logo

EUROVA

EUROVA - Principal researcher Ellen Anckaert

The hallmark of successful mammalian reproduction is the fusion between a haploid spermatozoon and a metaphase II oocyte. The generation of such an oocyte involves a series of steps whereby germinal-vesicle oocytes (in which the nuclei are intact) at prophase I are stimulated to resume meiosis and mature to metaphase II, a sequence of events that prepares the oocyte for fertilization. Although the treatment of infertility by Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART) has been increasingly successful, the efficiency remains low with only about 1 in 10 eggs retrieved from women undergoing infertility treatments healthy enough to produce a pregnancy and birth. In healthy fertile livestock species, where ARTs are applied for production purposes this number increases to 1 in 6 eggs retrieved, which is still remarkably inefficient. The greatest block to advancement, is the substantial lack of knowledge on the key regulatory checkpoints and processes that determine oocyte health.

Such knowledge is key not just to treating infertility and maximising livestock genetic potential and productivity, but also to the field of regenerative medicine, where the reprogramming potential of the oocyte cytoplasm is critical to reprogramming somatic genomes. The EUROVA ETN will train a consolidate European Oocyte Biology Research, train a new cohort of Reproductive scientists and generate new knowledge. A deeper knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms set in place during the trajectory of oocyte growth, maturation, fertilization and oocyte to zygote transition will lead to innovations in ART, animal breeding, endangered species preservation, regenerative medicine and reproductive toxicology.

 

 

 

MONPLAS

MONPLAS - Principal researcher Heidi Ottevaere

Micro and nanoplastics have recently been found in our soil, tap water, bottled water, beer and even in the air we breathe, with a growing concern about the potential health risks they pose to us. Whether that is through ingesting the harmful bacteria they pick up when coming from wastewater plants, or just through injury and death of cells through contact, possibly through absorption of nanoplastics by cells, we really don’t know.

Which is why there is an urgent need for more research on their toxicity and also why a new EC drinking water directive is to be published in 2019 stating that water companies will need to measure concentrations of microplastics from within two years for positive release and inspection.
However, even though a standard measurement method will be published in 2019 for water, its necessary use of existing and expensive scientific laboratory equipment, such as microscopy and FTIR or Raman spectroscopy, will make it prohibitively expensive for in line use for many companies across Europe especially considering its need for highly trained personnel.

There is therefore a need to develop suitable technologies for a robust, easy to use and low cost industrial instrument, whose measurements will correspond directly to the aforementioned standard, as well as train engineers for method development and operation. Given these multiple technical and analytical challenges, and that global production of plastic, that can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, is expected to triple by 2050; we propose a timely four year Initial Training Network to train multiple Early State Researchers throughout various scientific areas. Consisting of some of Europe’s greatest experts in their fields it will provide tomorrows talent with the skills and knowledge to tackle possibly one of mankind’s greatest threats to its existence whilst they jointly develop the technologies for the industrial instrument in collaboration with end-users and equipment manufacturers.

 

 

 

 

 

RNAct

RNAct - Principal researcher: Wim Vranken

RNAct creates an integrated and multidisciplinary training and research programme for 10 broadly employable ESRs with versatile computational and experimental skills. The RNAct research aim is the design of novel RNA recognition motif (RRM) proteins for exploitation in synthetic biology and bio-analytics. This is achieved through a design cycle that starts with computational approaches at the sequence and structure levels of proteins and RNA, in order to select amino acid positions and mutations for large-scale phage display experiments with RNA screening. Viable RRMs will be further investigated at the atomic level with integrative structural biology approaches, and will be applied in synthetic biology, to post-transcriptionally regulate fatty acid processing via RRMs, and in bio-analytics, to detect RNA in-cell and design RNA biochips.

The RNAct training will provide ESR-tailored research and education-based training in both topical content and transversal skills. All ESRs will experience both academic and industrial environments, and will be exposed to both computation and experiment at the peer level via an ESR 'buddy' system. The ESRs will be actively involved in, and responsible for, information dissemination and communication for the RNAct project, and will have to opportunity to participate in innovation activities. This will enable the ESRs to constructively contribute to the European bio-economy in both academic and industrial settings.

 

 

 

DISTINCT

DISTINCT (Dementia: Intersectorial Strategy for Training and Innovation Network for Current Technology) - Principal researcher: Lieve Van den Block

The main aim of DISTINCT is to develop a premier quality multi-disciplinary, multi-professional and intersectorial education and training research framework for Europe, aiming at improving the lives of people with dementia and their carers through technology.

The unique academic and non-academic collaborative partnership of DISTINCT comprises of 13 world leading research organisations across 8 European countries, 9 partners who include Alzheimer Europe, Alzheimer Disease International, the World Federation of Occupational Therapists and 3 SMEs for technology and dementia care. Many members of the DISTINCT team are the established researchers in the INTERDEM, an interdisciplinary European collaborative research network of 180 leading academics working to improve early detection and timely and quality psychosocial interventions in dementia.

