Thanks to the contribution of the H2020, the EU’s research and innovation funding programme active from 2014-2020, the International Clinical Research Center (ICRC) has established a successful and long-term collaboration with colleagues from the University of Melbourne (UniMelb, Australia) and the University of Tor Vergata in Rome (Italy). The joint network was empowered by Marie Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) grant NANOSUPREMI and coordinated by Dr. Giancarlo Forte at the Mechanobiology of Disease Group of FNUSA-ICRC, and Dr. Francesca Cavalieri who has a shared appointment at the University of Melbourne and at the University of Tor Vergata. By exploiting the possibility to exchange staff and transfer knowledge and by combining complementary expertise in the fields of nanomaterials and cellular biology, the collaboration has recently resulted in a number of outstanding peer-reviewed publications.

Earlier this year, the work entitled “Transforming the chemical structure and bio‐nano activity of doxorubicin by ultrasound for selective killing of cancer cells” has been published in the high impact factor journal Advanced Materials. In this study, Sukhvir Bhangu from UniMelb and Soraia Fernandes from FNUSA-ICRC aimed at increasing the specificity of cancer treatment. They adopted a simple and cost-effective methodology to reconfigure the structure of the chemotherapeutic drug doxorubicin to selectively kill cancer cells and avoid cardiotoxic effects.

Within the same collaboration and thanks also to the support of iCare2-AIRC funding scheme, Marco Cassani from FNUSA-ICRC and Alessia Amodio from UniMelb have described a new method based on DNA/LNA chimera sensor and expansion microscopy to identify virus-infected cells and their viral reservoir with unprecedented detection accuracy. Although this technique has been applied to HIV virus, it can be scaled up to identify cells infected by SARS-COV2 virus. The study, entitled “Nanoscale probing and imaging of HIV-1 RNA in cells with a chimeric LNA-DNA sensor” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nanoscale.

Finally, in another publication, Agata Glab, a PhD student from the UniMelb hosted at CTM lab within the MSCA-RISE NANOSUPREMI grant, proposed the application of glycogen-albumin nanoparticles for drug deliver to cancer cells in 2D and 3D disease models. This study, entitled “Triggering the nanophase separation of albumin through multivalent binding to glycogen for drug delivery in 2D and 3D multicellular constructs”, is a fruit of the collaboration with the groups of Giancarlo Forte and Jan Frič, from CTM, and has been published in the journal Nanoscale.

Mgr. Martin Toul from the Loschmidt Laboratories of the Faculty of Science MU, RECETOX and the International Clinical Research Centre at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) has discovered in his work a connection that increases the previously recognized effectiveness of staphylokinase in dissolving blood clots up to ten thousand times. This breakthrough discovery could help to find new and more effective drugs for acute stroke patients.

Two approaches are currently used to treat stroke. The first is mechanical, where the blood clot is removed using a catheter, while the second is biochemical, where the thrombus is dissolved using a drug. The first method is more demanding in terms of technical equipment and also in terms of thorough training of personnel, while the second is easier to apply, but it has its limits too, especially in terms of efficacy and the cost of the substance administered.

Currently, the most widely used drugs contain a protein called alteplase as the active substance. Although this has a relatively selective effect directly on the blood clot, it has limited efficacy and has a higher risk of thrombus recurrence or unwanted bleeding. Also for this reason, agents that dissolve the thrombus faster and without the risk of side effects are constantly being sought.

A protein produced by staphylococcus bacteria, staphylokinase, has been considered as one suitable candidate. Staphylococcus is found on the skin or mucous membranes of every person. However, if the body is weakened or the immune system is compromised, it can cause an infection that is difficult to treat. Although the immune system tries to isolate these bacteria by using a protective barrier similar in composition to that of a blood clot, staphylococcus can break it down with staphylokinase.

