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Feature Archive

PRISMAP – The European medical radionuclides programme sets out to substantially change the European landscape for novel and emerging medical radionuclides

Nuclear therapy and molecular imaging are widely used at hospitals for new promising medical procedures. They can drastically improve the outcome for many medical conditions, and enables treating disseminated cancer in particular. However, its effective development has long been limited by the difficult access to radionuclides not yet commercially available. With PRISMAP – The European medical radionuclides programme, this is about to change.

In nuclear medicine, a radioactive substance is introduced into a patient and finds its way to specific biological targets in the body. Depending on the radioactive properties of the radioisotope, it may emit radiation that can be detected with external detectors to visualise the distribution of the isotopes (SPECT, PET imaging); alternatively, it may emit charged particles like α or β- particles which deposit their energy locally (within μm to a few mm, namely from the size of a cell to the size of a metastasis), thereby only destroying cells located nearby, e.g. to treat a cancer with targeted radionuclide therapy (TRNT). Out of the more than 3,000 different radioisotopes that scientists have synthesised in the laboratory, only a handful are regularly used for medical procedures, mostly for imaging, though the interest in TRNT has been growing in the last few years as illustrated with the marketing of Lutathera® to treat advanced prostate cancer. One of the main limits to the development of novel radio-medicinal products is the access to radionuclides during the development and early biomedical research phases. Within PRISMAP – The European medical radionuclides programme, we aim at enabling this development phase by providing access to novel radioisotopes of high purity grade for medical research.

Production of radioisotopes

The radioactive elements that are used in nuclear medicine are not available naturally and must be synthesised in the laboratory. There are two main paths: neutron irradiation in a nuclear research reactor or proton or alpha irradiation with a particle accelerator. The size and energy of the particle accelerator determines which radioisotope can be produced: small, compact machines are found in many hospitals, providing access to the radioisotopes used today. However, higher-energy machines are needed to produce novel radioisotopes currently not available.

Purification of radioisotopes

When producing those novel radioisotopes, new challenges appear: the co-production of unwanted radioactivity which affects the quality of the medicinal product, may induce adverse effects to a patient, and can cause serious difficulties to waste management in a hospital environment. As such, novel purification techniques are required. Within PRISMAP – The European medical radionuclides programme, we shall develop techniques based on physical mass separation and radiochemistry to achieve high purity radioisotope production that is appropriate for medicinal products.

Access and translational research

In order to support the ongoing research across Europe and beyond, immediate access to novel radioisotopes will be provided by PRISMAP – The European medical radionuclides programme. A single-access platform will be established via the PRISMAP website where the production and support capabilities will be presented.

A network of world-leading, European facilities, including nuclear reactors, medium- and high-energy accelerators, and radiochemical laboratories, has been established to offer the broadest catalogue of radioisotopes for medical research. Mass separation is available at the CERN MEDICIS facility to provide the physical separation of isotopes of an element. This is completed by a network of biomedical research facilities who may host external researchers to perform their research close to the production facility when the isotopes are not suitable for long transport to their institution, or when the European licensing for novel radioisotopes has not yet been obtained.

Access to radioisotopes and associated facilities will be granted on an excellence selection basis, by applying for access to radioisotopes and, if necessary, to the complementary biomedical facilities, via the the online access platform. A selection panel consisting of experts in the fields of radioisotope production, molecular imaging and radionuclide therapy will select the best projects from the applicants. The first call for proposals will be launched before the end of 2021 for applications in the first quarter of 2022. It will be open to any interested party.

Looking towards the future

In the fast-evolving landscape around nuclear medicine, PRISMAP – The European medical radionuclides programme is also turned towards the future. The European Commission has expressed its commitment to tackle societal impact on cancer through the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and in particular the SAMIRA Action Plan unveiled earlier this year, including the establishment of a European Radioisotope Valley Initiative. Through the PRISMAP consortium of 23 academic and research institutions across Europe, development towards the upscaling of the production of these novel radioisotopes will be investigated, in the form of novel production technology, new purification methods, and proof-of-concept investigations showing the development of new treatments from test bench to patient care, directly feeding this European-wide plan.

