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The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » November 25, 2011
The Polish Science Voice
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Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology
November 25, 2011   
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The Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw, part of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), is one of the largest non-university centers dealing with biological research in Poland. It began operating in 1918.

The institute has 32 research laboratories centered around four departments: the Department of Cell Biology; Department of Biochemistry; Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology; and the Department of Neurophysiology. In addition, the institute has many modern core facilities, including the Laboratory of Confocal Microscopy, Laboratory of Electron Microscopy, Laboratory of Cell Engineering, and Laboratory of Cytometry.

The institute’s Animal House, modernized in line with EU Directive 86/609, makes it possible to breed experimental animals, including transgenic ones, while ensuring the highest standards in this type of work.

The institute has a research staff of 178. Its top-caliber staff are constantly developing and improving their skills, as evidenced by a large number of academic degrees and titles conferred every year. Last year, 20 researchers received their PhDs, four obtained postdoctoral degrees, and three became full professors. Currently, the institute has 122 doctoral students, including 17 enrolled in the International Doctoral Studies program.

The institute’s academic achievements and its activity in securing research grants as well as the number of projects under way testify to its research potential. The institute works with research centers worldwide. At the moment, its employees are busy conducting over 60 scientific research projects in cooperation with research institutions from 25 countries.

The increasing research capabilities of the institute’s staff are reflected by their growing number of publications on the international Master Journal List—more than 100 as of last year. Nencki Institute researchers are also responsible for a growing number of publications winning recognition from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Moreover, in recent years, the institute has become more active in securing research grants. The number of ongoing projects has increased as well.

The Nencki Institute is among Poland’s leading research centers in terms of its success rate in securing European funds. The Innovation Union Competitiveness Report 2011 recently published by the European Commission lists the institute among the five most active research centers in Poland, alongside the University of Warsaw, the AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, the Warsaw University of Technology, and the Poznań-based Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. At the moment, the Nencki Institute is carrying out over 20 projects financed with grants from foreign organizations and foundations. Twelve of these grants come from the EU’s 7th Framework Program, and eight are available under other programs, from institutions such as the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), the Wellcome Trust, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NATO, in addition to EU structural funds and grants financed by the private sector.

In January, the institute began carrying out a project worth over 3 million euros called BIO-IMAGing in research, INnovation and Education (BIOIMAGINE), as part of the Capacities area of the 7th FP, Research Capability Strengthening (REG-POT).

The aim of the project is to strengthen cooperation with 14 leading research centers in Europe and to strengthen the institute’s research capacity by:
- hiring highly skilled professionals, including foreign experts;
- establishing scientific cooperation with research centers across Europe;
- investing in specialized research equipment.

The institute represents Poland in the Euro-BioImaging project as part of the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), and heads the Polish part, BioImaging Poland, coordinating the activities of the scientific community in using imaging techniques in biological, biomedical and biotechnology research.

The latest projects, in particular those financed from EU structural funds, show that the institute’s work is evolving toward a greater role for applied research. This is confirmed by a dynamically growing number of patent applications: one in 2009, two in 2010, and three in the first half of 2011. In all, the institute’s employees have come up with nine patent applications, including four international ones, on the basis of which two national patents and one international patent have been granted so far. The number of agreements and contracts with businesses is also growing rapidly (seven as of September).

Research conducted by the institute’s research teams focuses on issues directly related to healthcare and improvements in the quality of life.

Research tasks being carried out fit into the strategic research priorities of the National Framework Program in Health, covering:
- epidemiology, the molecular basis and risk factors influencing the aging process,
- epidemiology, pathogenesis, genetics and cancer immunology,
- molecular biology and biotechnology and their impact on health risks,
- innovative and genetic drugs, materials and equipment supporting medical diagnosis and therapy,
- the causes and mechanisms of diseases, the search for markers useful in medical diagnostics and in developing new treatment;
- the function of the nervous system and the diagnosis and treatment of mental, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders as well as addictions.

These research tasks are consistent with research priorities set out in strategic national and European documents related to the development of science in fields such as molecular biotechnology, genomics, neurobiology, biochemistry, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, pharmacodynamics, and pharmacogenomics.

A 52-million-zloty Neurobiology Centre is being established at the institute as part of the CePT project. The institute is one of the main beneficiaries of the project. The Neurobiology Centre accounts for more than 15 percent of the CePT project’s total budget. Around zl.26 million will be earmarked for the purchase of equipment, zl.21 million for expanding the institute’s headquarters, and the remaining funds will go to finance other activities.

As part of the Neurobiology Centre project, a number of Core Facilities will be created at the institute. They will be equipped with state-of-the-art research equipment. These laboratories will provide services not only for the institute’s staff and CePT consortium partners, but also for scientists from other research centers at home and abroad. The project will allow the Nencki Institute to assume a leading role in pan-European initiatives, including projects such as Euro-BioImaging (www.eurobioimaging.eu).

The launch of the group of core facilities at the Neurobiology Centre is designed to create a friendly, attractive and supportive environment for talented scientists in fields such as neurobiology, biochemistry and molecular biology in Europe and worldwide. Moreover, the institute’s research groups, using CePT infrastructure, will provide specialist research services to businesses in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries.

The most important contribution of the institute to the CePT initiative is its expertise in brain and nervous system imaging, research and scientific capabilities in neurobiology (imaging of the brain and nervous system as well as imaging of the structure and function of cells and tissues), cell biochemistry and metabolic processes with a particular focus on research into aging processes. The institute’s employees have significantly contributed to the design and implementation of technology transfer processes as part of the CePT consortium and to applying research results in practice.
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