However, staphylokinase did not appear to be a suitable candidate for the treatment of stroke due to its low efficacy. But this could now change with the work of Martin Toul, who has shown that the efficacy reported so far is actually many times – up to 10 000 times – higher. “We are working on research and development of substances effective in stroke within the Stroke Brno project and our research has been supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports with a four-year INBIO grant of CZK 100 million,” said Toul.

The link that could change the perception of staphylokinase in treatment came about unplanned. “We were testing proteins similar to staphylokinase, and we needed to get baseline data to use as a basis for comparison. We didn’t just want to rely on data reported in the literature; we wanted to verify previous observations in the lab. We went more in depth and found that the staphylokinase activity was actually quite different,” Toul described.

The overall efficiency of staphylokinase, i.e. the efficiency of dissolving a blood clot, is indeed low. However, its mechanism is more complex and consists of two steps. The first is the binding of staphylokinase to its partner, which is very weak indeed. In contrast, the second step, the dissolution of the blood clot itself, is ten thousand times more efficient overall. This is due to the minimal binding of staphylokinase, because of which only a negligible fraction of staphylokinase molecules form an active bound form. Therefore, if the binding could be made more efficient, the overall efficiency of dissolving blood clots would increase many fold.

“Everyone was looking at the activity as a whole. But we looked at the individual steps of the mechanism and found the limiting one. As a result, we found that we don’t need to improve staphylokinase at all in terms of dissolution activity, but just focus on its binding efficiency, which is easier to do,” Toul emphasized. Thus, future research will aim to find proteins with improved binding properties so that the overall efficiency is as high as possible. “Using protein engineering methods, we plan to design thousands of variants, test them in our Loschmidt laboratories and send the most suitable candidates to our colleagues at the Institute of Biophysics of the CAS, with whom we also collaborate within the Stroke Brno platform,” outlined Martin Toul’s future plans.

The first author of the thesis Mgr. Martin Toul is a student of Masaryk University and a researcher of the Protein Engineering team (FNUSA-ICRC) in Loschmidt laboratories under the supervision of Prof. Zbyněk Prokop and Prof. Jiří Damborský. In 2020, he was awarded a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship for PhD students, thanks to which he spent a semester at the University of Texas at Austin in the group of Prof. Kenneth A. Johnson.

Martin_Toul

For the seventh time, the role of women in research is commemorated with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. We would like to commemorate several colleagues for whom science research is not only a job but also a mission. And that there were many to choose from, at the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) more than half of the researchers are women (52%).

The new director of the FNUSA-ICRC from the new year is Prof. MUDr. Irena Rektorová, Ph.D. She is an internationally recognized and respected neurologist and scientist with expertise in movement disorders, cognitive neurology, non-invasive brain stimulation and structural and functional imaging. Currently, she also works as a research group leader at the Central European Institute of Technology CEITEC of Masaryk University and as a neurologist and head of the Centre for Abnormal Movements and Parkinsonism at the First Neurological Clinic of FNUSA and LF MU. Last year, she received the MU Rector’s Award for long-term excellence in research and the MUNI Scientist 2021 Award.Irena-Rektorova

What advice would you give to female students who are thinking about their future and one of the options for them is science and research?
I would advise them to try joining a good research team as early as possible, preferably while they are still in school, so that they get a feel for what research entails. And I would stress to them that the most important thing is to have a good mentor and, of course, an internship abroad. Young people are like sponges, they soak up new things well, they are full of energy and drive and they are flexible and enthusiastic. That’s how it should be. They don’t have to be shy at all to ask a lot of questions and try to do things they’ve never thought about before. And being women? Is there something specific to them? They’ll have to combine research with family if they want it. And that’s certainly possible if they want to.