As a consortium serving a starting researcher’s community, we are looking to become a more established community and to welcome new facilities to enlarge our capabilities. Novel facilities are on the horizon, such as the Jules Horowitz Reactor in CEA Cadarache (France), the ISOL@MYRRHA mass separator facility at SCK CEN (Belgium), the new SPES accelerator complex in the INFN’s Legnaro National Laboratories (Italy), the European Spallation Source in Lund (Sweden), and finally both the new SPIRAL2 facility at GANIL (France) that has recently accelerated its first beams and the FAIR facility in GSI (Germany) which construction is progressing. Those new facilities will directly benefit from the findings within PRISMAP towards increasing the production capacity across Europe.

New data will be generated and compiled towards the immediate and smooth adoption of the novel radioisotopes in medical environments though collaboration between research hospitals and metrology institutes (e.g. the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, UK). All the new findings will be used towards creating new teaching material for professionals in the various fields of this multi-disciplinary domain, as well as for training the next generation of professionals and advising the European Commission on these emerging radioisotopes.

Nuclear medicine research is a truly multidisciplinary approach, and to move forward, we need to build bridges between physicists, engineers, radiochemists, inorganic chemists, structural biologists, clinicians, medical physicists, dosimetrists, pharmacologists, and oncologists. PRISMAP – The European medical radionuclides programme, will certainly support the implementation of a multidisciplinary working concept in practice.

For more info on PRISMAP, please visit the PRISMAP website at https://www.prismap.eu.

PRISMAP has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101008571 (PRISMAP – The European medical radionuclides programme).

Breaking News

Status of Switzerland in Horizon Europe

As of 17 June 2021, the European Commission considers Switzerland as a Third Country with regard to Horizon Europe calls. This categorisation applies retroactively for all 2021 calls. This status can be changed at any time, but will now apply for all calls in 2021.

As a result, researchers from Switzerland can still participate in most collaborative projects, unless a topic specifically excludes the participation of Third Countries. However, they do not count towards the minimum number of partners in a consortium.

If the proposal is successful, the  Swiss contribution will be funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI; “Financial Guarantee”).

Swiss organisations will be included in the project as “Associated Partners” and will not sign the grant agreement. Consequently, they cannot coordinate projects. 

More information can be found on the SERI website. 

Sources: Euresearch, SERI

    New Swiss research platform: Research.swiss

    The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and Swissnex have just launched Research.swiss, a website that provides an overview of Swiss research funding institutions and their instruments for bilateral cooperation in research and innovation.

    According to the founders, Research.swiss strives to be "a centralised platform showcasing scientific and technological cooperation opportunities between Switzerland and the rest of the world. Launched by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) in collaboration with Swissnex, the new platform aims to facilitate collaboration in research and innovation by providing researchers, higher education institutions and innovators with a unique overview of the most important funding instruments, calls for joint research projects, and mobility programmes".

    Sources: SERI, Swissnex, Euresearch

    ERC dates for calls under WP 2022

    The ERC has communicated tentative opening and closing dates for calls under work programme 2022.

    These calls target Synergy grants, Proof-of-concept grants, Starting grants, Consolidator grants and Advanced grants. 

    All plans may be subject to change until publication of the Work Programme 2022, expected for June this year.

    Sources: ERC, Euresearch

    Be prepared: Horizon Europe Public Health Emergency Action on COVID-19 Variants

    The Horizon Europe Public Health Emergency Action on COVID-19 Variants has been pre-published.

    The Horizon Europe Work Programmes for ‘Health’ and ‘Research Infrastructures’, with four specific actions to the COVID-19 pandemic and to the rising spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants, were adopted on 31 March 2021. 

    The call will officially be published on 9 April. Proposals can be submitted from 13 April 2021 onwards and the deadline will be 6 May 2021.

    Participants from Switzerland are eligible for funding from the EU even if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned does not apply at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

    Sources: Euresearch

    Horizon IP Scan Service: Protect your IP

    The European Commission launched a free service for SMEs to protect their intellectual property (IP) in order to boost Europe’s innovation capacity. 

    Horizon IP Scan aims to help manage and valorise IP in research and innovation (R&I) collaboration. The support service builds on a vast network of experienced, local IP experts around Europe. The Horizon IP Scan team assesses intangible assets of SMEs in order to present ways to protect existing IP while collaborating with multiple partners on R&I projects and to assist in shared strategy development for the management and exploitation of new IP that was jointly generated.

