mass Spectrometry Laboratory for Metabolomics and Proteomics. This la-boratory is based on the purchased LC Mass Spectrometer “Q-Exactive” from Thermo Scien-tific. The device is based on s.c. “orbitrap technology”, very well-known for its high resolution and sensitivity. The equipment is aimed at developing new investigation tequniques in the field of biological chemistry – looking for new compounds in plant sources for drug de-velopment, cosmetics and also for use in agriculture. The whole field of plant metabolomics will be developed in connection with the molecular bases of plant stress, taxonomic investiga-tions, newly synthesized chemical compounds with medical applications, etc. The also equipment is well suited for proteomics studies in many areas of biology.
What are the main applications of the equipment which will be developed in the lab?
a) Establishing a bio discovery platform which will be investigating novel compounds from plants for different applications – cosmetics and personal care (e.g. antimicrobial pre-servatives, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and UV-absorbing compounds), pharmaceuticals (e.g. anticancer and antimicrobial compounds) and agrochemicals (e.g. insecticides, herbi-cides). Haberlea rhodopensis is is very rich in some of those compounds. Investigations in this area have already started with collaboration with Agrobioinstitute, Sofia towards the investigation of proanthocyanidines in wild berries.
b) Establishing a platform for plant metabolomics in the area of plant drought and oxidative stress. Such investigations have already started, concerning searching for metabolites in Haberlea rhodopensis, which can play a crucial role in its high drought tolerance. The re-sults are published in the high ranking journal CMLC, 2012 (Impact factor about 6.6).
c) Establishing a platform for plant proteomics for studying whole protein set changes during the influence of different factors in plants. Proteomics is a part of Systems Biology which is not very strong and definitively and needs further improvement.
4. Laboratory of Element Analysis in Food Biotechnology. The new lab is based on the newly obtained for the project ICP-Mass Spectrometer and Microwave Machine used for sample processing, as well as on the pre-existing Atomic Absorption Equipment. The equip-ment – ICP-OES iCAP 6300 from Thermo Scientific – has the capability for full frame spectra storage for trace elements analysis with a dual plasma view (axial and radial). The instrument was installed and staff was trained. The instrument is now in active use for research and teaching. Innovative methods for determining a large number of essential and concomitant elements in food and foodstuffs, plants and environmental samples have been developed after the installation of the equipment. Additionally, a Microwave Machine (Milestone Ethos One Microwave Digestion System) was installed, which is a modern system for microwave assisted high pressure acids digestion with precise temperature control of each individual vessel. Several programs for microwave assisted sample digestion have been created and optimized so far.
1. Through the use of the purchased equipment, the FBA group from the Faculty of Chemistry has created an integrated complex for research and applications in the field of spectrochemical analysis. This complex has progressed as a center of excellence, which can now effect the transfer of knowledge and expertise to outside laboratories and organizations. It has helped introduce educational courses in analytical, units such as EEA (Executive Envi-ronment Agency), Komihris. Methods developed by the centre are in the fields of of agro-chemical studies, environmental investigations of water, soil, plants, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, clinical samples, food, and industrial materials. Analytical services have been re-quested by the companies Agria Corp., Aurubis, Biofarma, Vesta Ins, Lorimet, Siesis, Komih-ris, KCM and Alimenti BG.
5. Laboratory of Confocal Microscopy
This laboratory is based on the newly purchased Confocal Microscope LSM 710 from Zeiss Company – a well known leader in optical technologies for use in Biological and medical Sciences. The use of innovative laser Confocal Microscopy could be a breakthrough in some methods in Molecular and Cell Biology. By using different fluorescence dyes and different frequency laser sources, one can distinguish between different organelles in the cell and also see the accumulation of different compounds or the localization of specific markers. In mo-lecular biology, one can easily follow the process of some gene expression and gene silencing, as shown on the picture to the right.
What is the main application of CM during and after the project?
 Investigation of genes constructs expressed in the human cell can be used as a rapid system of validation of bioinformatics studies. One example would be the validation of new miRNAs in plants and animals found by implementation of bioinformatics tools. This approach would replace the elaborated method of validation used so far (the luciferase system).
 Live cell imaging. The Cell Observer microscope platform for live cell microscopy seam-lessly integrates all these requirements for a complete workflow and flexibility in application.
 Live Cell Microscopy in 3D. Slower events in 3D using point scanning confocal micro-scopes can be recorded.
6. Laboratory for Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)
To investigate the most suitable equipment, members of the research group from the Physics Department visited the University of Angers, France. Their attention was devoted to the op-portunities for examination of materials with atomic force microscopy (AFM). In relation to the pending purchase of atomic force microscope at the Plovdiv University, discussions with the researcher Sylvie Dabos – a lead specialist in the field of AFM – were carried out. They discussed the technical characteristics of AFM offered by three lead manufacturers. Possibili-ties for mutual research and student programs were also discussed.
A Laboratory for Atomic Force Microscopy is now organised at the University with the new equipment bought for the project, namely an AFM microscope from the Nanosurfe Company. This machine is mainly aimed at the needs of the Physics and Chemistry Departments. It will be used for studying the surface and electrochemical charges of different materials and nanostructures used in medicine and food industry as stents coatings, as well as for studying nanocomposites (metal/drugs) used in medicine applications and packaging in the food indus-try.
This is a unique machine for the University and the area of South Bulgaria, and it would be used by other research groups from Food Technology University, Agrarian University and several Research Institutes of Bulgarian Agrarian Academy of sciences. The group from the Faculty of Physics is developing new materials together with the Cannery Institute of Plovdiv. These are multilayer food packaging materials made of biodegradable polyesters and natural polyelectrolytes. These developments were formed and characterized for the first time in Plovdiv University. Applying an electric field to packaging materials gives some benefits, such as increased antimicrobial activity, improve physic-mechanical properties, modified surface – all features which are already being studied using the Atomic Force Microscope.
