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International Doctoral Programme in Biological Bases of Human Diseases

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Bio4Med (International Doctoral Programme in Biological Bases of Human Diseases)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2020-04-30

The major aim of Bio4Med (Biology for Medicine) programme was to provide unique, international, inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral doctoral training for 22 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) in the domain of biological bases of human diseases. To achieve this goal it combined 22 leading research groups at the Nencki Institute and their scientific partners from world-class laboratories located in EU Member States, Switzerland, Ukraine, Japan, Canada and US.

Bio4Med research programme included basic science PhD-projects focused on molecular basis of neurodegeneration, neurological disorders, cancer and metabolic diseases. All supervising researchers engaged in the Bio4Med are at the international forefront of biomedical research and have experience in PhD student supervision.

The programme was designed to foster young researchers’ career development and employability by addressing the following objectives:
(i) to offer excellent training in modern biology and endow ESRs with unique scientific knowledge, and experience in cutting-edge experimental techniques;
(ii) to enhance research-oriented and transferable skills of ESRs;
(iii) to promote scientific mobility via international, inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral collaboration.

These objectives of Bio4Med were delivered through activities encompassing practical laboratory training, hands-on workshops, lectures corresponding to the theoretical aspects of doctoral projects, research-oriented generic skills courses, transferrable skills courses, progress talks and meetings.

Bio4Med programme aimed to increase the regional, national as well as EU competitiveness by providing a new generation of visionary and innovative researchers able to transform basic science into healthcare solutions.
In the 1st reporting period the major Project objectives were to:
- recruit 22 high profile fellows
- launch 22 interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration to carry out the PhD projects
- provide the 22 successful young researchers with an attractive carreer option through advanced practical training in modern experimental biology, provided by international authorities working with cutting-edge techniques and world-class infrastructure.

In the 2nd reporting period the Project efforts focused on the continuation of the training in order to provide the ESRs the best possible career option and hence contribute to a new generation of visionary and innovative researchers in the field.

Bio4Med training followed the EU Principles on Innovative Doctoral Training. Each researcher was enrolled in the doctoral programme and, to take full advantage of local and programme-wide resources, actively participated in various types of training activities, such as hands-on laboratory training, secondments, practical workshops, advanced training courses, progress talks, project-specific meetings and transferrable skills courses.

In both reporting periods the technical and scientific parts of the project progressed as planned, except minor delays and complications (Sub-projects 15, 18 and 20). However, all the problems were solved and the ESRs continued their training, in case of Sub-project 20 - pursuing new scientific goals under new supervision.
Bio4Med programme was designed to increase the regional, national as well as EU competitiveness by providing a new generation of visionary and innovative researchers able to transform basic science into healthcare solutions. The doctoral programme itself, focused on medically important issues, allowed young researchers access leading laboratories in numerous countries, and has therefore made them highly attractive to commercial enterprises, particularly in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. The offered interdisciplinary, international training has put the fellows at a significant advantage compared to their peers and allowed them to explore their full potential as well as stimulate their entrepreneurial skills.

Bio4Med has built an international research network, and we believe the fellows will profit from collaborations established in the project also after the lifetime of the programme.

Bio4Med has enhanced career development and employability of ESRs by providing training in research-oriented skills (to acquire not only solid theoretical and methodological background but also practical research skills), generic research skills (the programme develops crucial skills related to addressing scientific questions, experimental design, scientific communication, findings publication and grant writing, research management, and translational creativity, ensuring that the fellows are exceptional candidates for their next scientific jobs) and transferable skills (the training has a positive impact on the ability of ESRs to critical thinking, problem solving, data handling and analysis, career planning, team working, project managing, risk assessment, and work planning, to allow them unlock their full potential).

Bio4Med was carried out successfully throughout the whole project lifetime. All its deliverables were met with no outstanding problems. The fellows cooperated as an interactive group during the training events and the intervals between them. All students have been successfully encouraged to attend relevant meetings in and outside the Institute. They were receiving close attention from their Supervisors. We developed a vibrant research community that benefited from existing collaborations inside and outside Bio4Med.

To date, 4 ESRs have defended their PhD theses and were awarded the PhD degree (Kacper Walentynowicz, Sub-project 1, Siranjeevi Nagaraj, Sub-project 2, Roberto Pagano, Sub-project 3 and Sai Santosh Babu Komakula, Sub-project 15). The proper PhD award procedure has been opened by another 10 ESRs. All the Fellows who wished to complete the procedure at the Nencki Institute were granted the possibility to continue studies at the Institute beyond the Bio4Med lifetime.

The overall administrative, financial and organizational support to the ESRs was ensured by the Project Manager and the respective Nencki Institute’s offices. The Project Coordinator monitored all the network activities, evaluated the progress and discuss day-to-day needs of the project with the Project Manager and Sub-project Supervisors. Prof. Dobrzyn was regularly in touch both with the ESRs and the PIs to ensure that the project was running smoothly and in line with the Grant Agreement.

One of the goals of Bio4Med was to create public awareness of the importance of its research. Therefore, the Bio4Med ESRs were encouraged to disseminate and promote science among various audiences by the following means: (i) presentations at international conferences (ii) informal dissemination through network of international collaborators (iii) publication in frontline journals, as well as (iv) involvement in a range of public engagement activities.

In the 1st reporting period the ESRs participated in 18 conferences and 12 workshops in Poland and abroad and contributed to publication of 5 scientific papers.
In the 2nd reporting period the ESRs participated in 62 conferences and 14 workshops in Poland and abroad with 78 presentations (poster and oral). The Bio4Med ESRs and PIs contributed to publication of 31 scientific papers.