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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 30, 2009
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EU Funds for Research Projects
September 30, 2009   
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Two Polish centers of excellence have received funds under the European Commission's Seventh Framework Program to develop research in biotechnology and molecular biology.

The first project, called Animbiogen, provides for the establishment of a "Center of Excellence in Genomics, Biotechnology and Quality of Animal Products in Sustainable Production Systems with Consideration of Animal Welfare." The project is being carried out by the Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Jastrzębiec near Warsaw. Prof. Jarosław O. Horbańczuk is coordinating the project.

The other project, Proteins in Health and Disease (Health-Prot), is being carried out by the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw. Prof. Jacek KuĽnicki is the project's coordinator.

Flying colors
The Animbiogen project won a maximum of 15 points from the European Commission; only five other projects achieved such a high rating among 475 applications for EU co-funding.

The European Commission also gave high ratings to the Health-Prot project, in which Polish researchers will work with partners from other research centers in Europe.

Under the Seventh Framework Program, the European Commission has granted around 700,000 euros for the Animbiogen project to be spent in 2009-2012, almost four times the amount the Center of Excellence obtained under the Fifth Framework Program.

The Health-Prot project has a budget of more than 954,000 euros. The project is a follow-up to research started by the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology as part of the Center of Excellence in Molecular Bio-Medicine under the 5th Framework Program.

Cyprian Tomasik, manager of the Animbiogen project, says the Center of Excellence will carry out comprehensive research in areas such as production of animal raw materials and foods with optimal nutritive values.

"Foods like these, such as milk, meat and eggs, should be rich in what are known as bioactive components, or antioxidants," Tomasik said. "The content of fat in this kind of food should be reduced to the essential minimum and the food should also contain little cholesterol. Moreover, they should contain as much polyunsaturated fatty acids as possible, especially those from the n-3 group. This is of particular importance to consumers now that Europe is experiencing an upsurge in lifestyle diseases such as cancer, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and allergy."

The Animbiogen project aims to improve the quality of management and the efficiency of scientific research by developing and training research staff. The goals include a larger number and better quality of interdisciplinary research projects carried out under the 7th Framework Program in partnership with food and agricultural producers and companies involved in biotechnology and biomedicine. Another priority is to increase the number of research papers published in the best science periodicals included on the Thomson Reuters Master Journal List-referred to as the "Philadelphia List" in Poland.

Under the project, experts will work to make sure that animal products obtained through sustainable production systems meet the requirements of biodiversity, consumer health and animal well-being. In order to improve the quality of such products, molecular biology tools will be used in animal breeding. The scientists want to improve the efficiency of both basic and advanced reproductive techniques in order to multiply specific genotypes of farm animals. They will work with small and medium-sized enterprises, food producers and agricultural businesses and companies involved in biotechnology and biomedicine, for example by organizing seminars and business meetings. Trade fairs and other events in Poland and abroad will enable the researchers to promote the work of the Center of Excellence and spread the know-how involved.

Scientists without borders
The project will involve an international exchange of scientists and joint undertakings as part of European research networks. Plans include the recruitment of experienced scientists from abroad and organization of international science conferences and workshops. The Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding is preparing to buy specialist equipment and expand its research capacity.

According to Urszula Wyrzykowska from the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, the Polish scientists and their partners in Britain, Lithuania, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and France will analyze enzymes that modify nucleic acids of potential significance to biotechnology. The research will also concern issues such as the growth of neurons and the development of the brain; the molecular mechanism underlying Alzheimer's disease; endosomal proteins and impulse transmission in cells; cilium proteins and diseases caused by the improper functioning of cilia.

The researchers are planning to organize international workshops, seminars and conferences to discuss the results of their work with scientists from other countries. The International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology wants to strengthen its research capacity by hiring experienced scientists with Ph.D. degrees. Their task will be to train postgraduate students working at the institute.

The project began April 1 and will continue for three years, over which time the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology wants to become a leading center for protein research in the region.

Piotr Bartosz
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