On the basis of this new laboratory, the Faculty of Physics has developed a new scientific collaboration with the Kazan National Research Technological University, Russia in the field of bio electrets and their abilities for intelligent packaging material.
7. Laboratory for Plant Microspore Cultures
This lab was already organised during the first period and it was fully functional. Neverthe-less, during the second period, the laboratory was consolidated and several new areas of in-vestigation and practical implementation were applied. The lab was soundly connected with the industry implementation of the results. The connections with the Velboy Ltd. Company have stayed at full strength during the second period and the laboratory is now developing new Paulownias forms to be introduced in practice. As a result of this, people from the labora-tory started consultancy activities for industry, aiming at creating a large private establishment in the fields of plant tissue culture and plant propagation in for agriculture. Prof. Alisher Tou-raev will be the main consultant for establishing this infrastructure, which would start an ac-tive Private Public Partnership between the new structure and University.
The laboratory hosts one post-doc, one PhD student and 6 graduate and undergraduate stu-dents. The scientific program of the lab includes several areas:
1. Investigation of different external factors on haploid embryo forming from microspores from pepper, tomato and Brassica
2. Production of double haploid plants from pepper, tomato and Brassica, by using differ-ent methods of spontaneous diploidization.
3. Production of mutant forms from Paulownia tomentosa with the aim of obtaining di-verse forms suitable for better biomass production.
4. In vitro propagation of Paulownia plants.
Training of UoP-FoB staff
Training of staff for exploitation of the primary machines had already started in the first peri-od of the project, with visits from partner laboratories experienced in using similar equipment and investigations techniques. During the second period, training continued in different direc-tions.
• Training was provided after installation by the companies who produced the machines.
• In some cases – such as with the LC Mass spectrometer – a one week training on the premises of the production company or its training centre was required.
• Visiting training courses organised by third parties in collaboration with the company-producer (LC-MS Spectrometer, Illumina NGS).
• Dedicated visits to partners to discuss the equipment use (AF Microscope, University of Angers, France).
• Longer visits for training – LC-MS, Max Plank Institute in Potsdam, Germany the field of Plant metabolomics.
• Hiring dedicated staff assigned by the University staff to maintenance where appropriate.
• Training by participation in dedicated conferences organised mainly by the equipment vendors – meetings in Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Zaragoza (Spain) and Waldbornn (Germany). Several joint seminars partly supported by Biosupport were organized: the Analytica 2011 and 2012 in Sofia (Bulgaria) with Agilent Technologies and the Food Analysis Seminar in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) with Thermo Scientific (jointly organised with Biosupport). On these meetings, innovative instrumental applications in the food and environmental control were announced.
• Training in industry dealing with the same analytical or scientific methods. A good exam-ple is the FBA group and the analytical instrumentation they have received – the FBA staff collaborates with SMEs engaged in food and bio product analysis: Komihris, Ali-menti BG, Agria Corp., Aurubis, Biofarma, Vesta Ins, Lorimet, Siesis, etc.
• Online seminar and a seminar at the Genomics Research Centre from Illumina for Next Gen High Throughput sequencing.
WP4. ORGANISING A CONFERENCES AND WORKSHOP
The main objective of this work package is to organise workshops and a conferences to facili-tate knowledge transfer at a regional, national and international level.
The International Conference on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, (BIO-COMP BG 2012)
The International Conference on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, (BIOCOMP BG 2012), was held in Varna, Bulgaria, September 20th-21st, 2012. The conference had the partic-ipation of the Sin-Off Genomics Research Centre Ltd. and the involvement of some biotech companies supporting the event – Monsanto, Bayer, Illumina, Roche, Thermo Scientific, Conviron etc. The Conference attracted high quality keynote speakers – Prof. Dr. Klaas Vandepoele, University of Ghent, Belgium, Dr. Jose Valverde, Spanish EMBNet node, Prof. Wojciech Karlowski, Polish Academy of Sciences, Dr. Andrey Kajava, CRBM, France, Prof. Mario A. Fares, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland, Dr.Andrey Kajava, CRBM, Macromolecular Biochemistry Research Centre, France, Dr.Gaurav Sablok, Istituto Agrario San Michele (IASMA), Italy. A core group of the participants from the University of Plovdiv (mostly doctoral students) took part in the event. Information about the BIOCOMP was pub-lished in the Journal of International Innovation. Dr.Gaurav Sablok stayed after the confer-ence as a gust researcher of the project Biosupport, working together with the Department of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology on a bioinformatics problem. The result has been the publishing of a research paper in the highly ranked European journal FEBS Letters: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001457931300505X.
Two highly ranked journals decided to publish the best 20 abstracts as full text manuscripts in Special Issues: the Springer’s journal “Interdisciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Scienc-es” (ISSN: 1867-1462), and the Elsevier’s “Journal of Computational Science” (ISSN: 1877-7503).
A dedicated website was developed for the conference: http://biocomp.bio.uni-plovdiv.bg/. The video announcement dedicated to the conference was also distributed on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzU7ZFetuqE&feature=relmfu and on the Department of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology, University of Plovdiv's own site: http://plantgene.eu/events as well as in some well recognised networks dealing with bioin-formatics and NG Sequencing: The Computational Life and Medical Sciences Network: http://www.clms.ucl.ac.uk/node/162 SEQ Answers (The Next Generation Sequencing Com-munity) http://seqanswers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19133.
There was a strong focus on the bioinformatics challenges arising from the extraordinary de-velopments in high throughput technologies and especially in the next-generation sequencing field (NGS). BIOCOMP BG 2012 succeeded in bringing researchers, scientists, engineers, scholars and PhD students together to exchange and share their experiences, new ideas and research results about all aspects of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, as well as to discuss practical challenges and their solutions.
