The visit was held in the period 21-22 October 2019 in Sofia, Bulgaria and was organised by the Bulgarian node at Sofia University.
During the visit Anton Ussi and Florence Bietrix were accompanied by Professor Rossitza Konakchieva, National Director, and attended several intensive meetings with officials from the Ministry of Education and Science, BBMRI National Coordinator, head representatives of Bulgarian research institutions as well as research scientists, academic professionals, SME representatives and business developers of the biomedicine and biotechnology sector. On day two of the visit a partnering seminar “EATRIS-membership – challenges and new horizons” were held in the Faculty of Biology, Sofia University.
The main program included:
In the afternoon on October 21, the group of EATRIS C&S Representatives, prof. R. Konakchieva and Dr Georgui Nikolov, Owner and CEO of MC Reprobiomed, were welcomed at the Medical University – Sofia by Prof. Radka Kaneva, Executive Director of the Molecular Medicine Center, MU-Sofia, National Coordinator of the BBMRI Node (link). Prof. Kaneva showed around the MMC and offered the opportunity to get introduced to the staff, main laboratories and facilities of the infrastructure at the Faculty established in the period 2006-2016. She presented an overview of the main structure, activities and projects running at the MMC. After the round show, a separate meeting took place to share experience about the organisation and national access to BBMRI, discuss main crossing roads and problems in front of the national biomedical societies.
EATRIS communities were invited to the BBMRI Annual Meeting which will be held in Sofia in October 2020. Other mutual activities between both National nodes EATRIS-Bulgaria and BBMRI were planned, and general agreement was achieved that close interaction and concerted action might strengthen the position of the biomedical sector in terms of government support through the National Roadmap, but also will help the sector to get more attractive and visible to the national business and RI end-users.
On October 22, from 09.30 to 10.30 a.m. a meeting was held at the Ministry of Education and Science at the office of the Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Mrs Karina Angelieva. The Directorate “Science” was represented by Mrs Milena Damyanova, and Mrs Milena Glavcheva, who is also Bulgaria representative in EATRIS BoG. The meeting was also attended by prof. Soren Hayrabedyan, Director of IBIR-BAS, and prof. R. Konakchieva. Mrs Angelieva expressed her overall positive evaluation of the activities resulting from the implementation of the different financial instruments to support Bulgarian scientific communities (National Roadmap, National Science programs, CoE and CC).
She outlined the main problems and challenges to Bulgarian science in the current period that need to be overcome and appealed for closer interaction between the academic institutions to achieve a better definition of science thematic priorities in the new issue of the Strategy for Science and Innovation. She acknowledged the work done by the National representatives of BBMRI and EATRIS and welcomed future research initiatives which may result from the close interaction of both national nodes. Mrs Angelieva expressed her full support to any common activities which may result in the establishment of a national biomedical ecosystem comprising academia, business and other stakeholders. On behalf of the RI represented in the National roadmap, the efforts of the Ministry of Education and Science and the Science Directorate were appreciated by prof. R. Konakchieva. Anton Ussi and Florence Bietrix presented the overall EATRIS strategy and activities planned at European level, as well as some most important projects including the Horizon 2020 EATRIS-Plus project where Bulgaria will be participating with the national node. They confirmed the readiness of the central EATRIS-ERIC C&S office to support the Bulgarian scientific community.
At 11.30 a.m. the group visited the Center for Applied Science and Innovation (CASI) affiliated to Sofia University in close proximity to the Faculty of Biology. CASI is one-year-old establishment and offers an interactive environment for undergraduates and PhD students of medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, pharmacy to work in teams on practical issues and develop their creative ideas to business biotechnology products. The idea for setting up of the Center belongs to Kiril Petkov, Harvard alumnus, CEO and Co-founder at ProViotic, that produces probiotics distributed all over the world (link). He and assoc. prof. Rossitza Tropcheva introduced the CASI and shared examples of success of their students during the last year.
At 1:30 pm a partnering seminar on “EATRIS-ERIC Membership – Challenges and New Horizons” started in the Conference Room of the Faculty of Biology, Sofia University. It was organised under the auspices of the National node of EATRIS-Bulgaria at Sofia University in cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Science and aimed at holding a joint workshop on issues related to application procedures, opportunities for interaction with EATRIS, participation in product platforms and projects, managed by EATRIS.
The Amsterdam headquarters of EATRIS-ERIC was represented by Anton Ussi, Finances and Operations Director and Florence Beatrix, Operations and Programme manager. Bulgarian representatives from six nominated and invited academic institutions have registered and attended the event. Head representatives of the participating institutions introduced to the audience their research profile, professional expertise and specific interests to contribute to the EATRIS product platforms.
During the seminar, the framework rules and procedures for interaction and participation in EATRIS structures, new initiatives and approved international projects were presented, including the four-year Horizon 2020 INFRADEV-3 EATRIS Plus project. Anton Ussi and Florence Bietrix acquainted the attendees with the procedures and requirements of EATRIS, covering the high standards of research and experimental development in the process of creating products for translational medicine.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the national nodes of the other two ESFRI member infrastructures: BBMRI (Medical University – Sofia) and EuroBioImaging (Institute of Molecular Biology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences). Suggestions for joint actions for the integration of biomedical infrastructures from the National Roadmap 2017-2023 into a single ecosystem for translational biomedicine in Bulgaria were discussed.
The Bulgarian participants had the opportunity to ask questions about the process of accession and opportunities for interaction with the European biomedical infrastructures.