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Establishment of a Center of Plant Systems Biology and Biotechnology for the translation of fundamental research into sustainable bio-based technologies in Bulgaria

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - PlantaSYST (Establishment of a Center of Plant Systems Biology and Biotechnology for the translation of fundamental research into sustainable bio-based technologies in Bulgaria)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2020-11-30

The overall objective of project PlantaSYST is to establish a Center of Plant Systems Biology and Biotechnology (CPSBB) in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and hence to enforce it as a leading plant science research center in Bulgaria with world-class standards.

The strategic objectives of the CPSBB are:
• Highest research quality and productivity in the field of plant systems biology and biotechnology (up to the highest international standards).
• New products for the Bulgarian and the global market (breeders, farmers, end-users).
• Retaining and re-gaining the best specialists in the fields of plant science and bioinformatics.
• Educating next-generation researchers in the fields of plant systems biology and biotechnology.
• Establishing an excellent service-orientated management structure, effective innovation management, and intellectual property mechanisms.
• Bringing sectors together (policy, science, industry) for social and economic development. Clustering with other research institutes, universities, industry and regional authorities in Plovdiv.

Overall, the newly established CPSBB will increase Bulgaria’s research and innovation potential, significantly enhance the capacity of the Bulgarian science in the fields of plant systems biology and biotechnology, and stimulate the local scientific, economic, and social development in Plovdiv.
In line with the first and most important strategic objective of CPSBB: “Highest research quality and productivity in the field of plant systems biology and biotechnology. Cutting-edge fundamental and applied research…”, groundbreaking research has been conducted since the start of the project. Until now, there are more than 100 scientific papers, most of which in journals with medium and high-impact factor. These include articles in Cell, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Plants, Molecular Plant, Trends in Plant Science, to name a few.
CPSBB has become the most productive Bulgarian research institute in terms of peer reviewed publications.

CPSBB signed the co-funding project with the Executive Agency “Operational Program Science and Education for Smart Growth” and initiated the construction work of the new CPSBB research complex. The construction is advancing - currently 70% of the part Architecture is ready.

New projects with participation of CPSBB were submitted and granted.

CPSBB was a co-organizer of two major international conferences.
A utility model for in vitro propagation of Haberlea rhodopensis was registered in the Bulgarian Patent Office.

CPSBB has joined national and international organizations, such as the Agro Hub, Euraxess, and the International Seed Federation.

CPSBB has initiated and continued to collaborate with several companies (such as BioAtlantis, Lukoil Neftochim Burgas, to name a few), based on mutual research interests.

Overall, these achievements have enhanced the potential of CPSBB significantly, disseminated project's results, and strengthened CPSBB's reputation as a leading organization in the field of plant science.
The PlantaSYST project is of significant socioeconomic importance for the region, as more jobs are created and the region becomes more internationally recognized. In the last three years of the PlantaSYST project, the newly established CPSBB has made a substantial impact on the research landscape in Bulgaria and is becoming now a recognized plant science center in Europe. As Deputy Minister Karina Angelieva stated: “PlantaSYST is our flagship project and CPSBB is a center of strategic importance for Bulgaria”.

CPSBB has become one of the most productive plant research centers in Bulgaria. CPSBB, with the cooperation of the PlantaSYST partners and the international partners, is currently conducting high-level research that has already resulted in a number of quality publications. Some of the highlights include publications in high-ranked journals such as Cell, Nature Communications, Trends in Plant Science, and Biotechnology Advances. This sustained increase in scientific production is important for the international visibility and the long-term sustainability of CPSBB.

Internationally, CPSBB is building a strong reputation. It already has a large network of academic and industry partners and this network continues to grow. CPSBB is now frequently asked to participate in various consortia and regional/international centers. The impressive publication record of the CPSBB scientists attracted attention to the center and contributed to the building of strong image of CPSBB. Large international conferences such as ICNPU 2019 and ICPSBB 2021 further showcase CPSBB and put it on the world scientific map.
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