The invited speakers’ presentations were focused on next-generation sequencing, mo-lecular networks, and protein structural bioinformatics. Highly successful and lively poster sessions were held each evening. A total of 55 posters were presented. Finally, a total of 26 oral presentations were given across a broad spectrum of bioinformatics and computational biology topics.
Given today’s bandwidth demand for computational biology, BIOCOMP BG 2012 suc-cessfully hosted over 90 attendees from 34 countries (coming from 5 continents), becoming an exclusive event in the field bioinformatics for Bulgaria.
1. The International Conference on Molecular Basis of Plant Stress
The conference (http://cmbps.bio.uni-plovdiv.bg/) with the scientific organiser Prof. Tsanko Gechev from the UoP-GRC attracted more than 140 participants representing 23 countries from five continents. Distinguished invited speakers included ISI highly cited people, such as Pof. Klaus Apel from the Boyce Thomson Institute, Ithaca, USA, and the European Plant Science Organization president Prof. Heribert Hirt. Additionally, high-profile young researchers with papers in Nature and Science attended, such as: Prof. Christophe Laloi, Dr. Francesco Licausi, Dr. Hiroaki Fujii. A number of PhD students also contributed with lectures and posters, ensuring a good balance between experience and youth. From a scientific point of view, the conference was a great success. Participants not only presented their results but were also able to interact with each other, exchange ideas, and some of them initiated discussions on future collaborations and mutual projects.
The quality of the keynote lecturers, as well as the impressive number of universities and re-search institutes, attracted sponsors like Thermo Scientific, Monsanto, LemnaTech, Sigma-Aldrich, Illumina, Carl Zeiss, LKB, BASF, Conviron, Evogene, Merck Millipore and several Bulgarian companies.The international peer reviewed journal Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences published a multi-author review ‘Molecular Basis of Plant Stress’, where most of the keynote speakers will contribute with particular topics. In addition, the Oxford open access journal Annals of Botany PLANTS published a special issue ‘Molecular Basis of Plant Stress’ dedicated on the conference. This issue contained some of the peer reviewed papers based on some of the best contributions delivered at the conference. Thus, from the publication's point of view, the meeting was also a great success.
The main conclusion is that such meetings are extremely useful for both academia and indus-try. Furthermore, such forums give young people unique opportunities to interact with top level scientists and to develop themselves in a very friendly and relaxing atmosphere. Argua-bly the best indication for the overall success of the conference was the fact that most of the participants spontaneously proposed to repeat the event on a larger scale.
There was a core group of participants, mainly young researchers and Doctoral Students from the University of Plovdiv, Department of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology. Almost all of the participating were with oral presentations or posters.
The CMBPS conference was a good success for the project and the University of Plovdiv, being one of the largest scientific gatherings of the University in the last 10 years. It was also a good opportunity for the expansion of strategic international relations.
Some data about the conference:
International participants – 140 people
Invited speakers – 15, from the US (Purdue University – 2 people); the UK – 2 people; the Netherlands – 2 people; Germany – 4 people; France – 2 people, Belgium – 2 people, Ireland – 1 person.
Agenda: http://nature.uni-plovdiv.bg/multisite/MBPS/docs/Scientific_Programme.pdf
Main topics of the conference:
2. Abiotic stress signalling
3. Molecular basis of biotic stress
4. Oxidative stress
5. Molecular biology and genetics of programmed cell death in plants
6. Plant stress and development
The conference was a good opportunity to train the young scientists from UoP in the field of plant stress (as it was explained before).
Organising workshops
During the first 18 month period two workshop were organised – Bioinformatics & Small non-coding RNAs and Edible Vaccine and Molecular Farming.
The two seminars were performed together, with similar participants from the side of the Uni-versity of Plovdiv and different international participants. The agenda, participants and results are on the web page of Biosupport: http://biosupport.uni-plovdiv.bg/
The events were organised 3-4 July, 2010. In order to organise more substantial workshops with more local and international participants we combined the efforts of tree project – the BioSupport itself, the PLAPROVA (Plant produced vaccines) an FP7 Integrated Project, and the Bulgarian National Science Fund Project D002-071/2008 (Support for the Genomics Re-search Center). In this way we were able to invite 37 participants among them 13 experienced researchers from UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Russia and South Africa; 15 young and senior researchers from UoP-FoB and 9 researchers and lecturers from other research organisations in Bulgaria. All young researchers and the PhD students participated in the sem-inars.
In Bioinformatics workshop the key speaker was Prof. Jan Gorodkin, from the Center for non-coding RNAs in Technology and Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. His talk was about the mamalian miRNA. His presentation covered also the practical implementation of some of the findings of the Center for non-coding RNA in Technology and Health. Dr. Richard Kormelink from Wageningen University spoke about plant miRNA. In Plant Vaccines workshop the key-speaker was Prof. George Lomonossoff from the John Innes Cen-ter, U.K. Other invited speakers were Dr. Eva Thueneman, John Innes Center, U.K. Prof. Luis Enuanes from CNB, CSIC, Spain, Prof. Nikolai Ravin from Centre "Bioengineering" RAS, Moscow, Russia and Dr Emanuela Noris from Istituto di Virologia Vegetale, CNR, Italy.
Workshop “Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products”
During the second, period one workshop was organised – Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products. It was held on the 16th of October 2011, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, which can be seen at the web page:
http://web.uni-plovdiv.bg/kmetov/ACTIVITIES/FP7_REGPOT_BioSupport/Workshop_FBA.htm.
The workshop was organised in the frame of the 9th CHEMISTRY CONFERENCE, Plovdiv, 14th-16th of October 2011 (http://9cc.argon.uni-plovdiv.bg) and dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the University of Plovdiv. The main organiser of the event was Dr. Vesselin Kmetow, Head of the Food Analysis Group and a well known expert in Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products in Bulgaria.
