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Protecting patients with enhanced susceptibility to infections

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PRONKJEWAIL (Protecting patients with enhanced susceptibility to infections)

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

The Microbes in Health and Disease research programme at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) proposed the Doctoral Training Programme PRONKJEWAIL (‘a real gem’) in the field of hospital care and infection. The specific training objective is ‘protecting patients with enhanced susceptibility to infections’. PRONKJEWAIL will recruit 16 international PhD students, who will be trained in research, transferable skills, and network and capacity building. They will be guided by experienced supervisors from the departments of Medical Microbiology, Internal Medicine, Intensive Care, Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Paediatrics, Surgery, Cell Biology, and Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at the UMCG. 26 partner organisations, including 14 private sector partners, are committed to support ESR training via mentoring, courses and secondments. Research training builds on four Pillars: 1) vaccines and primary prevention; 2) personalized detection and infection prevention; 3) iatrogenic influence on the microbiome and 4) personalized therapy/stewardship. Each Pillar integrates fundamental, translational and clinical/epidemiological training projects. The high exposure to fundamental, translational and clinical research in academia and
industry will increase the PhD students’ future problem-solving capabilities. Further, PhD students will learn to value mobility through internships at international partner organizations. By providing an excellent scientific working environment PRONKJEWAIL will directly impact on hospital care and, ultimately, it will contribute to enhanced public health. By providing excellent training, PRONKJEWAIL will develop new talent within the next generation of medical researchers thereby strengthening the European Research Area.
Pronkjewail described its uniqueness as the triple ‘ Capital I’: International mobility, inter-sectoral exposure and Interdisciplinarity. The research progress can be described accordingly. Pronkjewail ESRs are still in the beginning of their PhD projects. Nevertheless, the group of PhD students already achieved participation in 6 internationally published articles, 2 in press, and 3 submitted articles. All ESRs contributed to international conferences with orals and/or poster presentations. If these international conferences are combined with secondments, courses followed and meetings attended. Pronkjewail ESRs’ research contributes both to fundamental and clinical practice. Secondments are planned mostly in years 3 and 4 and they are distributed between non-academic and academic partners. Pronkjewail intends to stimulate collaboration between the ESRs from different pillars to exchange knowledge and to increase their networks. Nine current scientific projects form a collaboration between ESRs. These collaborations between Pronkjewail ESRs show that the training and research environment is successfully translated to interdisciplinary scientific projects by the ESRs.

All ESR are registered with the Graduate School of Medical Sciences and are undertaking a variety of courses offered there, such as Scientific Integrity and Project Management (
The tailor-made training programme for Pronkjewail is divided into four training packages (TPs): (1) training-by-research, (2) programme-wide events, (3) transferable skills, and (4) intersectoral training. All ESRs have deeply engaged in their own research which is visible by the scientific output that the ESRs have created by publications and poster and oral presentations at international conferences. Moreover, a diversity of interdisciplinary collaborations have helped the ESRs to develop their scientific output.

16 ESRs were appointed at the UMCG, 13 female and 3 male. The gender distribution of researchers and other workforce involved in the first two years of the Pronkjewail project consists of 25 females and 18 males. In September 2017, a digital survey for the ESRs in the Pronkjewail project was conducted by an independent person to identify factors threatening the balance in work and family life. The discussions revealed no gender issues, nevertheless the attention for sexual harassment, for WLB in general and their opinion about the training is very highly appreciated by the ESRs.

The project is running smoothly and all deliverables are submitted to the Participants Portal in due time. All milestones were reached as planned. All the meetings for the first 24 months were as planned. The recruitment procedure was completed in the first 12 months and there were no delays in the project planning.
Future plans:

International reporting of the scientific results will continuously be supported in Pronkjewail. ESRs report their activities in their Pronkjewail newsletter (first edition June 2018) as well as on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook). Coordinator and project manager will continue to receive up-to-date information on the planning of the secondments from PIs and ESRs. Training and evaluation will continue to focus on maintaining an optimal work/life balance. Inter-sectoral exposure to industry via training and secondments will increase in the following years of the PhD training. The recently obtained EIT health funding for RECIPE (Research, Entrepreneurship Combining Innovation with PhD Education) will align with Pronkjewail and further expand this exposure in close collaboration with the University of Uppsala (Sweden) and the Uppsala Antibiotic Center. Financial support from our university enables Pronkjewail to provide small rewards for ESRs collaborating in scientific projects. This reward can be used as bench fee or travel money. This reward emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary scientific projects. The next round will be in June 2019. In the coming year the training programme for the ESRs will focus on the serious gaming and media training. Transferable skills training involves project evaluation, planning and phasing, and the scope of the PhD thesis. The media training will be given by the professional journalist Rinke van den Brink, author of the book “Het einde van de antibiotica” (The end of antibiotics). Further, ESRs will master their use of social media and learn how to manage contact with public media (i.e. radio, TV-interviews, press conferences). Recently, an article in the newspaper of the students of the university mentioned that many international students still experience prejudice and discrimination within the institution. We would like therefore to monitor the situation for the PRONKJEWAIL PhD students and are planning to conduct an interview regarding discrimination issues in 2019.