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APC Postdoctoral EXcellence Programme

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - APEX (APC Postdoctoral EXcellence Programme)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

APEX (APC Postdoctoral Excellence) is a postdoctoral fellowship Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) COFUND programme, based at APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork (UCC), and cofunded by Horizon 2020.
APEX is an intersectoral training, career development and mobility fellowship, which focuses on the research strengths and expertise of the APC Microbiome (the research area of gut microbiota and their role in the human health and disease).
APC’s mission is to ‘link Irish science with industry and society through excellence in research, education and outreach in gastrointestinal health’. The scale and scope of APC’s research on the microbiome is of relevance to all branches of human medicine and veterinary science, is very important to the economic welfare and health of society and is one of the hottest topics in biology.
The APEX programme offers 20 prestigious two-year fellowships for incoming mobility across two calls over the 60 months duration of the programme. All fellows are hosted in an academic host organisation (UCC, Teagasc or TCD) and are required to complete a mandatory secondment in a relevant industry host. Industry Partners of the institute host fellows during the mandatory secondment periods and contribute to industry relevant training. Fellowships are offered in the four core APC research areas of ‘Microbes to Molecules’, Diet and Microbes at the Extremes of Life’, Brain Gut Microbiota Axis’ and ‘Host Microbe Dialogue’.

The overall objectives of the programmes are to:
Provide a cutting-edge research environment in the area of the microbiome that will provide projects that stimulate and challenge researchers, to further develop them as scientific leaders of tomorrow
Deliver high quality tailor made scientific training for fellows that will equip them with skills and experience required to meet their career goals
Deliver excellent and useful training in transferable skills
Provide fellows with industry specific training and placements
Provide an attractive and supportive working environment for the awarded fellows
Implement a transparent evaluation and selection process for the recruitment of fellows

The aim of APC Microbiome is also to:
Strengthen and raise the excellence and impact of European microbiome research
Grow partnerships between academia and industry
Opportunity for industry to shape the training component to ensure fellows graduate with industry-relevant skills in order to fill the growing needs of the food, biotech and pharma sectors
In line with ANNEX 1, the APEX programme has achieved the following:
A programme manager was appointed (0.5 FTE)
An APEX specific website was created
All documentation in relation to the calls for the proposals were prepared and made available on the website.
Two calls were launched and promoted.
External peer review database was compiled for the two calls.
A Selection and Evaluation process was completed for the two calls.
10 fellows recruited from Call 1
10 fellows recruited from Call 2
Fellows welcome event held
Training plans developed and in place
Training events organised
Mentorship programme put in place
Ethics related issued monitored
Continuous monitoring of the programme and fellowships through regular reports and meeting
Outreach activities organised to promote the APEX programme
Publications in peer reviewed journals
Poster presentations at conferences
APEX has attracted top experienced researchers to the programme that will impact on UCC, APC’s academic partners and industry partners, building APC’s reputation as a world-class institute in the research area and leader in the development of emerging research talent. The 20 fellows will have a 3-6-month intersectoral secondment to industry that will strengthen links between APC academic hosts and industry partners. APEX will impact internationally through the provision of highly trained personnel, with a wide portfolio of research and transferable skills, specifically tailored to future industry needs. These skills are needed fill the growing needs of the food, biotech and pharma sectors. Fellows will also receive significant generic training and gain valuable exposure to outreach activities, which they will carry with them during their careers. These highly skilled researchers will have the added benefit of also enhancing the skills of other researchers in the APC, through the development of new training programmes. Specific training programme put on for the APEX fellows have also been attended by non-APEX researchers and is having a great impact on the APC in terms of upskilling more researchers, improving interaction with each other and promoting future collaborations with each other. The programme will also strengthen and raise the excellence and impact of European microbiome research.