What’s the biggest challenge you want to tackle this year?
I had to grapple with some major things in January – we managed to get a contract signed with the Faculty of Medicine of MU to create a joint workplace of the International Clinical Research Center of FNUSA and LF MU, it was signed between the director of FNUSA ing. The contract has added value for both parties and will bring stability to the ICRC and will be valid from 1 July this year. Furthermore, we were able to submit the NPO-NEURO-D Excels project, which establishes a broad inter-institutional consortium as a cornerstone for the National Institute for Neurological Research. The project was coordinated by FNUSA with its grants department, Professor Milan Brázdil was the scientific coordinator, and I coordinated one of the three pillars of the project, which cross-institutionally focused on neurodegeneration with cognitive impairment. We submitted the project on 7 February. We will now keep our fingers crossed that the project will be funded, there is a nice interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration set up, research at the FNUSA ICRC plays an important role in it.
Otherwise, I have many other plans for this year, mainly I will have to learn to effectively combine the management of the FNUSA-ICRC with clinical work with patients at the First Neurological Clinic of FNUSA and LF MU, with teaching and mentoring undergraduate and PhD students and with leading my excellent research group at CEITEC MU. This will be very challenging and I hope I will succeed, for now I am still looking forward to it!

Last year, Dr. Petra Šedová received the Danubius Young Scientist Award for her outstanding work in the field of neuroepidemiology. The award is given to only one researcher in a country and is competed between different scientific disciplines. (The award is given by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research (BMBFW) and the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM). Dr. Seda has other awards to her credit, and in 2018 she received the Martina Roessel Memorial Grant (awarded by the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry) supporting women scientists who care for preschool children while developing their scientific careers.Petra_Sedova

What advice would you give to female students who are thinking about their future and one of their options is science and research?
Don’t be afraid! If you are inwardly considering the adventurous challenging path of science and research, take a few steps along it and you may find that it is your path that you find fun, motivating, personally fulfilling, and meaningful to devote your time to expanding human knowledge. Start today, the sooner the better, ideally in high school. Above all, find a good mentor, a supervisor, because he/she shapes your first steps, shows you the direction to go, how to ask questions, how to seek answers. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, making mistakes is inevitable in the learning process, only those who do nothing – do nothing wrong. Go abroad for an experience, broaden your horizons and make new contacts and collaborations. And if you find a loving partner with whom you are thinking of starting a family, discuss together how you imagine combining your work and childcare, how you will support each other.

What is the biggest challenge you want to tackle this year?
I have already partially mentioned the biggest challenge for me in my last answer, clearly the question of how to appropriately combine the care of three young preschool children, research projects and clinical work as a doctor…

The list of achievements of our female scientists is of course longer, let us mention at least the Strmisek Prize for Dr. Sheardová, the Paul Dudley White International Scholar Award for Dr. Kunzová or the Brno City Prize in the field of “medical science and pharmacy” for Prof. Šulcová.

We wish all our colleagues every success in 2022.

The experimental cannabis cultivation facility of the St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and its International Clinical Research Center is attracting attention in its second year of existence. It is no wonder, it is a unique connection of its own research cultivation to the teams of the research centre, i.e. a guarantee of standardised material for research on active substances contained in cannabis.

Ensuring the pharmaceutical quality of the cannabis grown requires, in addition to very strict hygiene measures, precise rules for plant nutrition. “We have chosen a basalt wool cultivation system with drip irrigation control with precise monitoring and control of all external factors – light, heat or humidity,” described MVDr. Václav Trojan, Ph.D. from the Cannabis Research Center of the International Clinical Research Center of FNUSA.

It is with the management and control of all these external factors that Canna company helps our growers. The company cooperates with Pieter Klaassen, a legend in the field of growing plants in artificial conditions, and the Dutch expert also came to Brno. “His experience is really unique, we introduced him to our irrigation system and light regime and then just listened to his advice on how to improve it all,” said Václav Trojan.

The next harvest of medicinal cannabis is planned for this spring, so we will see if it will be better than the first one.

klaassen

On Friday, 28 January 2022, in the presence of the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic, Prof. MUDr. Vlastimil Válek, CSc., MBA, EBIR, the Rector of Masaryk University, Prof. MUDr. Martin Bareš, Ph.D., the Director of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, Ing. Vlastimil Vajdák, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of MU prof. Ing. MUDr. Martin Repko, Ph.D. and the Director of the International Clinical Research Centre of the St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC), Prof. MUDr. Irena Rektorová, Ph.D., signed the Agreement on the establishment of a joint workplace called the International Clinical Research Centre.

