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European Oocyte Biology Research Innovation Training Net

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EUROVA (European Oocyte Biology Research Innovation Training Net)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-10-31

“Ex Ovo Omnia”: “From the egg comes all” (William Harvey 1578-1657): The oocyte is the foundation of life, developing from a single fertilized cell to a multicellular organism capable of an independent existence. Oocyte quality, is influenced by many physiological and environmental factors, which can ultimately have long-term consequences for female fertility and the health of their offspring.

Given the centrality of the oocyte to reproduction, excellent basic oocyte biology research is essential to develop safe new therapies and interventions in Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART), gamete storage and fertility enhancement therapies. The EUROVA consortium came about to address the knowledge deficit in oocyte biology which was identified as a major barrier to addressing global issues relating to fertility and reproduction in human, livestock and endangered species.

A comprehensive 3-year Oocyte Biology PhD training programme has been established to train 15 early stage researchers (ESR). The programme comprises training in anatomical, molecular, technical and industry relevant skills and knowledge. Each ESR will undertake a defined research project and academic and industrial secondments with the express goal of developing the creativity, adaptability and ingenuity required to address current and future problems.

To achieve our research goal, the EUROVA Consortium has developed the following Research Objectives:

Research Objective 1: To develop a cross-species molecular and morphological reference map of mammalian oocyte growth and maturation and to understand how maternal age impacts oocyte quality.

Research Objective 2: To create new ART solutions for maximising the reproductive potential of oocytes harvested from sub fertile donors.
EUROVA has attracted 14 excellent Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) to our Consortium from Europe, Asia and South America.

Their network training has so far included two Symposia on Oocyte Biology, an introductory session on writing their research and personal career plans, workshop sessions on innovation in research, an introduction to open science and data management, a training session on writing a comprehensive literature review, a five-day workshop on research integrity, a four day workshop on bioinformatics and exposure to the concept of citizen science through curation of the project twitter account.

The ESRs have completed initial training at their institutes, developed methodologies and set up their experiments.
EUROVA Network members will execute novel experiments, intelligent data analysis and validation, with high potential for innovation. Deeper knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms set in place during the trajectory of oocyte growth, maturation, fertilization and oocyte to embryo transition will lead to innovations in ART, animal breeding, endangered species preservation, regenerative medicine and reproductive toxicology. The EUROVA ETN consolidates the complimentary expertise, data and technologies of research-intensive academic and private organisations from 8 European countries, representing 7 leading European Universities and 2 independent research institutes with a global perspective on education and research, 2 Industry Beneficiaries, 3 industry partner organisations (PO), and a Canadian and a Brazilian University

The teams’ multidisciplinary backgrounds include expertise in cell biology, research and clinical ART, wildlife conservation, genetics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, microfluidics and design innovation. The research results obtained from the comparative species analysis will provide basic knowledge which can be exploited for the refinement of human and livestock ART fertility interventions, including oncofertility strategies. Major public interest might be anticipated for results from EUROVA thatwill address potential effects of nutrition, therapeutic interventions (ART) and metabolic disease on the oocyte developmental competence and risk for adult disease in the offspring.