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  • Periodic Report Summary 2 - MAGBIOVIN (Strengthening of the MagBioVin Research and Innovation Team for Development of Novel Approaches for Tumour Therapy based on Nanostructured Materials)

MAGBIOVIN Report Summary

Project ID: 621375
Funded under: FP7-REGPOT
Country: Serbia

Periodic Report Summary 2 - MAGBIOVIN (Strengthening of the MagBioVin Research and Innovation Team for Development of Novel Approaches for Tumour Therapy based on Nanostructured Materials)

Project Context and Objectives:
Through the realization of MagBioVin project, the Institute of Nuclear Sciences “Vinca”, University of Belgrade (Serbia), receives important community support within the FP7-ERA Chairs Program to upgrade its capacities (both human and experimental) related to the highly specialized and interdisciplinary research on activated magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) and radionuclide labelled magnetic nanoparticles for application in biosciences, pharmacy and medicine. This is planned to be realized by a set of comprehensive actions which are subdivided into several workpackages aimed to achieve the following Project objectives:

o Reinforcement of the human resources by employment of the peer scientist in the field (ERA Chair holder) and several prominent experts in diverse areas that will make the core of the MagBioVin multidisciplinary team;
o Upgrading of experimental capacities by the provision of the specialized equipment for targeted research topics;
o Adoption of up-to-date know-how through visits and short stays of expert scientists for knowledge transfer;
o Training of team members in cutting-edge research techniques in reputable EU research institutions;
o Improved regional and international networking for reinforcement of international cooperation and integration in European Research Area (ERA);
o Dissemination of project progress and achieved results to different target groups: to scientific community by participation in scientific meetings of high level (conferences, seminars, workshops); to students and young researchers by lectures and seminars at several universities in the country (Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis); to stakeholders such as pharmaceutical companies and medical centers by presentations at national/international meetings; to broader public by printed materials (brochures, leaflets) written in popular manner.

The Project foresees the key role of the ERA Chair holder in improvement of organizational structure and research excellence, as well as international networking and communication with stakeholders. A key factor in the research excellence upgrade is the assembly of the ERA Chair team whose core will be made of prominent experts (senior scientists and post-docs) in the highly specialised research areas which were underdeveloped before. Additional knowledge reinforcement will be done through organization of seven dedicated international workshops led by EU experts in the field, six extensive training programs for MagBioVin team members to be held in eminent research centers from EU, as well as by lectures given by peer experts in the field during their short stays in the "Vinca" Institute. By intensifying both regional and international networking MagBioVin team will increase its collaborative capacities and visibility in order to initiate joint participation in future regional and international calls for research grants. All the Project activities foreseen are designed to set solid foundations for a final goal: to raise both human and experimental capacities of the “Vinca” Institute up to the level that ensures visible scientific and technological impact within ERA and that its competitiveness reaches the level of the leading EU research institutions.

Project Results:
The key activities of the first project period concern the selection of the ERA Chair holder and the assembly of his/her team. The selection procedure was carried out by an open, transparent and merit-based recruitment process. Selection panel that consisted of the MagBioVin Management Board (MB) members and representatives of the "Vinca" Institute management finally selected Prof. Andrzej Szytula for the position, and he started with his work in February 2015. Under his supervision recruitment of the following scientists has been done:
Senior scientists: Dr. Davide Peddis, Dr. Zeljko Prijovic
Post-docs: Dr. Erzsebet Illes, Dr. Nikola Knezevic
PhD student: BSc. Milos Ognjanovic
Selection of the above researchers has been done by the transparent and merit-based procedure. Newly recruited researchers successfully joined already formed research groups of the MagBioVin team composed of the Institute's permanent staff. Their successful merging was directed by both ERA Chair holder and MB members, and quickly a high level of efficient execution and coordination of project activities has been attained.
Second important task for this period concerns provision of new equipment: XRD-SAXS machine and device for magnetic hyperthermia research. This activity comprehended the following steps: market analysis; selection of the most suitable models in line with the envisaged requirements and budget; negotiation with vendors on the best purchasing conditions (price, bank guarantee, delivery period, warranty terms, service support); final selection and contract acceptance. XRD-SAXS device was provided by Rigaku (Japan) while the hyperthermia device was provided by nB-Nanoscale (Spain). Both devices were delivered and assembled under the contracted terms. After the training provided by manufacturers, new devices have been successfully exploited by the Project team.
Increase of the existing knowledge level has been achieved by several activities: trainings of young researchers and PhD student in leading research centers abroad, and their participation in short thematic courses; dedicated workshops in the "Vinca" Institute conducted by the peer scientists from ERA; lectures given by the internationally renewed experts during their visits to "Vinca". Topics covered by these activities concern all major aspects of the cutting-edge research on magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) and their biomedical applications: advanced synthesis methods and functionalization; physical properties investigation (size, microstructure and morphology; thermal stability; magnetic properties, heat generation); theoretical modelling of MNPs magnetic and thermal properties; biocompatibility and toxicity studies. Attention has been paid to the intellectual property management which has been insufficiently exploited in the past by the Serbian research community. Some of the new knowledge acquired in the above described activities has been already implemented by MagBioVin researchers.
Following the designed workplan, team members have been initiating new contacts to reinforce international cooperation and networking. Outgoing mobility of predominantly more experienced researchers and/or members of Management Board has been exploited for establishing new contacts and to consider the possibilities for joint research activities. Agreements on future collaboration have been established with Prof. Tapas Sen (UCLAN, Preston, UK), Prof. Etelka Tombácz (Univ. of Szeged, Hungary), Dr. Gurvinder Singh (NTNU, Trondheim, Norway) and Dr. Alexandros Lappas (FORTH, Crete, Greece).
Promotion and dissemination have been doing for different target groups: other researchers in the field (by participation in conferences and workshops), University students and young researchers (by demonstrations and short lectures), stakeholders from medicine and pharmacy (promotional talks), and to broader public (printed materials written in popular manner). The Project website has been posted and regularly updated.

