The clinical and genetic investigations of diseases of the Cypriot population as well as eHealth are a priority of the Smart Specialization Strategy of the Cyprus government. This strategy can best be served by creating a Centre of Excellence (CoE) with two main spear heads: A contemporary Biobank and a research facility for developing the Cyprus Human Genome Project. Biobanks are organized collections of medical records and biological material of all types, aimed to support biomedical research, serving as repositories and distribution centers. Cyprus, as a Low Performing Member State, was the last country that started a Biobank, when 4 years ago we were competitively funded by the European Regional Development Fund & the Republic of Cyprus through the Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation. That project provided €2m, 0.4m of which was for creating a seed infrastructure for Biobanking. The rest was used for research in inherited kidney diseases. The money for Biobanking was too little for supporting a contemporary operation of recruiting adequate numbers of patients with complete records and promoting translational research. Here, we propose to upgrade the existing small infrastructure and turning it into a CoE with the assistance of Advanced Partners who led a similar operation Europe-wide, Prof. K. Zatloukal, coordinator of the Biobanking & BioMolecular Resources Research Infrastructure that recently became an ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) directed by Jan-Eric Litton (BBMRI-ERIC) located in Graz, Austria. The previous activity allowed us to comprehend the problems associated with patient recruitment and record collection. This can now serve as a starting point for upgrading it into a larger scale operation of European standard, aimed at leading the Cyprus Human Genome Project, part of which will be the sequencing of 1000 Cypriot genomes. This CoE will provide the prospects for innovative research and lead Cyprus into the European Research Area.
The genetic investigation of diseases and eHealth are a priority of the Smart Specialization Strategy of Cyprus. The strategy can best be served by creating a Centre of Excellence (CoE) with two pillars: a) A contemporary Biobank research infrastructure that incorporates eHealth; b) a state-of-the-art research facility to support the Cyprus Human Genome Project and drive translational research, focused on genetic diseases, thus enhancing the European Research Area. Biobanks are organized collections of medical records and biospecimens, aimed to support biomedical research, serving as repositories and distribution centers. Biobanking and genomics infrastructures in Cyprus are lagging behind of European levels, thus limiting the prospects for research and innovation potential. The CY-Biobank shall upgrade the existing infrastructure, implementing high standard procedures and quality management systems for safeguarding data and material of the highest trustworthiness, for downstream investigations. The CoE will embrace the entire research community of Cyprus and serve as an incubator for innovative ideas and as a tertiary medical and educational institute for the rare monogenic and frequent complex disorders, aimed at better patient care and precision medicine. The CY-Biobank will adopt a patient-centric approach showing respect to sensitive ethical, legal and social issues, with the involvement of all stakeholders in the medical and patients’ communities. The CoE aspires also to play a broader role by forming the MediEuro Network with countries in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, thus complementing efforts for bridging EU to this part of the world. The Advanced Partners are the Medical University of Graz that coordinated the preparatory phase of the project for Biobanking & BioMolecular resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI) and its subsequent European Research Infrastructure Consortium, BBMRI-ERIC, which represents the largest family of Biobanks in Europe.
The goal of the CETOCOEN Excellence project of the Teamig Phase II is to establish the European Centre of Excellence in Environmental Health Sciences. In order to achieve that, Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, teams up with the leading European research institutions including University College London, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure, and International Clinical Research Centre at St. Anne’s Hospital. Building on existing expertise and proven track record of the existing RECETOX Centre at Masaryk university, the Teaming project partners developed a joint vision and a strategy for establishment of the interdisciplinary institute of the next generation. This project utilizes previous investments of the European Structural and Investment Funds to development of excellent research infrastructures and introduces strategic partnerships, advanced research management and research support functions, and new financial schemes needed to become one of the leading European research institutes. This allows the Centre to open the innovative research avenues towards improved understanding of the role of environmental factors in human health and aging, and innovative approaches to environmental and health protection in Europe.
The aim of this project is to exploit research capacities built in Central Europe with a support of the European Structural and Investment Funds and develop a cutting-edge research platform capable of addressing major scientific and societal challenges of the contemporary Europe in the area of Environment and Health. It will enhance a scientific value of existing regional population studies and turn them into the accessible source of valuable information by developing sustainable biobanking platform and harmonizing their protocols, questionnaires, and standard operation procedures to allow for their joint assessment and interpretation of results. Existing research programmes will be expanded to address questions related to a wider range of factors (generically called exposome) impacting human health and wellbeing. To identify new biomarkers of exposures, effects, and susceptibility to pathologies, innovative approaches to the assessment of multiple exposures have to be developed including omics technologies, novel methods for integrative analysis, software tools and computational models, chemical sensors and triggers allowing for tracing such processes in biological systems. This innovative research is well aligned with the European and national strategic priorities and documents (including the National Innovation Strategy), and will generate substantial new knowledge needed for prioritisation of future research and policy actions in the area of chemical management as well as practical tools applicable in health protection, prevention, diagnostics, and intervention with the aim of minimizing the burden of disease, improve the health and well-being of citizens and lower health costs.
The number of biobanks for diagnostic/clinical/biodiversity preservation purposes is increasing exponentially, representing an economic burden for the EU. Cryopreservation (Liquid Nitrogen LN) is the only cells/gametes long-term repository method. LN storage is expensive though, requires dedicated facilities, is hazardous, carries pathogens and has high carbon footprint. DRYNET objective is to set an inter-sectorial/multidisciplinary/international network between EU academic (5), SME (3), the EU pan-Biobank, and international partners (Japan/Thailand), with the aim of sharing knowhow & expertise to lay down the theoretical and early empirical basis for the dry storage of cells/germplasm. DRYNET merges the partner’s expertise, theoretical/ biophysical/ mathematical modelling, cellular/ molecular/ insect biology, embryology, mechanical engineering into a coherent approach towards dry storage of cells/germplasm. International/inter-sectorial secondments, with meeting/workshop/summer school will be primary tools to implement our strategy for biobanking. Outreaching activities will guarantee public awareness of the project. DRYNET’s relies on water subtraction to induce a reversible block of metabolism, a survival strategy available in nature (anhydrobiosis). The work plan foresees the exploitation of natural xero-protectants (Late Embryogenesis Abundant proteins), loaded/expressed in gametes/cells, before drying. The best drying approaches, supported by theoretical/biophysical/math modelling, will be implemented by SMEs/academy partners. DRYNET will bring a simplification of currents practices, with cost and carbon footprint reduction, for the maintenance/shipping of biobanks. DRYNET will generate young scientists with transferable skills, ensuring career prospect in academia/industry. DRYNET strengthens the international/sectorial network between different disciplines, ensures long-term sustainability of the project, and boosts European competitiveness in biobanking.