Several eminent researchers, partly from supporting European institutions, were invited by the project Biosupport. They included Prof. Erwin Rosenberg – Vienna University of Technology, Dr. Christoph Puls – Vienna University of Technology, Dr. Lorena Vidal – University of Helsinki, Dr. Dimitar Hristozov – U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They have delivered plenary lectures at the Conference and also took place in the Workshop Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products. A round table of the Biosupport participants was also organised at that day. Workshop TCAF AGENDA.pdf.
T.5.2. Creation of BioSupport Web-portal
During the second period of the project, a web portal was maintained further and kept up to date (http://biosupport.uni-plovdiv.bg/). Announcements of all initiatives (workshops, meeting etc. supported by other WPs), results and important information were regularly posted on the website. The whole setup of the project is also presented there – description of work done, work packages and so on – along with the results of project activities. An example of this are the Activity Reports of the secondments from which every member of the project can learn about the success of the visit and experience can be shared.
The website supports the research dissemination strategies of the project. It helps with the management, coordination and sustainability of the project by facilitating communication between the centres with similar scientific interest, as well as by improving their responses to the socio-economic needs of Bulgaria.
After the development state, a continuous update of content was done by the system adminis-trator, with info from the coordinator and the manager. The site is technically run by UoP staff and it is physically stored on a server, purchased by the project.
T.5.3. Partnership networking
A. Serious partnership has been developed with the John Innes Centre (JIC), which was a new partner for the project. Details are shown below:
A. A new topic of investigation at University of Plovdiv, DPPMB was implemented through collaboration with Prof. George Lomonossoff from JIC. It concerns the development of a transit expression system based on the 5-UTR of the CMPV virus, as well as on the produc-tion of virus-like particles (VLP) in plants, which can be used as immunogenes and nanoparti-cles with different application. The principal researcher in this area is Dr. Gergana Zahmanova.
B. The University of Plovdiv participated together with JIC in the FP7 IP project with, the acronym PLAPROVA, and was very successful. As a result, a paper was published in “Cur-rent pharmaceutical design” (4.41 Impact Factor), along with an article in “International In-novation”: “Expression of interest. Plaprova”. Int. Innov. Feb., 2012, pp. 39-41:
http://www.research-europe.com/magazine/EUROFOCUS/2012-7/pageflip.html.
C. The John Innes Centre and the spin-off Genomics Research Centre Ltd. participated to-gether in a large consortium, with a proposal to take part in the last call of FP7 in the area of bio-nanotechnology (Call FP7 KBBE-2013-7; proposal VIP4NANO 613539).
B. Intensive collaboration was developed between the University of Plovdiv, Physics Depart-ment, Dr. Valery Serbezov, Dr. Maria Marudova and the University of Angers, France, repre-sented by Prof. Bouchta Sahraoui. The Vascotec GmbH (SME), partner of the project and the spin-off Biocoats Ltd also took part in this collaboration. As a result, several patents were developed as described before.
C. A good network in the field of oxidative plant stress was established between the Universi-ty of Plovdiv and several project partners (the University of Potsdam, the Institute of Biology and Biochemistry, Germany; the University of Groningen, The Netherlands; the University of Gent, VIB, the Department of Plant Systems Biology, Belgium and the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO)-Volcani Centre, Israel). This active collaboration was fully expressed during the conference CMBPS, 2011, as well as in several collaborative papers in good peer review international journals.
D. The strong collaboration between the University of Plovdiv and the University of Alicante continued very actively, mainly in the field of analytical measurement of food and bio prod-ucts.
T.5.4. Exploitation of BioSupport results
During the second period of the project, the results of project BioSupport partners collabora-tion was shared with industry. This can be summarised in several areas:
1. Technology transfer between the project partners and industry.
2. Registration of patents between academic partners and industry.
3. Dissemination of project results in different as ways described above.
4. Publishing of research papers supported by the project BioSupport.
5. Several new modern science laboratories were established.
6. University of Plovdiv became a more attractive partner for project applications.
7. Two new projects were financed by the Structural Fund Program.
8. New spin-off SMEs and NGOs were registered.
9. New collaborations were started with other research institutions in the USA, Canada and New Zealand.
WP6 PROJECT MANAGEMENT DURING THE PERIOD
There are three main tasks in the Grant Agreement shown below, which continued in the second period of the project’s implementation.
Establishment of network management structure procedures
This task was mostly finished during the first period of the project. During the second peri-od, project management stuck to the main procedures explained before. The project’s main principle of management was the collaboration between the researchers, the management team and the University Administration. A good synergy was achieved, the benefits of which was clearly seen during the project’s implementation and during the Commission audit performed by KPMG Company.
2 Administrative and financial management
The coordinator was responsible for all the contractual documents (management report, periodic report, cost statement, etc.). The financial manager collected all the necessary in-formation. The Project Manager has continued with the system for no formal secondary control on all spending and documents management. This approach was taken on board due to the specific way of bookkeeping at the University of Plovdiv (normal procedure for the national accounting system), where all financial projects documents are kept together in one file. To facilitate tracking of the spending by work packages, the Project Manager kept cop-ies of all document submitted to the Accounting Office (NPD) and categorized them in different files for every Work Package. This streamlined the auditing procedure at the end of the first reporting period and during the Commission audit performed by KPMG Company, and will facilitate any further financial checks on the project if any.
An important part of administrative and financial management is the preparation of clear and measurable and auditable system for personal costs payments during the project, based on the usual University of Plovdiv practice and the Commission Document for simplicity. This system was approved in the final statement of the European audit performed for the first period of the project.
Project technical co-ordination, quality policies
Coordination of the project was done a variety of meetings, e-mail communication, personal one-to-one meetings (when necessary), meetings of the Advisory Board and Steering Committee. To facilitate the meeting with international partners, international conferences and the workshop were used to organise such coordination events. Smaller meetings, where some administrative issues were discussed, were also organised during:
1. Scheduled visits of several Bulgarian scientists at the European partners.
2. Scheduled visits of several European partners to the University of Plovdiv.
Such low-profile meetings were mostly used to coordinate the activities of the specific working groups or the individual faculties, and were performed by the most actively collaborating parties and their Bulgarian counterparts: the University of Groningen, the University of Alicante, the University of Algarve, the Mugla University, JIC, VIB, PRI, the University of Munich, the University of Crete, the University of Potsdam, etc.
