Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - PHOQUS (PHOtonic tools for Quantitative imaging in tissUeS)

Biological processes are highly complex and dynamic covering many orders of magnitude of length and time scales. Understanding these complex processes requires dedicated powerful analysis techniques that can be used for in-vitro and increasingly for in-vivo measurement at the molecular, subcellular, cellular, tissue, organ and organism scale. Advanced imaging modalities are rapidly becoming technologies of choice to do this in many key areas of modern Life Science and Biomedical research. Advanced imaging and analysis tools are also rapidly finding important applications in clinical diagnosis and treatment of complex diseases. There is an urgent need for the development of dedicated and multimodal imaging solutions to facilitate the investigation of specific labelled molecular and cellular components and compartments in ever more complex live samples at high spatio-temporal resolution. This requires development of novel, highly specialised instrumentation and measuring protocols making optimal use of cutting edge advances in Photonics and Life Sciences and the training of a new generation of scientists at this complex interface.

The primary aim of the PHOQUS project is to train 13 early stage researchers (ESRs) via an Innovative Doctoral Training Program in the development and application of novel imaging modalities at the interface between Life and Photonic Sciences. It makes use of the world-class strengths in Life and Photonic Sciences established at the University of Dundee and its 20 associated partners from both industry and academia in Finland, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Switzerland and the UK. The training is delivered around specific research projects addressing complex processes in living organisms, linking events from the molecular and cellular to the tissue and organismal scale in basic research, medicine and drug discovery. Each research project is jointly supervised by life and physical scientists and has links to specific academic and industrial partners for specific skill building. This highly interdisciplinary training will provide the ESRs with expert knowledge and a broad skills set at the cutting edge interface of life and photonic sciences. This will put them in an excellent position to further their career in academia and the industrial sector.

The second aim is that the research carried out by the ESRs will not only lead to the development of novel and compact advanced imaging tools and protocols, but will also generate novel and important insights in the control of cell division, cell migration and tissue dynamics and mechanics in development, health and disease, especially cancer and cardio vascular disease.

Progress was demonstrated at the Mid-Term Review meeting of which the feedback was generally very positive. The REA reviewers noted “There has been a very good progress documented in all individual ESR projects, including building of the optical and laser systems and obtaining experimental and modelling results both in the host organisation and during secondments” and “Much of the programme’s research topics, such as utilization of optical tweezers for studies of biological systems at the cellular level, research aimed at understanding cancer, and development of new non-invasive cardiovascular diagnostic techniques are of high societal concern”.

Some of the main achievements to date are:

• The recruitment of 13 outstanding early stage researchers, with recruitment being completed by September 2014. The researchers recruited have interdisciplinary backgrounds with experience ranging from physics, photonics, molecular biology, biotechnology and biomedical engineering.

• Research projects are grouped in 4 Work packages: WP1: Development of new Photonic Tools, WP2: Photonic applications in nuclear dynamics, WP3: Photonic applications in cell and tissue level Investigations and WP4: Photonic applications in Multimodal Imaging. All projects are well under way and each ESR has an individual research project with two main supervisors, one from Life / Medical Sciences and one from Physics. Although the ESRs have their individual projects, there are dependencies between the projects, both within and between Work Packages, which require the ESRs to work collaboratively.

• The ESRs are being given access to state of the art technical facilities normally not accessible to researchers at such an early stage in their career, both in Dundee and also through secondments to the PHOQUS associated Academic and Industrial Partners.

• 12 of the 13 ESRs have gone on secondment to an Associated Partner.

• 5 scientific deliverables were completed and 3 milestones were achieved.

• The ESR projects have also resulted in 10 papers / posters being presented at national and international Scientific Conferences and Symposiums.

• The first very successful 2 day Summer School was held in Edinburgh in 2015 with PHOQUS members, associated Academic and Industrial partners and a number of selected external speakers participating.

• The overall training program is well underway with the ESRs attending a wide variety of training events during the period. In particular, two training events developed specifically for the PHOQUS project have been held. The first was a Microscopy Workshop (August 2014). This 2 week event comprised a series of lectures and practical sessions in the areas of Microscopy and Imaging presented by some of the PHOQUS Supervisors, other members of staff at the University of Dundee and 2 of the PHOQUS Industrial Partners (Zeiss and Photometrics). The second event was a Photonics Workshop (September 2014). This 3 day event comprised a series of lectures and practical sessions in the areas of Photonics, Laser Safety and Cleanroom practises presented by some of the PHOQUS Supervisors and other members of staff at the University of Dundee.

• The ESRs have received training in science communication and engagement and most have already been involved in Outreach activities. In particular, a number of the ESRs are involved in the ‘Outer Space Inner Space’ project at the Mills Observatory in Dundee and received an outreach grant from SUPA in the framework of the International Year of Light 2015 which will be used to fund outreach activities for this project. The ESRs have also established a MCAA Chapter in Scotland and have been awarded a grant of 1000 euros from the Marie Curie Alumni Association to fund outreach activities.

The PHOQUS project contributes to the European research Area (ERA) by the development of novel and compact photonic tools and imaging methodologies that enable the imaging and manipulation of key cellular processes and structures in cells and complex tissues. These methodologies and technologies will have a significant impact not only on cutting edge fundamental Life Science and Biomedical research but will also have important implications for diagnosis and treatment of complex diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. It builds on the complementary expertise of researchers in Dundee and a number of European academic and industrial partners and will strengthen existing and develop new research networks and collaborations.

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United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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