    The European Commission (EC) initiated this support service because IP management plays a crucial role in the entire lifecycle of R&I projects. Like any other asset, IP needs to be managed by collaborating partners in order to ensure a successful and efficient cooperation. The IP support service addresses the issues around central IP and guides the SMEs in their development for shared strategies throughout the different stages of R&I collaboration projects.

    Horizon IP Scan follows a first-come, first-serve approach, where successful applicants are matched with the corresponding local IP expert. Applicants will have a pre-interview in the preparation phase. Afterwards, the main interview will be either online or in-person, following the provision of a report with recommendations. The SMEs will increase their IP knowledge, better understand their existing IP, identify options for protection of intangible assets, and develop a joint IP exploitation and management strategy with their partners. The support service aims to highlight IP conflicts and shows ways to prevent them. Eventually, the Horizon IP Scan wants to leverage SME’s innovation capacity.

    The service is available to start-ups and SMEs that will sign a Horizon 2020/Horizon Europe Grant Agreement or already have signed one in the last six months. 

    You can find the guide for applicants, a privacy statement as well as the service request form on the Horizon IP Scan page

    Source: SwissCore

    Work Programme of the European Innovation Council (EIC) for 2021 is published!

    The Work Programme of the European Innovation Council (EIC) for 2021 has just been published!

    In this document, the topics for the EIC Accelerator, Pathfinder and Transition are described in detail.

    The launching of the calls for proposals contained in this Work Programme is conditional upon the final adoption without significant modifications by the legislative authority of the European Parliament and of the Council as well as to the final adoption without significant modifications by the European Commission of this Work Programme.

    Sources: European Commission, Euresearch

    Switzer­land’s As­so­ci­ation to Ho­ri­zon Europe

    The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation provides regular updates on the status of Switzerland to Horizon Europe, namely 

    Information on the Swiss participation in the EU framework programmes for research and innovation (Horizon 2020 / Horizon Europe) (PDF, 176 kB, 09.02.2021)

    Guidelines for Participation by Researchers in Switzerland (PDF, 136 kB, 04.03.2021)

    Questions and answers on Switzerland’s participation in the European Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020 / Horizon Europe) (PDF, 322 kB, 03.03.2021)

    Ho­ri­zon Europe: The ERC Starting Grant call is open!

    ERC Kicks Off Ho­ri­zon Europe!

    The ERC Starting Grant call is open. The 2021 Work Programme, the Information for Applicants and the editable proposal templates can be found on the ERC website.

    Deadline: 08.04.2021

    Sources: ERC, Euresearch

    Act­ive and As­sisted Liv­ing (AAL) - 2021 Call for Pro­pos­als is open!

    The AAL Programme's 2021 call is dedicated to advancing inclusive health and care solutions for ageing well in the new decade.

    The topic of  the 2021 Call is:

    While keeping an open call approach (i.e open to all 8 AAL application areas), the Call 2021 will stress three elements, namely an inclusive health & care approach (health prevention, preservation of physical & mental health, social participation), the stimulation and upscaling of innovation in active & healthy ageing through health & care eco-systems and the accessibility of digital solutions to end users, e.g through education for greater e-literacy.

    Both Collaborative Projects and Small Collaborative Projects will be supported by 2021 Call. 

    The deadline for submission is 21/05/2021 at 17:00 hours Central European Time (CET).

    Sources: AAL, Euresearch

    Two new EC consultations to provide Input regarding Horizon Europe

    One consultation is on the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan, the other consultation on the five Horizon Europe Missions. Have your say and provide input until mid September 2020!

    1. A consultation on the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan: Over the last months the different elements of the Strategic Plan for Horizon Europe have been prepared together with Member States and EEA countries in A Shadow Programme Committee Strategic Configuration. The preparations were based on the ‘Orientations towards the first strategic plan for Horizon Europe’ published in January 2020, the strategic priorities of the EC and the legal base of Horizon Europe and should result in key strategic orientations and desired impacts for the programme.