No major problems occurred in the management activities during the second reporting period.
Impact of some deviations from the planned milestones and deliverables:
The most obvious deviation from the deliverables (agreed by the project officer) was the delay of equipment acquisition. There were several reasons for the delay, explained in details in the report from the first period of the project. These can be summarised as either changing of the platforms of the specific equipment during the first period (LC MS); changing the research requirements at certain levels of development of the method (LC MS, NGS); emerging new promising technology in the area of the project (NGS, ICP-MS); changing the concept of research in some research groups (Confocal Microscope); synergy between the infrastructure of UoP and equipment to be purchased (most of major equipment) or synergy between Bio-support and other ongoing projects at the UoP at that time. This deviation was extremely im-portant to ensure the purchase of the most up-to-date equipment at reasonable prices.
Development of the Project website
In the beginning of the project, a website was developed for it, which was further developed during the whole period. It contains presentation of the whole project, its activities and work done, presentations from meetings, information about organised and planned workshops and conferences, reports from researcher from UoP undergone different period of secondment, etc.
The address of the website is: http://biosupport.uni-plovdiv.bg/. Related to this is the website of the conference on plant stress, planned for the second period: http://cmbps.bio.uni-plovdiv.bg/.
During the second period, the website was updated on a regular basis. It was also moved to another platform and different hardware belonging to the project, which enabled its mainte-nance.

Potential Impact:
The potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far) and the main dissemination activities and exploitation of results (not exceeding 10 pages).
Transfer of knowledge
The project BIOSUPPORT was very active with implementation of these task-technology trans-fers. The main companies and activities in this direction are explained below.
1. The collaboration with Komihris LTD continued.
Komihris LTD is a well-equipped, well-established and accredited analytical centre for laboratory testing for food, beverages and cosmetics (http://www.komihris.com/bg/). The has company signed a contract with Dr. Vesselin Kmetov – the Head of the group for food and bio product analysis (FBA) and well-known expert in Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products in Bulgaria – for providing consultancy toward the introduction of new methods for food analysis, and the validation and purchase of new testing equipment. The group and other young researchers are visiting the company on a monthly basis. Fit for purpose methods for food contaminations control of Pb, Cd, Cu, As, Zn and Hg have been verified and adopted for routine use. The FBA experience and advise towards improving analytical methods relevant to the Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 (setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs). The group assists in the implementation of international quality standards, such as EN ISO/IEC-17025 (used for the accreditation of laborato-ries). Testing labs would receive expertise and help how to solve the difficulties in uncertainty budget constriction or methods validation.
2. Collaboration with equipment-producer companies
As an analytical centre, the FBA maintains contact with world leader manufacturers of analytical instrumentation, such as Agilent Technologies, Thermo Scientific, Perkin-Elmer, Milestone, etc. Feedback was provided to the companies in meetings in Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Zaragoza (Spain) and Waldbornn (Germany). Several joint seminars, partly supported by Biosupport, were organized. Those were the Analytica 2011 and 2012 in Sofia (Bulgaria) with Agilent Technologies and the Food Analysis Seminar in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) with Thermo Scientific (jointly organised with Bio-support). Innovative instrumental applications in the food and environmental control were an-nounced in those meetings.
2. The Food Analysis Group started a technology transfer to the company Alimenti BG.
This is a Laboratory and Consultancy Center for Food Safety (http://alimenti-bg.com/). The main task of the contract concerned consultancy in the field of different methods for Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products. “D and V” Ltd., with its laboratory complex ALMENTI, was registered in 2007 with a main task of laboratory analysis, aiming specifically at food safety and Quality. Cur-rently, ALIMENTY is the biggest nongovernment center for food analysis in Bulgaria.
For the purpose of achieving better results, a partnership has been established between ALIMENTI and the Plovdiv University. Nine graduates from the Faculty of Chemistry have been employed in the laboratory. Experts from the FBA group are involved as consultants for analytical activities, knowledge and technological transfer.
A contract between ALIMENTI and the University of Plovdiv was signed (21st of Feb. 2013) for providing consultation and helping to build a modern instrumental analytical lab. As a result, after a number of meetings and discussions with equipment providers were conducted, ALIMENTI was chosen to facilitate the purchase of several state-of-the-art instruments. The following equipment (which cost 500 000 EUR) was delivered and installed on the territory of ALIMENTI:
1. Gas Chromatograph – Thermo Scientific TSQ 8000 Triple Quadrupole GC-MS/MS.
2. Liquid Chromatography Equipment – UHPLC Thermo Scientific Exactive Plus Orbitrap MS.
3. ICP-MS – iCAP Q Thermo Scientific.
4. MW digestion system Milestone Ethos One – Milestone.
Currently, operators are being trained and the equipment is being set up. Analytical methods will be developed and verified in order to meet the European criteria for food analysis and control. Profes-sional oversight will minimise the chance of failed experiments and ensure the validity of tests per-formed.
3. Newly established collaboration with the company Velboy LTD (in vitro propagation)
One newly established collaboration was with the company Velboy LTD (http://velboy.com/) for the purposes of developing a methodology for plant propagation via plant tissue cultures. The com-pany is introducing a new fast growing tree (Paulownia) in Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia, to be used for bio fuel production, timber and planting against erosion (http://paulownia.bg/en). In this collaboration, the University of Plovdiv is using the Laboratory for Microspore Cultures created during the first period of the project, with the main player Prof. Alisher Touraev, who has been hired as a secondment by the project Biosupport during the second period. The Laboratory started with the development of new forms of the trees with different features – drought and cold resistance, dwarf plants for cut-flowers and biomass, fast growing varieties, etc. New technology for plant propagation was established. The is currently consulting with industry, with the aim of creating a large private establishment in the field of plant tissue culture and plant propagation in the field of agriculture. Prof. Alisher Touraev will be the main consultant in establishing an active Private Public Partnership between the new structure (new company) and the University.
