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Strengthening of scientific excellence of the National Veterinary Research Institute in animal health and food chain safety

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - VET-TWIN (Strengthening of scientific excellence of the National Veterinary Research Institute in animal health and food chain safety)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2018-12-31

The general objective of the VET-TWIN project was to increase the potential and research capacity of the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) by cooperation with internationally-leading counterparts from Germany (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment-BfR) and Denmark (Technical University of Denmark, National Veterinary Institute; DTU Vet).
All specific objectives defined for the VET-TWIN project have been reached:
1. Enhancing the potential and capacities of NVRI in terms of international scientific cooperation by establishing strategic and operational framework for cooperation and creating future partnerships with the institutions involved in the implementation of the VET-TWIN project – a “Joint Strategy of Cooperation and Development” has been created and it will be the basis for common future scientific activities. Currently a big project under ERA-NET is discussed with partners. For more frequent scientific cooperations with partners, national reference laboratories in all three institutes will be involved.
2. Improving skills and better exchange of knowledge between scientists in the field of new research methods and tools in selected research areas – scientists from NVRI were able to get acquainted with new diagnostic techniques during trainings organized by Partners. This training activity was significantly enhanced when the new Laboratory for Omics Analysis was established in Pulawy in 2017. It was equipped with modern diagnostic equipment including Whole Genome Sequencing machine and MALDI-TOF. Majority of cascade trainings organized in NVRI, Pulawy included the use of the new techniques on these machines.
3. Increasing scientific activity of young scientists involved in the development of the VET-TWIN partnership – summer/winter schools and congress for young scientists organized in NVRI, as well as internships in DTU and BFR, were dedicated for this group of researchers.
4. Improving the scientific role and international image of NVRI and its partners as leaders of the selected research areas and supporting them in building the expert background in the field of infectious animal diseases, zoonotic diseases and the safety of food supply chains – participation in international scientific conferences made NVRI research more visible.
VET-TWIN project intended to strengthen a defined common field of research of advanced veterinary sciences on the characterization of animal pathogens and food safety capacity of the linked institutions and the support to raise staff’s research profile as well as the excellence of the institutions involved. All those objectives have been reached.
During the project, the following activities were accomplished:
- fifteen trainings for 26 NVRI scientists were organized by partner institutions;
- nine on-site trainings/workshops in Coordinator’s premises;
- four summer/winter schools in Coordinator’s premises;
- eight short term missions for NVRI scientists in partner institutions;
- representatives of NVRI participated in seven international scientific conferences to promote VET-TWIN project;
- web-page about the project with the link to e-Platform was created.
Cascade trainings were the essence of work package 4 (Trainings) and one of key elements of the whole project. First on-spot workshop was on “Evaluation of gene expression using high-throughput PCR”. In 2017 two on-spot workshops for 34 participants from NVRI were organised. The topics included multiplex serology and next generation sequencing. Workshops in 2018 included biotyping based on MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and characterisation of antimicrobial resistance using qPCR. In 2018 three on-site workshop were realized. Two further workshops were related to high throughput sequencing. Another important set of actions within VET-TWIN project was included in WP5 which was focusing on career development of young scientists. The first winter school focused on emerging and re-emerging zoonotic threats in food. The second school was dedicated to emerging infectious animal diseases and genomics. The third school was dedicated to risk assessment related to chemical hazards. And the 4th seasonal school addressed issues related to project preparation and publications, bibliometry, dissemination of research results and mobility of young scientists. Another event was the Congress for Young Scientists held in Pulawy in 2017. During the Congress 16 oral presentations and 20 posters were presented. During the course of the project 8 young scientists from NVRI visited partners within short term scientific missions. In summary, WP5 provided many opportunities for young researchers to gain the latest and modern knowledge within veterinary medicine domain and also to get acquainted with new diagnostic and research techniques. The most important WP from the perspective of future research policy of NVRI was covered by WP2 (Definition of a joint strategic road map and a joint strategy of cooperation and development for building S&T capacity). One of the main tasks within this WP was the preparation of the Joint Strategy of Cooperation and Development (D2.4). It covered future partnership with BfR and DTU, after project completion, until 2030. It is based on experience and conclusions from analyses performed as part of the project.
The main project objective has been defined as the significant improvement in the overall scientific and innovation capacity of the NVRI. Three main areas of interest including animal health, zoonoses and food and feed safety remain key priorities in future research plans of VET-TWIN Partners. “Joint Strategy of Cooperation and Development” has been created to ensure durability of the effects of collaboration initiated during the project implementation, as well as increasing its scale by systematizing activities and setting clear objectives until 2030. It has been also analyzed in the context of being in line with EU, national and regional policies as well as EU cohesion policy instruments. The most important part of the project, the trainings, were organized in partner institutions. New diagnostic and research techniques were introduced in the Institute. We have already observed the positive impact of the introduction of these new methods in the Institute on publication record. This is clearly seen especially when good scientific journals are considered. This fact is well documented by the number of publications in journals from Journal Citation Report list (JCR is a fundamental and comprehensive tool for assessing the substantive value of journals) with Impact Factor equal or above 1. This value has increased from 62 publications in 2015 to 103 in 2018. Due to the delayed purchase from outside sources of dedicated equipment for techniques introduced in this project and delayed trainings, the publications, being the result of this project, would be ready by the end of this year and also in the years to follow. This project promoted also the mobility of researchers as well as the exchange of their knowledge and experiences within European Research Area. Two ‘Open Days’ raised the visibility of the Institute at regional level and presented the possibilities for possible future scientific careers of young students.