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Setting up the ERA Chair of Comparative Medicine in the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of the Estonian University of Life Sciences

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COMBIVET (Setting up the ERA Chair of Comparative Medicine in the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of the Estonian University of Life Sciences)

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

The aim of the COMBIVET project is to establish an ERA Chair of Comparative Medicine under the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences (IVMAS) at the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMU). Comparative medicine has great untapped research potential as many of the health challenges faced by humans and animals are the same. This includes age-related diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, bone and joint diseases and metabolic diseases. Thanks to these similarities, knowledge gained from studying and treating animal patients can be applied in humans while developing new diagnostic tools, vaccines and therapies for both humans and animals. As such, IVMAS seeks to establish the ERA Chair of Comparative Medicine in order to develop its competences and capacities in the research field and ultimately become one of the leading European research organizations in comparative medicine. As the first step, the COMBIVET project will focus on e.g. creating the new ERA Chair as a physical unit at IVMAS, recruiting an outstanding ERA Chair holder and research team with complementary skillsets, improving the ERA Chair team’s comparative medicine skills and knowledge. Carrying out various activities under COMBIVET project increase the sustainability of the ERA Chair beyond the project lifetime and popularize comparative medicine in society.
• There have been made structural changes needed to introduce the COMBIVET ERA Chair in the IVMAS structure. COMBIVET Steering Committee members were officially appointed by the EMU rector. This will help to regularly check on the progress of activities being undertaken in the project.
• As per the details and in line with the Annex 1 of the Grant Agreement, contracts with ERA Chair holder/Professor have been completed.
• Due to global COVID-19 pandemic the ERA Chair team is not yet fully completed. There are still 2 Senior Research Fellow and 1 Research Fellow positions open. However, the recruited Senior Research Fellow in Molecular Diagnostics, Research Fellow in Bioinformatics and Research Fellow in Molecular Cell Biology the members that have been recruited have been fully integrated to COMBIVET ERA Chair unit. In addition one Specialist in Bioinformatics was included to the COMBIVET ERA Chair team.
• From the COMBIVET funding, one doctoral student has been enrolled and is financially supported, three more are expected to join during the next project period.
• On gender based analysis, there are currently 3 males and 4 females appointed under the COMBIVET project funding.
• During the 1st reporting period, the emphasis was more on recruiting the ERA Chair team, however, ERA Chair activities were also presented and discussed with different Chairs in the Institute and University and domestic research community at different meetings.
• The COMBIVET ERA Chair team members have started experimental work.
• Dr Radu Ionescu, Senior Research Fellow in Molecular Diagnostics, received funding from the action H2020-MSCA-RISE-2020.
• The website of COMBIVET was created and will be updated regularly during the course of the project, the website is accessible to the public (http://combivet.emu.ee/).
• On 03.02.20 Dr Radu Ionescu gave a presentation on „Non-invasive diagnostic of diseases through the analysis of volatile organic compounds emitted by biological samples“ at the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences.
• One scientific paper of Prof Andres Salumets was published under COMBIVET project.
Zhytnik L, Simm K, Salumets A, Peters M, Märtson A, Maasalu K. Reproductive options for families at risk of Osteogenesis Imperfecta: a review. Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2020 May 27;15(1):128. doi: 10.1186/s13023-020-01404-w. PMID: 32460820; PMCID: PMC7251694.
• Several other publications are under preparation or under review in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of Estonian University of Life Sciences