4. Technology transfer in the field of material coating and nanocomposites in medicine
Another transfer of technology with the participation of the group from the Physics Faculty (Dr. Valery Serbezov) was arranged with German company Vascotec GmbH (http://www.vascotec.com/) and the Bulgarian company Biocoats Ltd (http://biocoats.com/00products.htm) for the purposes of the development of innovative technologies for nanocomposite hybrid (organic-nonorganic) coatings for medical implants and equipment. With the help of the project, some preliminary investigations of the newly developed coating was done by liquid chromatography, laser florescence microscopy and atomic force microscopy. The new nancomposites – metal-drugs and some new nonlinear optical dyes – were studies as well. This was done with participation of the University of Angers, France – Prof. Bouchta Sahraoui (project partner), resulting in the company defending a series of international patents:
(http://www.faqs.org/patents/assignee/vascotec-gmbh/
http://www.patentstorm.us/applications/20130011440/description.html).
Vascotec GmbH is one of the industry partners of the project.
The University of Plovdiv was able to offer the companies a new, versatile method for material sur-face testing with the use of the newly obtained Atomic Force Microscope.
to develop themselves in a very friendly and relaxing atmosphere. Arguably the best indication for the overall success of the conference was the fact that most of the participants spontaneously pro-posed to repeat the event on a larger scale.
WP5. PROMOTION AND EXPLOITATION OF BIOSUPPORT ACTIVITIES
T.5.1. Elaboration of Research and Knowledge dissemination strategy
This task was accomplished in the first period of the project and presented as a deliverable D.5.1. During the second period, a strategy was adopted using these approaches:
• Presentation of the project at different national and international events;
• Dissemination of the project in printed and video materials;
• Dissemination of the project in research papers;
• Dissemination of the project at the European Commission;
• Dissemination of the project in the National Media;
• Dissemination of the project in industry via connections with SMEs involved in food and bioproducts testing and agriculture;
A. Dissemination trough Technology Transfer:
1. New approaches are introduced for the production highly productive strains of microorganism for the company BIOVET JSC, which produces antibiotics and other biologically active com-pounds, under the research guidance of the Genomics Research Centre and Dr. Samir Naimov. A group in GRC continued the work on another project with BIOVET, financed by the Bulgarian Innovation Fund.
2. A contract was signed between the company Komihris Ltd – a well-equipped, well-established and accredited analytical centre for laboratory testing for food, beverages and cosmetics (http://www.komihris.com/bg/) – and the FBA group represented by Dr. Vesselin Kmetov, Head of the Food Analysis Group and a well-known expert in Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products in Bulgaria. The contract was for providing consultancy in the establishment of new equipment and the introduction of new methods for food testing and food analysis validation.
3. The Food Analysis Group started a technology transfer to the company Alimenti BG – a Labor-atory and Consultancy Center for Food Safety (http://alimenti-bg.com/). The main task of the contract concerns consultancy in the fields of different methods for Trace Analysis in Food and Bio-Products introduction of new equipment and its implementation.
4. A collaboration started with the company Velboy LTD (http://velboy.com/) concerning devel-opment of a methodology for plant propagation via plant tissue cultures. The company is intro-ducing a new fast-growing tree (Paulownia) in Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia, to be used for bio fuel, timber and planting against erosion (http://paulownia.bg/en). In this collaboration, the University of Plovdiv is using the newly created (during the first period of the project) Laborato-ry for Microspore Cultures with the main player Prof. Alisher Touraev, who has been hired as a secondment by the project Biosupport, also during the second period.
5. A technology transfer from the Physics Faculty (Dr. Valery Serbezov) to Vascotec GmbH (http://www.vascotec.com/) – a German company, partner of the project – and to the Bulgarian company Biocoats Ltd (http://biocoats.com/00products.htm). It concerned the development of innovative technologies for the creation of nanocomposite hybrid (organic-nonorganic) coatings on medical implants and equipment. With help from the project some, preliminary investigation of the newly developed coating was done by liquid chromatography, laser florescence microsco-py and atomic force microscopy. The new nancomposites – metal-drugs and some new nonlinear optical dyes – were studied as well. Some patent were received by Vascotec GmbH.
B. Dissemination trough publication in the European Journal “International Innovation” (Re-search Media)
The science of academic success. Biosupport. International Innovation. Feb., 2012, pp. 122-125. http://www.research-europe.com/magazine/EUROFOCUS/2012-7/pageflip.html.
Regenerating Research. International Innovation. Biosupport. Jan., 2013, pp. 38-41. http://www.research-europe.com/magazine/ENVIRONMENT/ENV16/index.html.
Тhere are a number of printed media in Europe exploiting the research projects form the European Commission and especially the Framework Program, and their result were not all used in the best way. Research Media, the company which runs the journal International Innovation, took did a perfect job disseminating BioSupport results in a highly professional way. They published an arti-cle about the project during the first period of the project, as well. Their dissemination area is also quite wide. All this persuaded us to disseminate our results in this journal.
C. Publishing research in high quality peer review journals
During the second period, a substantial number of high-quality peer review papers were published, where the name of project Biosupport was mentioned at the acknowledgements of the journal publi-cations. Papers are shown in a special list of the final report.
D. Video materials about the project:
During the implementation of the project Bionet (Network of national Contact Points) the European Commission made a short video film about the Genomics Research Centre and the project Biosup-port as a token of appreciation and as an example of a successful project. It can be seen at the links:
http://plantgene.eu/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkGQVUCLiX0.