    The current consultation should aim at broadening the ownership of the Strategic Plan among a wide range of stakeholders as well as translate the directionalities of the plan into the work programme preparations. The online consultation is open to everyone and you can provide input to the different clusters of the second pillar of Horizon Europe by indicating how much you agree on the value of an R&I contribution to a certain desired impact. A second set of questions relates to the interlinkages between different elements of Horizon Europe. The consultation will close on Friday, 18 September 2020.

    2. A call to share your ideas for the five Horizon Europe Missions: Mission boards of 15 experts each have been working on first suggestions for concrete missions in the five areas of Climate, Cancer, Healthy Soils, Healthy Oceans and Smart and CO2-neutral Cities over the past months. The mission board presented their interim reports at the end of June 2020. Final reports are due for the R&I Days. A call to share your ideas for potential goals and activities of the mission has now been launched online. You can add your ideas in free text and support the ideas of others. The call will close on Monday,14 September 2020.

    Source: Euresearch - Thanks, Sasha!

    How to bring science to the attention of policymakers

    The JRC’s Science for Policy Handbook provides advice on how to bring science to the attention of policy makers. The handbook is dedicated to researchers and research organisations aiming to achieve policy impact. Today we face major policy challenges, which cannot be solved without scientific evidence. Science and policy are different worlds, but they must collaborate closely in order to address wicked problems of our age. 

    In the newly released Science for Policy Handbook published with Elsevier, the ERC share the lessons learnt in this context. In the ten top tips they summarise their findings in a nutshell.

    Sources: JRC, Euresearch

    EIC Accelerator - your last chance!

    Are you a highly innovative company with a clear commercial ambition and a potential for high growth and internationalisation? Then do not miss the last chance to apply to the EIC Accelerator. This EC funding instrument provides grants of up to €2.5 million and access to investors via a blended finance option, to develop and scale up your breakthrough innovation and boost economic growth. The final cut-off date is 7 Oct 2020.

    Sources: European Commission, Euresearch

    Report on Science with and for Society

    The European Commission has published a report on the achievements of the "Science with and for Society" (SwafS) part of Horizon 2020. The document also provides recommendations for the proper implementation of SwafS dimensions in Horizon Europe, e.g., gender equality and citizen science.

    Sources: European Commission, Euresearch

    NCCR Suchcat funded

    Yesterday, the Swiss National science foundation (SNSF) has announced the launch of 6 new NCCRs.

    SCIPROM is proud to be part of one of them, suchcat.

    Suchcat will lay the groundwork for improving the sustainability, resource efficiency and carbon footprint of chemical processes and products, and of the chemical industry as a whole towards a truly sustainable chemistry.

    The NCCR is lead by Prof. Javier Pérez-Ramírez, ETH Zurich, and Prof. Jérôme Waser, EPF Lausanne and the Federal funding for the four years project (2020–2023) amounts to CHF 17 million.

    More funding for Horizon 2020 in 2020

    On 18 November 2019, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament (EP) reached an agreement in their negotiations on the EU budget for 2020. In a next step, the Council endorsed the deal on 25 November and the European Parliament voted on it in its plenary on 27 November, which means that the budget is now adopted.

    The agreement on the overall budget of course also has its implications on the budget for the last year of the current European knowledge programmes. For the European Research and Innovation Framework Programme Horizon 2020 (H2020) the European Commission’s (EC) proposal had asked for a EUR 13.2 billion envelope, the EP wanted to increase it to EUR 14.2 billion, while Member States had threatened to cut it back to EUR 12.8 billion only. The final deal now results in a budget of EUR 13.5 billion in total, which is an increase of EUR 302 million compared to the 2019 budget. The increase comes much to the joy of the R&I stakeholder organisations, who have been fighting for an ambitious budget. The EU’s programme for education, Erasmus+ will receive EUR 2.9 billion in 2020, which means an increase of 3.6% compared to the previous year.

    While H2020 can now start its last year with a good financial base, the negotiations on the next MFF 2021-2027 and thus also the financial underpinnings for the next framework programme Horizon Europe are still ongoing under the current Finnish Presidency and will most likely continue until next summer. Looking at the latest Presidency proposals for the MFF, the ambitious Horizon Europe budget of EUR 94.1 billion may have to face a severe cut, Members of the European Parliament warn.

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