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Implementation of The Discoveries Centre for Regenerative and Precision Medicine, a new Centre of Excellence in Portugal

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - THE DISCOVERIES CTR (Implementation of The Discoveries Centre for Regenerative and Precision Medicine, a new Centre of Excellence in Portugal)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2020-12-31

The Discoveries Centre vision: to create a unique and sustainable multi-campi centre of excellence on regenerative and precision medicine with a strong structuring effect in the Portuguese science landscape that will have high international visibility, and act as an International flagship for the Portuguese Science and Translational Research, with a clear scientific and economic impact, and a global effect on the quality of life of a very significant number of patients that suffer from cardiovascular, neuro-degenerative and musculoskeletal diseases. As mission, the new Centre wants: To perform world-leading translational research in regenerative and precision medicine, by anchoring research activities of a unique pool of scientific talent, promoting excellence, advanced training at doctoral and post-doctoral levels and clinicians, increasing performance and scientific production, translational research outputs, health-related companies and commercialization strategies that can, in the long-run generate an important economic impact, besides impacting the quality of life of an ageing European population affected by neurodegenerative, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases. To accomplish its vision and mission, the new Centre has defined several general objectives, such as: raise critical mass of science and boost translational activities in a newly established Translational Research Centre; generate high-impact science and innovation placing Portugal as a high-performing innovation country in bioengineering, biomaterials, materials engineering, and areas related to tissue engineering, regenerative and precision medicine, retain and attract talent from other countries, and returning Portuguese scientists, foster knowledge transfer and exploitation by promoting interactions and transnational collaborations between the Centre and hospitals and other organizations, contribute to the training of a new generation of highly-skilled researchers and clinicians; become a leading research Centre in transforming science into advanced therapeutic products and therapies for human disease and in providing high-quality health care innovation services and consulting; become a PT lighthouse in generating useful intellectual property that can boost entrepreneurial activities in the health area and support in the long-term the sustainability and visibility of the new Centre.
In order to ensure that the Centre is efficiently managed, the Installation Committee (IC) defined as main objective the establishment and registration of the legal structure to manage The Discoveries Centre and, in parallel, start the hiring procedure of the Management Board (MB) and all the related human resources and staff member. This legal entity was officially created as of June 25th, 2018. For the implement the Centre´s human resources and recruitment strategy, the IC was responsible for the definition of the recruitment strategy and analysis of the procedures to be defined. For the set-up and implementation of the Centre´s administrative and financial activities, TDC envisages to become a truly self-sustained research Centre. The main aim was to start the preparation for the development of finances and administrative procedures related to the competence of Financial and Administrative Unit (FAU). In order to achieve the Centre´s research strategy, the research and development performed at the Centre is grouped in 7 different Research Units (RUs) that focus fields of Regenerative and Precision Medicine that the Centre addresses, Musculoskeletal, Neurodegenerative and Cardiovascular diseases. While the process for recruitment of the Scientific Director and RU Coordinators is still ongoing, the IC defined which RU each institution would lead. The Researchers affiliated to the TDC have already produced a very significant number of publications related to the RUs in a total of nearly 40 research papers. For the set up and run the Centre´s education and training programme, the main aim is to train a new generation of PhD students, Post-doc fellows, Experienced researchers/clinicians and other TDC staff members. The activities carried out include the PhD and Post-doc programmes, ongoing in the different partner institutions, and organization of several workshops. So far, the TDC has enrolled 22 PhD students, 7 Post-doc fellows and 10 clinicians/surgeons. In what respects the Centre´s Services and Consulting strategy, the following activities were carried out: i) identification of short, medium and long-term services and consulting objectives; ii) definition of a strategy for services and consulting activities including a list of client oriented services and consulting activities; iii) creation of a list of target Clients for both activities (services & consulting); iv) benchmarking analysis. As for the set-up and IP and exploitation and commercialisation activities, we manage to: identify contact persons at each partner site, diagnose Translational Research, Partnerships and Tech Transfer activities, site visits to the 5 partners by UCL TRO: meeting the Innovation teams and other related supporting structures, outline some possible organizational models for the DTO that fit all partners, setup of training courses. Regarding the communication and dissemination of activities in the project, work was done in website update ( We have also been able to create the social networks, like Facebook page (@thediscoveriescentre), Twitter and Linkedin accounts. In order to achieve the aimed critical mass of science and translational competence critical for the long-term sustainability, we highlight the: i) starting of the implementation of a Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) and a Discoveries Quality Assurance/Management System (DQMS), so that it is possible to keep track of all the activities that are performed under the Discoveries CTR – critical for the long term Excellence of the Discoveries CTR and ii) establishment of a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs, for the different phases of the Discoveries CTR.
The conception of the TDC will be driven by its vision and its organisation, activities and external relations will be established and executed under this view. This transformational culture will promote the fast translation of observations in the laboratory into interventions that improve health at the diagnostic and therapeutic levels (one step further towards the market), and will enhance the commercialisation of the TDC intellectual property (rapid market uptake) through the DTO. This will positively contribute to strengthening (by enlarging the portfolio of competitive products) and augmenting the national biomedical sector (by contributing to the creation of new companies) as well as increasing the export capacity of business stakeholders of this market (by enlarging their portfolio of products that are competitive in international markets). As a long-term goal, the TDC will enable Portugal to reach a higher level of translational performance, namely in respect to Research intensity, Innovation performance and Enhanced strategy.
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