It is the result of more than a year of negotiations between the representatives of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University. “This close connection will guarantee the achievement of better quality results and enable the concentration of biomedical research in Brno. For example, in the area of grants, it will be possible to jointly pursue large strategic projects and thus further promote the prestige of Brno as a leading Czech centre of science and research,” said Martin Bareš, Rector of MU.

The joint workplace will be within the St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University at the level of an institute. “I have always declared that cooperation with Masaryk University is one of my priorities. The establishment of the joint workplace is a logical outcome of the connection between FNUSA and MU. It will be a relatively independent entity, including the internal structure and financing – all this will be managed by the head,” said Vlastimil Vajdák. The current director of FNUSA-ICRC, Prof. Irena Rektorová, M.D., Ph.D., will become the head of the FNUSA-ICRC.

The contract has also been approved by the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic and will now be submitted to the Academic Senate of Faculty of Medicine and then to Academic Senate of Masaryk University. “I consider the establishment of another joint workplace of MU Faculty of Medicine and FNUSA to be a great step towards the optimization of scientific and research cooperation between both institutions and towards ensuring personnel stabilization of the existing joint staff. The joint institute will also be newly dedicated to teaching activities of young scientists,” said Martin Repko, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of MU.

Creating a strategic plan and managing the joint ICRC institute will be the tasks of the head of the centre, Prof. Irena Rektorová, M.D., Ph.D. “I like new challenges, this will be one of the most challenging. My priorities will be excellence in research, transparency and financial sustainability of the ICRC. I believe that the joint workplace will contribute significantly to building a strong scientific platform in Brno,” added Prof. Rektorová.

Prof. Rektorová is an internationally renowned and respected neuroscientist, researcher and member of the committees of many European and international societies and scientific panels, with specialties in movement disorders, cognitive neurology, non-invasive brain stimulation and structural and functional imaging. She is also currently working as a research group leader at the Central European Institute of Technology CEITEC of Masaryk University and as a neurologist and head of the Centre for Abnormal Movements and Parkinsonism at the First Neurological Clinic of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University.

The signing of the contract was also attended by the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic Vlastimil Válek. “I very much appreciate that this unique project combines research in cooperation between medical and educational institutions, which will not only lead to quality results, but also involve experts from both fields and, last but not least, save the Ministry of Health funds. I wish my colleagues every success in their work,” Minister Válek thanked the participants.

FNUSA-ICRC becomes a joint workplace of FNUSA and LF MU

Dean of LF MU Martin Repko, Director of FNUSA-ICRC Irena Rektorová, Director of FNUSA Vlastimil Vajdák

Agreement press conferenceRector of MU Martin Bareš, Minister of Health of the Czech Republic Vlastimil Válek, Director of FNUSA Vlastimil Vajdák, Director of FNUSA-ICRC Irena Rektorová

Thanks to the CANTAS (Computer Assisted Non-Thermal Ablation System) project, the main beneficiary of which is the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC), a successful contact between St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the French Ecole Centrale de Nantes has been established. Exchanges, mutual training and technical training of the analytical systems were carried out.

Dr. Guido Caluori from FNUSA-ICRC presented the long-term goal of integrating the predictive digital twin model into 3D EAM systems and making it a tool of common use for physicians in dealing with cardiac arrhythmia ablation. This integration would provide surgeons with increased confidence when combining radiofrequency ablation with thermal energy or pulsed electric field (PEF).

In 2020, an experimental setup was implemented to measure the acute effects of irreversible electroporation in cardiac tissue. A voltage-dependent decrease in impedance was successfully observed without a significant change in temperature at the contact area, suggesting that the PEF ablation performed was not thermal and that impedance is indeed a potential marker of energy titration for sustained lesion formation. Immunohistochemistry showed several autolytic, necrotic, and staurosporine-induced apoptotic lesions labeled with the selected antibody for Caspase3.