 

 

 

DohART-net

DohART-net - Principal researcher: Martine De Rycke

Altered conditions during the periconceptional (PC) period of gamete maturation and early embryonic development have long lasting effects on the health of the progeny, including the childhood, adolescent and adult-life onset of cardiovascular, metabolic and neurological diseases. Increasing evidence from epidemiological and animal model studies shows that children worldwide exhibit conditions and disease risks associated with the exposures of their parents, including chemical stressors before and during pregnancy, reproductive failure, adverse pregnancy outcome, diabetes, obesity and nutritional compromise. The DohART-NET project will focus on the integration of pre-clinical (animal and stem cell-models) and clinical studies and apply data linkage, bioinformatics and network science for the identification and validation of mechanisms of diseases common in early development.

DohART-NET is funded to train 13 PhD student (four based in the UK) and involves multiple partners across Europe with whom there are existing collaborations and synergies including in previous successful training networks.

 

 

 

PROTECT

PROTECT - Principal researcher: Paul De Hert

The overall goal of PROTECT is to build a new generation of 14 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), as PhD graduates trained to investigate and benefit the rights and interests of individuals arising from continuous large-scale analysis of personal data while enabling the economy and society to benefit from rapid innovation in digital applications that collect and use this data. The project aims at developing new ways of empowering users to understand the risks they take to protect their rights and interests when they go online and new ways of enabling developers to incorporate privacy, data protection and broader ethical considerations into the development of digital services, even as they face growing commercial and competitive demands for data analytics

The PROTECT ESRs will implement a Personal Career development Plan (PCDP) will enable them to integrate and apply arguments, analyses and tools from across the fields of law, ethics and knowledge engineering, so that they can take on leading research and data scientist roles within digital services industry and public policy sectors too address challenges of data protection, data ethics and data governance. In this project VUB has 6 academic partners: Trinity University of Dublin, University of Twente, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Dublin City University, Rathenau Instituut and Castlebridge Associates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

xCLASS

xCLASS - Principal researcher Heidi Ottevaere

Increasing health and environmental awareness of European citizens has led to an urgent demand for spectral analysis of matter. However, what is missing are novel and cost-effective methods to sense the desired analytes with high sensitivity and high reliability using small and portable devices. Moreover, there is a severe shortage in the European spectroscopy industry of graduates and PhDs with the right expertise along the complete technology supply chain for the development of such micro-spectrometer systems. Training and education in all its aspects, namely in optical modeling and design, fabrication and prototyping, measurements and characterization, sensor readout and data analysis towards proof-of concept demonstration up to industrial valorisation of the micro-spectrometer systems is crucial, but to our knowledge not offered today as a whole.

In response, xCLASS sets up a training through research programme, provided by a consortium of a leading academic centre (VUB) and a leading industrial partner (Anteryon), in which four ESRs will work on a disruptive compact high-performance micro-spectrometer concept, broadly applicable in various application domains. All ESRs will be enrolled in the PhD programme at VUB, the academic partner of xCLASS. The recruited researchers will be exposed to an integrated highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment where VUB and Anteryon together cover the complete supply chain. The combination of a broad and in-depth education and training in the complete technology supply chain of optical spectrometer systems and the extensive training in transferable skills that the ESRs will experience in xCLASS will optimally prepare them for a successful career as photonic scientists in European academy and the photonics industry.

Beyond the impact on the structural training programme, xCLASS will result in a significant societal and economic impact in healthcare, environmental and food safety sectors for whole Europe.

 

 

 

DeLIVER

DeLIVER - Principal researcher Leo Van Grunsven

DeLIVER will train a new generation of ESRs in the development and application of newly developed high speed and high resolution imaging tools in biomedical research. ESRs will be cross-pollinated with concepts and skills in physics and biomedicine, in particular in super-resolution optical imaging (a.k.a. optical nanoscopy), analytical image reconstruction, and optical micro-manipulation methods. These skills are applied to reveal for the first time the function and dynamics of nanosized pores in endothelial cells (EC) that present the main barrier between the blood and vital organs for human physiology, such as the liver, brain, kidneys, and the eyes. Very little is known about the extremely important physiological function of these unique structures and their role in the transfer and/or clearance of metabolites and pharmaceuticals to vital organs. The current generation of optical nanoscopes, however, is rather slow and can only be applied to isolated, typically fixed (i.e. dead) cells rather than biomedically relevant tissues.

Also, newcomers to the field need to familiarize themselves with a whole new set of potential problems that might arise in the use of optical nanoscopy, such as image reconstruction-related artifacts to name just one example.This is an area of research where European enterprises are very active. Excellent training in new scientific and complementary skills, combined with international and intersectoral work experience, will instil an innovative, creative and entrepreneurial mind-set in DeLIVER's ESRs, maximising economic benefits based on scientific discoveries. These specialised, highly trained, and mobile ESRs will have greatly enhanced career prospects. The training in novel physical methods with highly relevant experience in the biomedical sciences will allow them to confidently navigate at the interface of academic, clinical and private sector research.

