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Final Report Summary - HISERBS (Health improvement in Serbia through reinforcement of biomedical science and technology)

Malignancies are one the major causes of mortality in Serbia with increasing incidence. This project was designated for further reinforcement of three biomedical research institutions in Serbia (Institute for Medical Research, Belgrade- IMR, Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering, Belgrade-IMGGE and Institute for Application of Nuclear Energy, Belgrade - INEP) through specific support actions, to be used for combating this dramatic trend by implementing of up-to-date diagnostic and therapeutic products and procedures. The above mission required engagement of various experts in basic research, laboratory practice and clinics. Therefore, mobilisation of human and material recourses in Serbia, as well as networking with other EU research centres, was carried out in the progress of the project. Visits by distinguished experts in health care and biotechnology from EU, as well as training of Serbian researchers in EU centres were achieved and will continue. EU medical diagnostic standards were introduced and further follow up will be performed. The project attracted the best young researchers and created new jobs.

In the course of establishment and introduction of working protocols, researchers with the strong scientific background and experience with diverse and complementary methodologies were networked within the project forming a centre. Networking of HISERBS multidisciplinary team through standardisation of current methodologies, with health care services in Serbia was initiated. All the relevant medical institutions in Serbia were invited to take part in the networking of the researchers in the field of diagnosis and follow up of malignant diseases. The list of the laboratory diagnostic protocols currently used in Serbia was completed thanks to the information provided by the majority of the institutions.

Cooperation with several scientists from EU centres with the strong scientific background and experience was established in order to develop internationally accepted reference methods and certified reference materials, for diagnosis and follow up of malignant diseases.

Thanks to the establishment of multidisciplinary teams for each pathologies as well as the connection with other relevant health care services in Serbia, screening of the currently used laboratory protocols in Serbia for diagnosis and follow-up of malignant diseases (leukemia, carcinoma of the breast, pancreas, thyroid gland, prostate and gastrointestinal tract) has been successfully accomplished, and the list of laboratory diagnostic protocols currently used in Serbia for malignant diseases has been made. Thanks to the connection with several scientists from EU centres with the strong scientific background and experience with diverse methodologies used for diagnosis and follow up of malignant diseases, internationally accepted laboratory diagnostic protocols for leukemia, carcinoma of breast, pancreas, thyroid gland, prostate and gastrointestinal tract have been introduced in laboratory practice in Serbia. The coordinated activities of HISERBS project resulted in establishment of unified modern diagnostic protocols in combating malignancies, which combined different methodological approaches recommended by various international societies or consortiums with expertise in the field.

HISERBS project activities contibuted to great extent to the laboratory diagnostic standards. As a result of activities through HISERBS project, local standards have been established where previously non-existent, and verified and improved in most of the areas covered by the project. In the field of tumour markers, local practice has been evaluated through inter-laboratory comparisons with some of the highly respected reference laboratories from EU, which confirmed high quality of local practice. New contacts in the field have made possible establishment of firm connections with external quality assurance bodies and participants for future actions, and has resulted in improved service for the patients in Serbia through implementation of specific follow-up protocols.

Additionally, HISERBS project activities contributed and are complementary to the activities of policy makers. In the course of the project, Ministry of Health of Serbia has started a wide campaign in the fields of prevention of malignant diseases. There is a possibility that some of the conclusions reached through realisation of this project may influence national policy on combating malignancies, particularly in field of follow-up of cancer patients, and determining efficiency of therapy used. In case of a wider regional participation, similar effects could be achieved regionally. All this has high value and relevance particularly for the local community and health sector of Serbia.

One of the key project goals was dissemination of the results of the project to either interested professionals or general public with respect to the most specific and efficient laboratory diagnostic tests and protocols for malignancies. These activities had high impact on health sector in Serbia. The success of these objectives was monitored by number of visitors of our open days, attendance of the conferences, number of visitors of the web site. The comprehensive presentation of HISERBS project was organised and included in the 45th Annual Meeting of Oncology Section - Serbian Medical Association and the 22nd Annual Meeting of Oncology Nurses of Republic of Serbia as special scientific meeting of Academy of Medical Sciences.

One of the most prominent HISERBS project achievement is local networking and reinforcement of biomedical research institutions in Serbia (creation of the 'Cordination centre' for reinforcement of biomedical science and technology). At the same time, HISERBS had lasting effect on mobilisation of Serbian biomedical science and technology resources. The HISERBS project was the basis for established communication with a number of institutions in Serbia of importance for public health (Ministry of Health, Republic of Serbia, Academy of Medical Sciences of Serbia, Republican bureau for health insurance of Serbia, Committee for Rare Diseases, Committee for administration of 'Gleevec', Republican bureau for health insurance of Serbia, the Serbian Leukemia Net (SELNET).

HISERBS project activities were oriented to attract institutions from WBC with common interest to join the network (8th Balkan Meeting on Human Genetics, local and international meetings with participation of scientists from WBC, diagnosis performed for patients from WBC). The HISERBS project is a starting point for local and regional networking in the field of biomedical science and technology. Additionally, the realisation of this project brought closer researchers, teams and institutions from Serbia to the European Research Area (ERA). Exposing researchers from Serbia to the latest developments in technology and science of EU and international cooperation trough this project, traced future mutually beneficial efforts and promote equitable partnership in research between EU and Serbia. Moreover, HISERBS partner institution, IMGGE, has joined the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) Collaborative Project 'European Leukemia Net' (ELN) in 2008. It is the most significant European network involved in diagnosis, follow-up and management of leukemia. Thus, the main goal of HISERBS project, facilitation of integration of Serbian researchers in to ERA, was achieved.

The overall impact of activities enabled by HISERBS FP6 project is in finding the possibilities for further implementation of the Project objectives, dissemination of the knowledge, networking of local Serbian institutions and upgrading to EU standards.