Using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, several geometry extraction protocols (manual and semi-automated) were developed, on which local biophysical features were applied according to the presence of fibrosis, in order to create a tailored “digital twin” of the patient for therapy testing. Dr. Caluori prepared, with French partners, a numerical simulation of specific twins from left atrial scans with simplified geometry; he implemented the model account using an existing anatomical atlas to personalize and parameterize the model, for tissue orientation and dishomogenicity.

In 2020-2021, joint face-to-face encounters were limited due to travel restrictions. However, the work has not stopped after the end of the project and a joint grant application to Horizon Europe is already in the pipeline this year.

Zdeněk Strmiska (1925-2009) was a prominent Czech sociologist. Since 1962 he lectured sociology at the University of 17 November in Prague to students from francophone countries. His dream came true with the founding of the Institute of Sociology in Prague in 1965, where he became the scientific director. In 1968 he went to France for a two-year study stay, where he stayed after the Sociological Institute in Prague was closed. For more than 15 years, he served as director of the Sociological Institute of the C.N.R.S. in Paris. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Caracas. His illness with Alzheimer’s disease led to the decision to financially support research and training of professionals in this field.

Thanks to the generous gift of Mrs. Eliska Strmiskova, the Alzheimer Foundation has been awarding the Eliska and Zdeněk Strmiskova Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Research and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Diseases since 2017.

The recipient of this prestigious award for the year 2021 is Kateřina Sheardová, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist at the First Neurological Clinic of the Faculty of Neurology and the Faculty of Medicine of the Medical University of Brno and head of the Brno section of the Dementia Research Team of the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. She specializes in neurodegenerative diseases and memory disorders. She is co-founder of the first aging study in the Czech Republic “Czech Brain Aging Study”. Her main research interests are preventive measures, healthy lifestyle and techniques that influence Brain maintenance and help prevent chronic stress such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques.

Congratulations!

Strmiska_Award

In biology, cellular senescence is the name given to a condition in which cells stop their cell cycle but do not die; they continue to function in the body. Often, cells go into senescence to prevent problems from arising (e.g. in the case of liver damage or wound healing), but in larger numbers and at advanced ages, senescent cells are more likely to create problems.

Scientists from the Epigenetics, Metabolism and Aging team at the International Clinical Research Centre at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) have focused their research on new senolytics, popularly known as anti-aging drugs. “Senolytics hold great promise in the fight against age-related diseases,” said Manlio Vinciguerra, head of the Epigenetics, Metabolism and Aging research team. “Over time, senescent cells begin to accumulate in each of us, and as a result of this process, individuals become more susceptible to chronic diseases and experience a decline in cognitive function.”

With the help of senolytics, these senescent cells can be eliminated, thereby contributing to the improvement of chronic diseases that the older generation in particular faces. In their study “Nociceptin/orphanin FQ opioid receptor (NOP) selective ligand MCOPPB links anxiolytic and senolytic effects” for the peer-reviewed journal GeroScience (IF 7.7), the researchers used high-throughput automated screening (HTS) technology to test thousands of molecules, increasing the chance of finding new potential senolytics that could be used as drugs in the future. “We worked closely with colleagues from the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine at Palacký University in Olomouc, who identified this new senolytic (MCOPPB) in vitro,” added Manlio Vinciguerra.

MCOPPB (the selective FQ ligand of the opioid receptor nociceptin (NOP) 1-[1-(1-methylcyclooctyl)-4-piperidinyl]-2-[(3R)-3-piperidinyl]-1H-benzimidazole) was selected as the most suitable candidate, which is also being studied as a potential anxiolytic, i.e. a drug that relieves anxiety or psychological tension. However, experiments in the laboratory and in animal models have also revealed a senolytic function for this substance.

