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REspiratory Science Promoted by International Research Exchanges 3

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RESPIRE 3 (REspiratory Science Promoted by International Research Exchanges 3)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

Respiratory diseases account for one in 8 deaths and a cost of €380 billion annually in the EU28 according to the European Lung White Book (https://www.erswhitebook.org/). In spite of the prominence of lung diseases, research in the respiratory field remains largely underfunded compared to the wider burden of respiratory diseases on society in Europe and beyond, as pinpointed by “ERS 10 Principles for Lung Health” policy document (https://www.ersnet.org/advocacy/eu-affairs/ers-10-principles-for-lung-health).

The ERS/EU RESPIRE3 (MSCA COFUND) Postdoctoral Research Fellowship programme is an international, intersectoral and inter-disciplinary programme that selects, trains and supports the leaders of tomorrow in the respiratory field. This will help address the current level of investment in respiratory research, which is largely insufficient to face the unprecedented healthcare challenges of tomorrow, linked with a fast-rising ageing population and rapid technological advances.

More in particular, in line with the Grant Agreement, the RESPIRE3 programme provides Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellowships to early stage scientists. It aims to strengthen the European Research Area (ERA) as well as the respiratory specialty by:
• Promoting excellent science in respiratory research in Europe and worldwide through transnational mobility and transfer of knowledge;
• Enabling Europe to become a hub for the exchange of scientists, actively involved in respiratory medicine in both academia and the non-academic sector;
• Fostering the implementation of novel and innovative techniques and therapies as well as the development of new international collaborations; and
• Gathering expertise from various fields, even those not traditionally associated with respiratory research, as well as fostering career development.
During the 1st Periodic Reporting period (1 September 2016 – 30 August 2018), RESPIRE3 has delivered the two expected calls for applications as per Grant Agreement. Eight Marie Sklodowska Curie fellows have started the fellowship and three will do so in a near future. The programme has so far delivered 66 fellow-month instead of the 64 planned. Moreover, an additional 3rd and final call for applicants has been launched to identify and support five additional fellows, for an overall total of 16.

Compared to previous programmes, RESPIRE3 has introduced innovatory elements such as 3-year Global Fellowships, which has allowed to expand the international dimension to Third Countries and provided candidates with more flexibility within an individually-driven, bottom up approach towards research development. In parallel, the opportunity to carry out a secondment is also a novel feature of RESPIRE3, in order to promote an intersectoral approach. More in particular, the programme aims to strengthen links with the non-academic sector by offering European Fellowships recipients with a 1-year extension should they secure a period in the non-academic sector during this additional third year.

Another major achievement of the RESPIRE3 programme during this first Reporting Period has been the establishment of a new, user-friendly Web Host Registry (https://erscongress.org/respire) dedicated to RESPIRE3 as well as of an updated process for host centres to apply, in line with Horizon2020 principles and the European Charter and Code for Researchers. More than 110 host centres in 24 countries are currently pre-registered and have committed to potentially host a RESPIRE3 Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow.

In terms of the application and evaluation phases, RESPIRE3 introduced a new, dedicated, user-friendly fellowship application and reviewing platform as well as carried out a pilot to involve patient representatives in the interview phase. The support to selected fellows has also been strengthened through the introduction of a family allowance to ensure competitive working conditions and attract the best talents. The training and networking support (e.g. mentoring scheme, etc) offered by fellows has also been enhanced and complements what offered by host centres.
Thanks to RESPIRE3, ERS’ flagship fellowship programme, eleven high-level cutting-edge and innovative projects have been selected in respiratory research to date and a further five will be selected in early 2019. Projects selected to date cover a broad range of respiratory illnesses (e.g. asthma, COPD, lung cancer, tuberculosis) as well as rarer ones (e.g. interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis) and will enable to advance knowledge in these areas as well as to train the next-generation of leaders. More in particular, two of the projects relate to Global Fellowships and will play a key role in fostering international collaborations as well as transfer knowledge back to the ERA. While research projects are still in the early phases of the delivery, fellows are starting to present their data at conferences as well as publish their preliminary results. Therefore, by training post-doctoral fellows in Europe and globally, RESPIRE3 is currently enhancing research in the respiratory field, increasing the human resources potential in Europe, and contributing to the overall objective and impact of COFUND.