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Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - BBCE (Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence)

Reporting period: 2022-07-01 to 2023-12-31

The overall objective of the Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence (BBCE) is to establish a joint Centre of Excellence for the development of advanced biomaterials, with a clear scientific and economic impact. On the one hand BBCE is based on the long-term strategic cooperation between Latvian core partners: Riga Technical University, Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis, Rīga Stradiņš University and LLC Rīga Stradiņš University Institute of Stomatology, and on the other hand the advanced partners: AO Research Institute Davos, Switzerland and Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.

The BBCE research direction is targeted towards improving the quality of life of the ageing European population. As reported by the World Health Organization, musculoskeletal conditions are the largest contributors to disability worldwide and especially in the high-income countries ( Musculoskeletal disorders affect people of all ages and are typically characterized by pain, limitations in mobility, dexterity, and functional ability, thus severely reducing the quality of life. The lack of biomaterials suitable for tissue replacement and regeneration is the major obstacle in the treatment of many musculoskeletal disorders. Development of such materials and their translation to the clinic is urgently needed.

The activities of BBCE will improve the existing expertise and infrastructure of the BBCE core partners, ensure knowledge transfer from the advanced to core partners, and strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration. The major goal is to achieve excellence in the development of biomaterials for bone tissue regeneration, solutions for biomedical applications, and to streamline the “bench to bedside” process. In the long term, the expected impact of the BBCE project Teaming Phase 2 will be achieved by acquiring a ‘critical mass’ of high-level scientists and establishing fruitful collaborations between the BBCE core partners and industry (including SMEs) to bring innovative products to the market.
A brief summary of the work performed and results achieved for the period from 01/01/2020 to 31/12/2023:

1) The BBCE core partners redistributed their internal human resources and structured them into 6 Scientific Focus Groups (SFGs):
1. Calcium Phosphates and Composites;
2. Drug/ion/cell Delivery;
3. Materials in vitro;
4. Kinetics and Stability of Drug Delivery Systems;
5. Preclinical Evaluation of Biomaterials;
6. Clinical Evaluation of Materials and Personalized Implant Development.

2) 53 short-term training events and 22 long-term training events were implemented. All long-term trainings were implemented as face-to face events.

3) Human Resources Management activities were actively implemented and at the end of 3rd RP, 54 BBCE team members (33% male and 66% female) from 9 countries have been recruited

4) Internal training activities for the recruited personnel were carried out on-site at the BBCE core partner institutions. The training included scientific literature search and analysis, writing review articles, training in the use of laboratory equipment, established methods and technologies. Furthermore, development of SOP protocols for laboratory procedures has started.

5) Four 5-day long summer schools on “Scientific writing” for PhD students were successfully organised, gathering more than 10 participants per day.

6) In total, 61 BBCE acknowledged scientific publications were published with an average impact factor of 5.5. 8 of the BBCE core partner publications were published in top 10 scientific journals such as “Acta biomaterialia”, “Biomaterials Advances”, “Applied Surface Science” and “Composites Science and Technology”.

5) BBCE researchers participated in national and international conferences, promoting the integration of the BBCE staff and Early Stage Researchers into the international scientific community. The BBCE research staff was also actively involved in planning and organizing international scientific conferences (e.g. “ScSB 2022”, Scandinavian Society for Biomaterials and European Society for Biomaterials, Riga, Latvia, 14.06.2022).

6)In total 196 participants attended international on-site and online conferences and congresses. From all the participants, 71 participations were ESRs in international scientific conferences (33 participants with oral presentations and 38 participants with poster presentations).

7) The BBCE staff (including PhD students and Postdoctoral researchers) submitted 140 national and international grant applications, thus gaining significant experience in project writing skills.

8) BBCE core partners participated in 21 online/onsite industrial partner networking events to establish links with the industry.

9) BBCE is committed to a continuous upgrade of the core partner infrastructure. So far 14 409 855.06 EUR of public and private investments into infrastructure were ensured. Synchronisation of the investments in infrastructure with relevant training increased the efficiency of infrastructure and human resource exploitation.

10) Consortium has developed and updated a Dissemination & Outreach Strategy that targets specific audiences through various activities and dissemination channels and tools. Communication with the general public included 15 press releases, 5 social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Researchgate), homepage ( more than 40 TV/radio interviews and participation in various local events, such as European Researcher Nights and Shadow Days.

11) The Quality Management Plan (QMP) was developed and the implementation of the internal Quality management system (QMS) has started.
The BBCE is steadily moving towards achieving excellence in all dimensions and impacts listed in the work program. Compared to the year 2019, the four implementation years of the BBCE project had a significant positive effect on the core partners: the average impact factor of the scientific publications increased by 205%, with eight publications in the top 10 scientific journals of the field; the number of research grant applications rose to 140. It is estimated that the results will further improve in the upcoming years.

The consortium has started to build visibility and reputation of the BBCE through a wide range of activities. As an outcome, new international collaborations have been established, international researchers attracted and first stage students were involved in the BBCE Scientific Focus Group activities.

BBCE quickly adapted to the travel restrictions caused by COVID-19 pandemic. Several planned visits were rescheduled, however training sessions that did not require hands-on experience were conducted remotely, which allowed for a significant increase in the number of participants. Whenever possible, onsite activities were performed.

The development of the Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence will further contribute to innovation and research performance in Latvia and EU, by establishing new collaborations with industry, developing new materials, processes, and technologies.
BBCE opening ceremony on January 2020
BBCE SFG and partner meeting March 2022
BBCE Infogram