Over a period of two months, the test subjects were administered the active substance in several doses. After the experiment, they were subsequently examined. In animal models, the senolytic drugs were shown to delay several age-related disorders, improve physical and cognitive function, and extend lifespan. Despite demonstrating a positive senolytic effect, the drug showed side effects including weight gain. Future drug development will require further studies to clarify the coordination of central and peripheral effects and their impact on metabolism.

MCOPPB

Members of Alliance4Life recently conducted the mapping of best practices in career systems in life sciences research, including the self-assessment of human resources (HR) systems in twelve research organisations in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, and are committed to working hard to offer better conditions for the career development of their researchers. The detailed report presents a very useful set of best practices and is also freely available to other research organisations that are striving to improve their human resource practices in order to attract, develop and motivate talent.

The international alliance of twelve leading research institutions and universities operating in the field of life sciences have worked intensively for the past six months to perform self-assessment programmes in order to select best practices in HR areas. Members of Alliance4Life discussed the career systems applied at individual institutions and defined nine main priorities and areas of interest: 1) HR excellence in research-award implementation, 2) career development/system and career track, 3) mobility and internships, 4) strengthening of group leaders as managers, 5) recruitment: an increase of both quantity and quality of applicants, 6) internationalisation and recruitment of people from abroad, 7) welcome services and integration support, 8) diversity, equal opportunities, and women in science, and 9) culture in science, and culture of the institute as a HR tool.

Based on self-assessment, and with provided inputs by all partners, a summary of best practices in career systems in Life Science research was formulated. All partners were asked to discuss the career system in their institution and make a self-assessment in order to grade the proposed areas in three grades: missing system, basic and advanced.

Basic self-assessment confirmed that HR systems in research organisations in the CEE region are rather less developed. A positive aspect of this exercise was the realisation that in all nine HR areas, at least one institution was graded as advanced and can therefore share its best practices with the others. Among the least developed areas were: strengthening of group leaders as managers, welcome services for foreign employees and integration support, culture in science, and culture of the institute as a HR tool.

Out of all twelve partners of the A4L, six institutions are holders of the prestigious HR Excellence in Research Award. Out of six holders of the HR Excellence in Research Award, CEITEC MU and the Medical University of Lodz evaluated themselves as “advanced” in the system of the award implementation. CEITEC MU focuses on the overall organisation of the “HR Award” and presents the process from the decision to apply for the award, the application preparation and continuous work on the implementation of the action plan and its assessment. CEITEC has integrated the HR Award implementation into the standard operation of the institute. The Medical University of Lodz focuses on the implementation phase. As good practice they present the experience with a two-step study – quantitative and qualitative research, which was designed by the Department of Sociology of MUL and conducted among all stages of researchers at the university. FNUSA-ICRC received the HR Excellence in Research Award in May 2021. As of this date, it is officially in the implementation phase, but many of the planned steps began earlier. The main goal is not only to improve and set up HR processes in accordance with the Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, but the whole process also includes the improvement of other areas such as science popularization, quality management system, implementation of project management tools and others.

The “career development/system and career track” area could be considered as the most advanced in Alliance4Life, measured by the highest number of advanced grades (three Alliance4Life members) and by the low number of “missing system” grades (two Alliance4Life members). CEITEC MU presents its formal career system and its practical implementation in the form of career development opportunities for various groups of researchers. LIOS also presents a structure and rules of its career system and adds two interesting tools (motivation system and internal grants for students). The University of Tartu presents how the university responded to the amendment of the national law, which gave universities more flexibility in developing career models, including the adoption of principles of retiring with the emeritus status.

