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Driving next generation autophagy researchers towards translation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DRIVE (Driving next generation autophagy researchers towards translation)

Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2019-10-31

The manipulation of autophagy has an enormous therapeutic potential to revolutionize the way we currently treat cancers, neurodegenerative disorders, inflammatory and infectious diseases. Knowledge about the mechanism and regulation of autophagy is growing at a breakneck speed; however, translation of this knowledge into clinical-grade products with a benefit for the public healthcare has lagged behind. Translation is currently hampered by the lack of knowledge about the precise contribution of autophagy for different physiological and pathological situations, but also by the lack of models and biomarkers and assays to monitor autophagy in vivo. This gap does not allow to effectively test therapies and drugs and hampers the realization of clinical trials.
Moreover, despite the great promises made by pioneering medical studies, the still limited applied research on autophagy has hampered the translation of fundamental knowledge into clinical-grade products and improved healthcare. Applied autophagy research is essential to understand the roles of autophagy in the different physiological and pathological situations, to generate (disease) models and develop biomarkers and assays to assess its progress.
The ultimate goal of the ETN Driving next generation autophagy researchers towards translation (DRIVE) is to train 15 young scientists through a tailored program, to fill these two gaps. Each one of them will realize a cutting-edge project in either an academic research group or company.
DRIVE will equip its ESRs with a unique combination of knowledge and experimental expertise that are brought together in this consortium by the different partners. The realization of their projects in applied autophagy research will benefit of an exceptional interdisciplinary platform integrating cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, chemistry and “omics” approaches. In addition, DRIVE ESRs will acquire competencies to exploit the results for the development of products and techniques of commercial value. These ESRs will also be trained in disseminating results and knowledge through modern channels of communication.
The two ultimate goals of DRIVE will be reached through the realization of the following 4 main objectives:
1. Completion of 15 research projects addressing the 3 key research challenges (biomarkers, assays and conceptual advances) from different angles to reinforce applied autophagy research, with the aim to promote its translation
2. Training a new generation of researchers through individual research projects, sharing all the same main challenges, intra- and intersectoral secondments, local and network-wide training
3. Adopting an interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach through the composition of the consortium and the large number of associated partners
4. Creating an efficient network of researchers from academia and industry, working closely together towards the success of DRIVE
DRIVE will create a new generation of autophagy researchers trained in both academic and industrial settings, with the skills required to accelerate the integration of fundamental knowledge into translation. They will also have increased career perspectives and will put Europe in the lead for the exploitation of autophagy therapy for the benefit of public healthcare.
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