 

 

 

mCBEEs

mCBEEs - Principal Researcher Herman Terryn

mCBEEs Innovative Training Network is a joint venture between academy and industry with a primary goal to train young researchers in the field of corrosion and corrosion protection of micro- and nanodevices.
The network focuses on the study of corrosion mechanisms beyond microscale of components in miniaturized systems in different environments using localized techniques, and the development of multifunctional protective coatings to increase the long-term durability of such components. Corrosion phenomena occurring in micro- and nanodimensional components can develop in a completely different path than in their bulk counterparts and corrosion might influence the functional properties of small components in a much more severe manner.

Three main strategic fields where corrosion could seriously compromise the performance of micro- or nanodevices have been identified: biotechnology (micro/nano-robotic implants, micro/nano-electrodes for recording and stimulating neuronal activity, or micro-featured prosthesis implants); electronics (micro/nano-components in electronic boards, magnetooptical thin films, multiferroic micro/nano-devices); and energy technology (metallic foam-based micro- and nanostructured electrodes, self-standing nanoarchitectures). Several disciplines (physics, electrochemistry, engineering, biology and robotics) converge to provide a multidisciplinary approach to accomplish mCBEEs goals.

The ITN brings together 15 beneficiaries and 3 partners including 4 research institutes and 4 private companies belonging to 9 EU Member states, and to 2 associated states (Switzerland, Turkey). The Consortium complementarity will enable a high-level, multifaceted educational programme, where specials efforts will be done to bridge fundamental research with industrial applications. The educational programme is integrated with training in soft skills and aims at providing a network of highly qualified researchers able to tackle challenges both in Academia and Industry.

 

 

 

Aromagenesis

Aromagenesis - Principal researcher:  J├╝rgen Wendland

This project aims to train the next generation of researchers to provide knowledge and expertise for two major industries in the EU, namely the beer and wine industries. Yeasts belonging to the Saccharomyces stricto sensu group are the workhorses of these industries and an understanding of how yeasts contribute to the complex flavours and aromas of beer and wine is essential for the improvement of existing fermentation technology and for the development new flavoursome beverages.
The research objectives of the consortium is to examine the biochemistry and genetics of the production of flavour compounds in yeasts used in wine and beer fermentations, to generate new strains of yeasts with improved or more varied flavour profiles and to develop novel approaches to expanding flavour profiles through co-fermentation of different yeasts.

The network will provide a comprehensive education in yeast genetics, synthetic biology, flavour chemistry and fermentation technology for Early Stage Researchers through individual mentored research training in both academic and industrial institutions, through inter- and intra-sectoral exchanges and secondments and through academic workshops. The involvement of industry leaders in the consortium ensures that ESRs will be exposed to real challenges facing fermentation industries and through training in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, ESRs will develop the skills to provide solutions to these challenges.

Scientific discourse and communication will be a cornerstone in the training network. ESRs will be encouraged to communicate their ideas with scientific peers and with the public at large to promote an understanding of the role scientific endeavor in the economic development of two of our most important EU industries.

The research developed in this project will provide scientific innovation and new and exciting opportunities for the major fermentation industries and for emerging craft beer brewing SMEs.

 

 

 

 

 

FINESSE

FINESSE - Principal researcher - Francis Berghmans

The unprecedented properties of optical fibres make them ideal to be implemented as 'artificial nervous systems', enabling any tool or structure to become a sensitive and smart object. Conventional optical fibres are small, low-cost and can be seamlessly integrated in materials, in engineering structures and in the environment. By exploiting the most advanced light-matter interactions, these tiny luminous wires can realize distributed sensing, which means that each point along an optical fibre can separately and selectively sense quantities such as temperature, strain, acoustic waves and pressure, in perfect similarity to a real organic nerve.

These remarkable features have attracted the interest of different end-users covering application domains as diverse as pipeline protection, oil and gas well exploitation, electricity transport, perimeter, fire alarm, etc., leading to a sustained market growth in the last years. However, the full potential of state-of-the-art distributed fibre sensing is exploited in a fairly narrow range of applications only. This is mainly due to the lack of trained scientific personnel capable of creating the link between the sensors and possible applications.
The ambition of FINESSE is therefore to educate and to train researchers in the development of a set of disruptive new optical 'artificial nervous systems' with improved sensitivity, precision and new sensing abilities, and to boost the industrial uptake of these sensors by training these researchers to valorise their work.

The ultimate vision empowering the project is the widespread implementation of fibre-optic nervous systems dedicated to: (i) contributing to a safer society by returning early warnings for danger and (ii) ensuring sustainable development through the efficient exploitation of natural resources. The full set of specialists, who can turn this ambitious concept into a reality, is present in Europe and have teamed up to propose FINESSE training network.