Regarding mobility and internships, clear strategy, concrete goals and experiences are presented by the University of Tartu and by the Medical University Sofia. The University of Tartu emphasises that they signed a considerable number of bilateral partnership agreements with universities abroad which provide for exchanges of students and researchers, as well as other cooperation in teaching and research. Around 20% of academic staff participated in mobility; within various programmes, staff members travelling abroad in the year was close to 70%. The Medical University Sofia has officially signed more than 150 institutional agreements for academic exchange and 33 memorandums of academic cooperation. They present stages in the process of implementing the actions of mobility as well as consequences of good practices for the implementation of teacher mobility and overall cooperation between the universities. Since its establishment in 2011, FNUSA-ICRC has been working closely with the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota, USA and Phoenix, Arizona, USA), where 236 FNUSA-ICRC staff members have already completed 236 work placements.FNUSA-ICRC also cooperates with other foreign partners and has many agreements in the framework of academic cooperation with universities in Europe, America and Asia. In 2019, 219 employees participated in training at foreign institutions, while in other years the number was lower mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Best practices in career systems in life science research also identified some shortcomings to be addressed in the future. There is a challenge in the area of combining careers in medical/life sciences (research at the university/research centre and at hospital) – none of the Alliance4Life members considered its system as “advanced”. We are still missing best practices in this area. And we are missing a standardized monitoring tool for the grading and assessment of progress in HR/career systems. An important aspect that complicates the implementation of advanced systems from one institution to another is the national context (national legislation, and related (de)centralisation of HR management). The partners identified general factors/enablers enhancing positive, institutional change that are valid across not only nine HR areas, but also across individual countries and institutions. These factors make career system upgrades functional and sustainable in the long run.

In the CEE, efficient human resource management and modern career progression systems are often absent. Innovating and implementing the career systems of the partner institutions is expected to tackle this issue. Best practices in career systems in life science research gives us a starting point for the future evaluation of progress in HR management of all Alliance4Life members. The resulting set of best practice measures, proven through operation, will be presented to the board, representing all member institutions, at the Alliance4Life´s community meeting in April 2022. The partners will internally discuss how to use the best practice to improve their HR management, and how it could lead to better scientific performance and employee satisfaction. In addition, the achieved results will be used for the formulation of the consecutive deliverable “report on advances in career system upgrades”, with the aim of monitoring progress at the level of Alliance4Life members and their HR management systems.

Mgr. Sandra Thalerová is looking for new methods of stroke treatment in the lab

The third award winner is Sandra Thalerová, a PhD student in biochemistry at the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University and a researcher at the Cerebrovascular Research Programme of FNUSA-ICRC. For the publication of her research findings in the field of drug combinations and their effects on stroke treatment under laboratory conditions, she was awarded the Masaryk University “Scholarship Program for the Support of Creative Activity for the Publication of Outstanding Results of Own Research”. Two years ago she was also awarded the Brno Ph.D. Talent. Sandra is part of a research group dealing with in vitro laboratory experiments, which brings together the staff of the Institute of Biophysics of the CAS and the Cerebrovascular Program of FNUSA-ICRC.

What does this recognition of your work mean to you?

Every award or invitation to give a talk is an indicator to me that there is interest in our research and that in vitro modelling has a strong place in stroke research. Also, every award increases the publicity and prestige of our team, and I’m very happy about that. The award is also my thanks for the excellent guidance of my supervisor Dr. Jan Viteček and my supervisor in the Cerebrovascular Team, Prof. Robert Mikulík.

Can you introduce us more about the excellent results of your research?

We tested the effect of a new oral anticoagulant used for stroke prevention. We investigated how it affects the effectiveness of another drug, alteplase, on ischaemic stroke (stroke caused by blockage of a blood vessel in the brain, ed.), which helps dissolve a blood clot. We wondered if this preventive medicine could improve the treatment of stroke if it occurs despite its use. However, our results did not show a possible improvement in treatment due to the interaction of the two drugs.

How are the drugs tested?

Our group is involved in the implementation of innovative in vitro model systems. We are using them to test the efficacy and other properties of agents that could improve current stroke treatments. Our models are transparent, so they offer the possibility to monitor blood clot experiments in real time. We can design them as needed and are able to simulate the properties of blood vessels based on real-world examples. In addition, in vitro models allow the use of human material (blood, plasma, cells), therefore the experimental conditions can be in many ways closer to the real situation of stroke patients compared to laboratory animals.

Sandra_thalerova