Interview with Fran Borovečki, EATRIS National Director of Croatia

Published 29 June 2021

In this interview with EATRIS National Director of Croatia, Fran Borovečki talks about his research, the motivation to join EATRIS and more.

Please tell us more about yourself.

My name is Fran Borovečki. I am the Head of the Centre for Translational and Clinical Research at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine, where I am working with a great group of scientists. My group mostly works on genomics of neurological diseases, but we have groups working on proteomics, regenerative medicine, intercellular communication and technology transfer. I am also a practicing neurologist, subspecialised in neurodegenerative diseases. I am Head of the Division for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Neurogenomics at the Department of Neurology, University Hospital Centre Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia. My fields of interest are atypical parkinsonian syndromes and genetics of neurodegenerative diseases. I find the area extremely scientifically interesting and novel methods, such as Next Generation Sequencing, help us greatly in deciphering the genetic background of the aforementioned disorders.

Can you give us a brief insight into the Croatian scientific landscape?

Croatian research area is driven forward mostly by individual hubs of excellence formed around scientists who usually spent a part of their career at prestigious institutions abroad. The main biomedical research institution in Croatia is University of Zagreb School of Medicine which accounts for roughly 25% of scientific output at the University of Zagreb. There are several groups working at the Zagreb Medical School with expertise in omics approaches, in vivo imaging, regenerative medicine and neuroscience, which are internationally competitive and which have attracted even EU Horizon funding in the role of Coordinators. Other scientific centres of excellence include Institute Rudjer Bošković, with researchers proficient in different aspects of biomedical research, University of Rijeka School of Medicine, with internationally renowned expertise in viral immunology, University of Zagreb School of Pharmacy, Institute for Medical Research, University of Split School of Medicine and others. I believe there is a considerable number of competitive research groups in Croatia, but what lacks is and administrative framework for their support and a systematic approach to develop them further.

What were the main motivations for Croatia to join EATRIS?

We have been following the work of EATRIS for quite some time now and have tried to join the EATRIS family previously. We believe that EATRIS provides the perfect framework for development of specific expertise, that already exist in Croatia. We also believe that joining EATRIS will provide the Croatian institutions with improved international visibility, allowing for easier involvement in international research efforts and better access to European funding opportunities. In addition, it will help Croatian scientist to fill the gap in driving the research results forward to industry and to connect with industrial partners outside Croatia.

What do you think a successful membership in EATRIS looks like to Croatia?

We are hopeful our participation in the network will help us extend our collaboration with most prominent European institutions in the field of translational research. We believe that pan-European cooperation can bring added values to existing services and research efforts already in place in Croatia. We also expect that participation in the network will lead to enhanced scientific collaborations, thus enabling us to expand our research activities. Finally, we hope these efforts will spill over to include SMEs and companies in Croatia, thus improving not only the research activities, but also providing clear economic benefit to the Croatian society.

For other countries who are thinking of joining: what would you tell them?

We would highly encourage their efforts. We believe that in today’s scientific arena, only through joint initiatives small countries like Croatia can gain and maintain a competitive edge, thus providing a stable framework for further development.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We are very grateful to be part of the EATRIS family, and believe this will add greatly to our capabilities and expertise, thus enabling us to enhance the quality of our research efforts.