Potential Impact:
The major MagBioVin outcome will be substantial strengthening of human and experimental resources of the "Vinca" Institute up to the level that ensures visible scientific and technological impact within ERA which will continue after the Project lifetime.
The main expected final results are:
− Reinforcement of human and experimental resources will considerably raise the work conditions in the highly specialized area of biomedical applications of magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs).
− Coordination of knowledge and presence of critical mass of experts for cutting-edge multidisciplinary research - the level of cooperation and knowledge coordination in "Vinca" will be raised to a much higher level than before which presents a solid basis for sustainability of multidisciplinary researches in the future.
− Improved networking and mobility on the regional and European level - reinforcement of existing contacts as well as establishing of new ones will improve the collaboration and knowledge transfer from eminent research institutions from ERA.
− Increased visibility of the "Vinca" Institute in ERA - improved networking and active dissemination of project results will considerably improve visibility of the "Vinca" Institute within the EU research community which will positively influence the future collaborative potential of the Institute. This will result in preparation of joint proposals with EU partners for future calls for research grants.
− Improvement of the research management in the "Vinca" Institute - experience gathered through realization of the complex multidisciplinary MagBioVin project will be valuable for improvement of the management skills in "Vinca". Through communication with peer scientists from ERA partner laboratories management experience from more developed institutions will be transferred and adopted.
− Accreditation of the Center of Excellence - The increased expertise and updated experimental equipment will ensure successful registration of the Center of Excellence for Research on Advanced Magnetic Nanomaterials in "Vinca".

Expected impact of the Project will consider the following socio-economic aspects:
Project results will be disseminated to decision making structures in the country, in particular relevant Ministries (Science, Health), as well as to pharmaceutical companies. This is an important prerequisite in terms of influencing further budget decisions of certain targeted groups and potential project stakeholders. For instance, multidisciplinary research aimed towards biomedical applications will certainly deserve support of the Ministry of Health and it will influence its future budget planning.
The investigated applications of MNPs are aimed toward cancer combat which has one of the highest priorities in the health strategy of Serbia due to the steep increase in number of deceased from malignant diseases in the last decade. Thus the MagBioVin results are expected to be exploited within the framework of a wide national initiative towards suppression of malignant diseases.
By cultivating a synergy of basic and applied science MagBioVin will raise the awareness of potential stakeholders on the research abilities of national R&D centres. Important target group are local pharmaceutical companies which will be able to develop nanostructured theranostic agents in collaboration with local R&D centers instead of relying on the imported commercial product only.
Increase of the excellence and working conditions will motivate talented young scientists to develop their careers in the country which will reduce the brain-drain process that severely affected the human resources of Serbia during the last decades.
IP management is one of the neglected topics in the Serbian research community. Thus spreading awareness on the importance of establishing institutional IP strategy is among priority impacts of the project. This will be achieved in cooperation with national Technology Transfer Centers and IP Offices.

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