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IMIBIC Fellowship Programme for Personalised and Precision Medicine

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - P2Med (IMIBIC Fellowship Programme for Personalised and Precision Medicine)

Reporting period: 2019-08-01 to 2021-07-31

The latest developments in biomedical research have shown a shift toward a patient-centred medicine that allows for more tailored or personalised interventions. While this approach leads to more innovative solutions in diagnostics and medical treatments, it also requires a different set of skills for biomedical researchers. The generalisation of the use of –omics technologies, together with the access to vast amounts of patient data, requires specific training to ensure that researchers and medical doctors can make the most of this wealth of resources.

Within this context, the Maimonides Biomedical Research Institute of Cordoba (IMIBIC) designed the Fellowship Programme for Personalised and Precision Medicine (P2Med). It is a new fellowship programme that provides excellent researchers relevant, top-notch training and the opportunity to carry out forward-looking research in the field of personalised and precision medicine. P2Med aims to improve the career prospects of experienced researchers through individualised research projects and career development plans with a focus on transferable and multidisciplinary skills that are characteristic of this field. Skilled researchers will be able to achieve a higher impact on their research results, improve health services and create innovative products. This will contribute to a knowledge-based economy and society in Andalusia, in southern Spain, increasing Europe’s competitiveness in biomedical research.

To apply for the fellowships, researchers were requested to design an innovative research project, including a plan for training, dissemination and communication activities, and submit a CV with their previous experience and merits. Applications were evaluated by external experts in the field and based on the criteria of excellence.

During their fellowships, the selected researchers will develop a Career Development Plan together with their supervisor. It comprises the individual research project, yearly plans for training activities, teaching and mentoring, publications, scientific conferences, and communication to non-scientific audiences. The fellows may also plan research stays in several Partner Organisations of the programme.
The first two years of the project have focused on the launch of the programme, call communication, evaluation and selection process, and the appointment of the selected fellows. The programme started on 1st of August 2019 and will last for 6 years.

The management activities have included the initial set up of the Programme Committee and coordination of all technical work. The team developed the programme documentation, liaised with the Partner Organisations and with the external agency that was responsible for the evaluation and selection of the fellows, and operated a helpdesk throughout the call and evaluation and selection phases. It also managed risks and implemented measures to mitigate the delays in the evaluation and selection process, caused by the covid-19 pandemic. Consequently, the project was extended for 1 year, until July 2025.

The programme’s single Call for Applications remained open for three months, from October 2019 until January 2020. The activities to disseminate the call started early with the publication of a Call Launch Notice to raise awareness of the programme and continued with announcements in press, websites, social media and through thematic networks.

The call was widely disseminated by publishing the Call via news articles, presentations in international and national events and info sessions, via email and social media campaigns, and in several job portals, including EURAXESS. All call communication was supported by the visual image and materials developed for the programme, including the official programme logo that has been registered as a trademark, and the programme website.

The Call for Applications closed on the 10th of January 2020. The call received 27 applications from researchers of 16 different nationalities and residents of 18 different countries.

The evaluation and selection process took place in 2020 and had three phases, including an eligibility check, remote evaluation of the applications, and a personal interview. It followed an open, transparent, merit-based, impartial and equitable selection procedure based on peer review.

Eligible applications were evaluated remotely by panels of external independent experts. For the personal interviews, five thematic panels were formed, each chaired by an international external expert and including staff from IMIBIC. All evaluation phases included a period for redress and involved international experts. 22 external experts participated in the evaluation.

The evaluation and selection process was finalised in October 2020 with the selection of seven researchers. The appointment started in January 2021 and is still ongoing due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. At the end of the reporting period in July 2021, four fellows have started their research and training project at IMIBIC. Their research includes topics such as the interaction between obesity and prostate cancer, the treatment for a specific type of brain tumours, the effect of diet and probiotic treatment to microorganisms of the intestine and their association with early stage of memory loss, and the structural study of key proteins in the metabolism of cholesterols to guide the design and development of better treatment for cardiovascular diseases.
For IMIBIC, the programme’s launch was an important milestone. P2Med is the first postdoctoral MSCA Cofund programme ever funded in the province of Cordoba and the first with the participation of the University of Cordoba. It contributes to the institute’s internationalisation strategies and is in line with the new regional strategy 2020-2023 for research and innovation in health in Andalusia. In this context, the implementation of the programme will help IMIBIC to reinforce its international dimension, promote the international presence of its researchers, as well as to increase the number of international collaborations.

The programme has already helped to improve the institute’s training offer and ensured an increase in the critical mass of postdoctoral staff. It has enabled IMIBIC to attract international talent by the selection of seven fellows with international experience, including three researchers who are not Spanish nationals, and another three Spanish nationals with over 5 years of research experience outside of Spain. Through the activities organised by the programme and by the fellows, the programme also supports the institute in the implementation of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and Open Science.

Throughout the programme, the P2Med fellowships will provide the selected fellows with high-quality translational research training, integrating scientific training with other critical non-scientific transferrable skills. This will enhance their future career perspectives both in academia and industry by providing a unique and specialised set of skills and knowledge in personalised and precision medicine.

Furthermore, the P2Med fellowships aim to have a positive impact on the fellows’ career by stimulating productivity through exposure to new ideas and methods. Through international mobility, they will have access to extend their professional network and progress towards a leading position in the field.
IMIBIC-P2Med Programme logo