The video material represents the success story of the Department of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology over the last 20 years. In 1989, it started out as a small structure with several teachers, obsolete equipment and modest research staff, but become a strong department with about 25 people – staff and PhD students. The most successful event in the development of the Department was the project Biosupport, so its success story is mostly presented in the film.
E. Dissemination Knowledge through Common Projects with SMEs and industry
As a result of the project activities and new attitudes in the three faculties (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) a proposal was prepared, based mainly on the ideas and structure developed in the BIO-SUPPORT project (by coordinator Prof. Ivan Minkov). This was submitted to the Structural Funds Operative Program with the aim of creating Technology Centres at Bulgarian Universities and aca-demic institutions. For this purpose, a joint venture was created between the University of Plovdiv and the SME AQUACHIM AD (http://www.aquachim.bg/). After a two-stage evaluation process, the application was successful. On 04.12.2012 the University of Plovdiv signed a contract for 1 475 259 BGN (~755.000 Euro) to establish a Technology Centre and a Centre for Technology Transfer. The Centre is now functioning mainly in the field of molecular biotechnologies, eco-technologies and also in area of communication technologies. Its aims are to support Universities, to implement new technology in SMEs, to develop new practical ideas and approaches and to implement patents in industry (technology transfer): http://uni-plovdiv.ecotech21.bg/.
E. European Commission Publications
The European Commission has published a success story about the project Biosupport in the Re-search & Innovation section of its website:
(http://ec.europa.eu/research/regions/index_en.cfm?pg=success_stories&lg=en&id=15.
The report states:”The research undertaken on the BioSupport project to improve the resistance of crops to disease and adverse environmental conditions, and thus increase production, has since gained international recognition and offers of partnerships from around the world” and “The success of the BioSupport project has already made Prof. Minkov look to the future with an eye on further funding to continue working”.
CORDIS has published info for the project on its website: (http://cordis.europa.eu/projects/rcn/92958_en.html)
It mentions some major publications supported by the project, giving links to the project website.
F. National publications
The Bulgarian journal “Advances in Bulgarian Science” extended an invitation to the coordinator of the project Biosupport, Prof. Ivan Minkov, to publish an article on the advances of science in his Genomics Research Centre in connection with the financing of science, as well as with establishing a research infrastructure and human resources in the field of molecular biology, genomics and Bio-informatics. A substantial part of the article and its main accent are centred on the Biosupport pro-ject as the largest research and infrastructure financing project at University of Plovdiv so far:
http://mail.nacid.bg/newdesign/bg/index.php
http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/76111214/genomic-research-center-long-story-told-short.
G. Dissemination Trough Participation in various COST Actions
Mostly due to participation in different meetings, developing new connection with different scien-tists from partner institutions, different research groups could be included as Bulgarian representa-tives in several COST Actions. In some cases, the groups had previous good expertise, but in other cases they were developed by new liaisons. All the actions shown below were joined during the sec-ond project period. The BIOSUPPORT project was presented in theMC meetings of all mentioned Actions.
1. MPNS COST Action TD1204 Modelling Nanomaterial Toxicity (MODENA). It aims to develop a new generation of SAFE-by-DESIGN engineered nanomaterials (ENM), to reduce animal test-ing, as well as addressing certain regulatory issues:. The participation in this COST action was a direct result of the participation of another group from the project in a large IP proposal for the last FP7 Call in KBBE work program (VIP4NANO). Management Committee members: Prof. Ivan Minkov and Dr. Gergana Zahmanova. http://www.cost.eu/domains_actions/mpns/Actions/TD1204.
2. BMBS COST Action BM1104 Mass Spectrometry Imaging: New Tools for Healthcare Research. Mass spectrometry imaging is a rapidly-developing technique that uses spatially resolved prote-omic and metabolomics techniques to simultaneously trace the distributions of hundreds of bio molecules directly from patient tissue samples.. The participation in this COST action was mainly a result of the purchase of the the Mass Spectrometer, as well as of the project groups idea to develop metabolomics and proteomics. Management Committee members: Prof. Ivan Minkov.
http://www.cost.eu/domains_actions/bmbs/Actions/BM1104
3. BMBS COST Action BM1203 EU-ROS. EU-ROS will bring together multi-disciplinary experts to enhance the competitiveness of European research. By applying fundamentally new ap-proaches, it will generate advanced knowledge and translate this into novel applications, ranging from medicine to crop science. http://www.cost.eu/domains_actions/bmbs/Actions/BM1203. The participation in this COST action was a result of the high expertise of the groups from the project in the field of oxidative stress in plants, as well as their wide connection with European research groups working in this area. The conference CMBPS helped substantially to accomplish this idea. Management Committee members: Prof. Ivan Minkov and Dr. Tsanko Gechev.
4. BMBS COST Action BM1006 Next Generation Sequencing Data Analysis Network. Next gen-eration sequencing (NGS) is a highly-parallelised approach for quick and economic sequencing of new genomes, for re-sequencing large numbers of known genomes, or for rapidly investigating transcriptomes under different conditions. Participating in this Action was a result of purchasing the NGS equipment from Illumina, as well as of the good expertise of the Bioinformatics group in this area. Wide connections in the area and good publications in international peer review journals, promoted by the project, helped in this membership. Management Committee members: Prof. Ivan Minkov and Dr. Vesselin Baev.
http://www.cost.eu/domains_actions/bmbs/Actions/BM1006.
