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Teaching Emerging Methods in Palaeoproteomics for the European Research Area

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TEMPERA (Teaching Emerging Methods in Palaeoproteomics for the European Research Area)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2021-02-28

TEMPERA is a Marie Skłodowska Curie European Training Network that provided international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary state-of-the-art doctoral training to prepare the next generation of specialists in mass spectrometry-based ancient protein residues analysis for biomolecular diagnostics and conservation of cultural heritage material. Due to their chemical and mechanical properties, proteins have always represented the category of biomolecules most extensively exploited by humans to satisfy basic needs, including: nutrition, clothing, sheltering and transportation. Most of the cultural heritage objects produced using biogenic materials are rich in protein residues. In addition to their role in nutrition, the chemical and mechanical properties of proteins have always been exploited in a broad range of applications. Ancient proteins are found almost everywhere in cultural heritage. Yet, paleoproteomics still lacks a critical mass of researchers trained through a coherent curriculum to analyse degraded proteins from art, archaeology and palaeontology. However, before the implementation of TEMPERA, there have been very few specialists that have been trained to analyse ancient proteins. The almost complete lack of training in the study of ancient proteins is one of the factors negatively affecting the growth of paleoproteomic investigation. TEMPERA addressed this structural weakness in European applied research by creating a training environment that, for the first time, brought together in a network the laboratories which have, largely in isolation, developed the techniques upon which ancient protein analysis is built. TEMPERA provided training for ESRs to read ancient protein sequences and interpret the recovered information. This improved knowledge about production techniques and chemical preservation of cultural heritage materials, ultimately improving their safeguard and conservation. Europe’s cultural heritage, serves as a basis for communication of European common values, one of the world’s most diverse and rich patrimonies, attracting millions of visitors each year. It represents an important component of individual and collective identity, contributing to the cohesion of the EU and playing a fundamental role in European cultural integration. Preserving EU heritage is not only a priceless investment to support sustainable tourism, but more importantly, a strong moral duty towards future generations in an atmosphere of openness, democracy, and peaceful relations.

The TEMPERA objectives were:
1. To develop a strategic, powerful training platform to equip the next generation of cultural heritage conservation scientists and technologists with the skills to exploit the latest biomolecular technologies,
2. To train a cohort of versatile and polyhedric researchers who are able to transverse cross-disciplinary boundaries, to establish collaborative trans-sectorial initiatives on different research disciplines with a common intent in line with EU main policies.
3. To grow a generation of researchers who can have an impact on establishing common policy, scientific and ethical standards and protocols to the analysis of our shared European heritage.
4. To generate research that will establish innovative analytical methods, leading to the development of new products and services for the study and protection of European cultural heritage materials.
TEMPERA started on March 1st 2017, and by July all eight ESRs were recruited with approximate start date of their projects on September 1st 2017. During the entire duration of the project, all the network-wide training events, targeting both specific research-related and key transferable skills, were delivered as planned, except for two workshops that have been rescheduled. TEMPERA is succeeding in developing more sensitive and more accurate analytical methods to characterise protein residues in cultural heritage objects. Different ESRs took care of developing all the different technical aspects necessary to achieve this common goal. The consortium so far published 18 peer-reviewed research articles, and one review article. Whenever possible, the peer-reviewed articles were published with unrestricted, full access. The TEMPERA ESRs and supervisors regularly disseminated preliminary scientific results in multiple conferences through both oral presentations and posters. Some of the ESRs delivered teaching sessions at summer schools supported by TEMPERA and in connection with curricular teaching activities delivered by the academic beneficiaries, where results of the TEMPERA research were presented to pre-graduate and post-graduate university students. Several among the ESRs and the supervisors presented the TEMPERA ETN project and its results in multiple outreach events for groups of up to 200 school children, university students and adults. All the TEMPERA activities are regularly mentioned on the TEMPERA website and its Twitter account. One of the TEMPERA ESRs’ culminating performances will be represented by the publication, planned for late 2021 or early 2022, of a TEMPERA monographic book, an electronic and print-on-demand open-access book. For this purpose, a contract with a prestigious academic publishing company has been signed. The ESRs and their supervisors are currently finalising the publication of the book.
Since its launch, the TEMPERA ETN has made stable progress in its activities with contributions from the entire consortium to achieve its objectives. The progress in the project indicates that the objectives of the project are in harmony with the results. A new generation of creative and innovative Early Stage Researchers have being trained. All supervisors did their utmost to facilitate the scientific development of the ESRs by raising excellence and structure research and doctoral training, extending the traditional academic research training setting, and equipping researchers with the right combination of research-related and transferable competences. Some of the results generated by TEMPERA show a clear potential for different forms of exploitation. More specifically, the minimally invasive and portable sampling tool developed by ESR5 at UNINA has the potential to be commercially distributed as a new tool for the collection of microscopic samples from cultural heritage objects. Similarly, the procedure developed by ESR6 and ESR8 at UCPH for blind identification of chemical damage in ancient and degraded proteins, has already been used to systematically characterise the alteration of proteins from artistic and archaeological objects. In general, TEMPERA has always been committed to maximise exploitation of the results it generates using the solutions that guarantee maximum impact in terms of adoption and diffusion. For example, the bioinformatic tool ESR7 developed will be available as a freely downloadable stand-alone tool, or embedded into the MaxQuant software to guarantee its maximum diffusion among the very large community of MaxQuant users. Some of the results TEMPERA achieved could find application in areas beyond those initially covered by the project, creating a market for new products, processes, and services.
ESRs attending their first training workshop on Managing a PhD to completion in September, 2017
TEMPERA consortium at the Mid Term meeting. Naples (IT), Feb. 2019.
TEMPERA ESRs visiting the archaeological site of Phaistos. Crete (GR) Oct. 2019.
ESR5 carrying out collagen extraction on ancient human bones from the archaeological site of Pompeii
ESR2 collecting a micro sample from a painting from SMK to extract and characterise proteins
TEMPERA’s eight ESRs gathered for the Ancient Protein@20 Conference in Copenhagen, August 2018
The team of TEMPERA supervisors at the Kick-off Meeting in Copenhagen, September, 2017
Feedback session during a training workshop on grant application writing in February, 2019