5. FA COST Action FA1106. An integrated systems approach to determining the developmental mechanisms controlling fleshy fruit quality in tomato and grapevine. This action aims to bring together research groups working on climacteric (tomato) and non-climacteric (grape) model fruits together to exchange knowledge and to harness European research in this area, using the most advanced genomics and post-genomics technologies.. Management Committee members: Prof. Ivan Minkov, Dr. Samir Naimov and Dr. Tsanko Gechev.
http://www.cost.eu/domains_actions/fa/Actions/FA1106
6. CMST COST Action TD0905 Epigenetics: Bench to Bedside. The main objective of this action is to further our understanding on gene regulation processes. It will contribute not only to basic science, but to the chemical biology of epigenetics, as well. This will lead to a better understand-ing of developmental and cellular biology and provide information for the development of novel therapeutic agents against diverse human diseases.. Due to participation in the project and estab-lishing new contacts the UoP, participant acquired good expertise in plant epigenetics and pub-lished several good papers which helped include them in this action. Management Committee members: Prof. Ivan Minkov and Dr. Galina Yahubyan.
http://www.cost.eu/domains_actions/cmst/Actions/TD0905
H. Dissemination Trough Patenting
As a result of BIOSUPPORT activities, different groups developed products with IPR which could be patented. The products are in different stages of patenting, as can be seen below:
1. The group from the Physics Faculty (Dr. Valery Serbezov), the partner company Vascotec GmbH (http://www.vascotec.com/) and Biocoats Ltd (http://biocoats.com/00products.htm) – a Bulgarian SME (spin-off) – have developed innovative technologies for nanocomposite hybrid (organic-nonorganic) coatings for medical implants and medical equipment. The products were developed with the help of the University of Angers, France, Prof. Bouchta Sahraoui (project partner). A Series of international patents is also underway:
(http://www.faqs.org/patents/assignee/vascotec-gmbh/).
Inventors are the project members Franz Herbst (Vascotec GmbH) and Valery Serbezov (UoP and Biocoats Ltd.). (http://www.patentstorm.us/applications/20130011440/description.html).
2. A group from UoP (Department of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology) developed “Pro-duction of modified HEV VLPs in Nicotiana benthamiana using the non-replicating CPMV-HT system” and other methods for the production of virus-like particles (VLP) in plants, as well as the production of immunogenes and nanoparticles with different applications. This was devel-oped with the help of Prof. George Lomonossoff, John Innes Centre (UK) – project partner. In-ventors are the project members Prof. Ivan Minkov, Dr. Gergana Zahmanova (UoP) and Prof. George Lomonossoff (John Innes Centre).
3. By implementing seed mutation, a group of researchers from the Laboratory of Microspore Cul-ture (UoP) and the SME Velboy Ltd. have developed a “dwarf” Paulownia plant, which would be utilised for biomass or as a decorative plant. The plant would be marked by molecular marker and patented. Inventors are Prof. Alisher Touraev (seconded from Vienna University). Project member are Prof. Ivan Minkov and Boyan Angelov (Velboy Ltd.).
T.5.2. Creation of BioSupport Web-portal
During the second period of the project, a web portal was maintained further and kept up to date (http://biosupport.uni-plovdiv.bg/). Announcements of all initiatives (workshops, meeting etc. sup-ported by other WPs), results and important information were regularly posted on the website. The whole setup of the project is also presented there – description of work done, work packages and so on – along with the results of project activities. An example of this are the Activity Reports of the secondments from which every member of the project can learn about the success of the visit and experience can be shared.
The website supports the research dissemination strategies of the project. It helps with the manage-ment, coordination and sustainability of the project by facilitating communication between the cen-tres with similar scientific interest, as well as by improving their responses to the socio-economic needs of Bulgaria.
After the development state, a continuous update of content was done by the system administrator, with info from the coordinator and the manager. The site is technically run by UoP staff and it is physically stored on a server, purchased by the project.
T.5.3. Partnership networking
A. Serious partnership has been developed with the John Innes Centre (JIC), which was a new part-ner for the project. Details are shown below:
A. A new topic of investigation at University of Plovdiv, DPPMB was implemented through collab-oration with Prof. George Lomonossoff from JIC. It concerns the development of a transit expres-sion system based on the 5-UTR of the CMPV virus, as well as on the production of virus-like parti-cles (VLP) in plants, which can be used as immunogenes and nanoparticles with different applica-tion. The principal researcher in this area is Dr. Gergana Zahmanova.
B. The University of Plovdiv participated together with JIC in the FP7 IP project with, the acronym PLAPROVA, and was very successful. As a result, a paper was published in “Current pharmaceuti-cal design” (4.41 Impact Factor), along with an article in “International Innovation”: “Expression of interest. Plaprova”. Int. Innov. Feb., 2012, pp. 39-41:
http://www.research-europe.com/magazine/EUROFOCUS/2012-7/pageflip.html.
C. The John Innes Centre and the spin-off Genomics Research Centre Ltd. participated together in a large consortium, with a proposal to take part in the last call of FP7 in the area of bio-nanotechnology (Call FP7 KBBE-2013-7; proposal VIP4NANO 613539).
B. Intensive collaboration was developed between the University of Plovdiv, Physics Department, Dr. Valery Serbezov, Dr. Maria Marudova and the University of Angers, France, represented by Prof. Bouchta Sahraoui. The Vascotec GmbH (SME), partner of the project and the spin-off Bio-coats Ltd also took part in this collaboration. As a result, several patents were developed as de-scribed before.
C. A good network in the field of oxidative plant stress was established between the University of Plovdiv and several project partners (the University of Potsdam, the Institute of Biology and Bio-chemistry, Germany; the University of Groningen, The Netherlands; the University of Gent, VIB, the Department of Plant Systems Biology, Belgium and the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO)-Volcani Centre, Israel). This active collaboration was fully expressed during the conference CMBPS, 2011, as well as in several collaborative papers in good peer review international journals.
D. The strong collaboration between the University of Plovdiv and the University of Alicante con-tinued very actively, mainly in the field of analytical measurement of food and bio products.


List of Websites:

plantgene.eu
Prof. Ivan Minkov
University of Plovdiv, 24 Tsar Assen Str, 4000 Plovdiv, Bulgaria
minkov@uni-plovdiv.bg
+359 899 197 057