Structure of the project
Project Coordinator is responsible for administrative functions related to the project. The project is coordinated by the Estonian University of Life Sciences, with Hector Pagan from the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences acting as the Coordinator.
The Steering Committee
The SEARMET Steering Committee (SC) will be the main collective decision-making body for the project.
The Steering Committee will review research and project implementation progress as well as reports submitted by the Project Coordinator in terms of the budget and program objectives.
The members of the Steering Committee are:
Prof Ülle Jaakma, Estonian University of Life Sciences
Prof Alireza Fazeli, University of Sheffield
Prof Poul Hyttel, University of Copenhagen
Prof Sulev Kõks, University of Tartu
Each is a senior level researcher/staff member with the expertise and organizational legitimacy to ensure that the project is implemented correctly. Additional staff will participate in these meetings when necessary.
The SEARMET project is divided into 5 work packages (WPs). Each package performs a particular set of activities. The six packages and their main objectives are the following:
WP 1 Project Management (EMU) will focus on project management activities overseeing and supporting the project, including financial management, assessment of progress and reporting. The entire project is overseen from the WP1 Project Management, which is led by EMU.
WP2 Excellence in Animal Periconception health and physiology (SU) This work package will be led by SU as it transfers knowledge to EMU and UT in different areas of periconception, the time period immediately before and after conception within animals. This will enable EMU to create a platform for high level research on understanding the periconception environment in farm animals, particularly in cattle, that will improve the quality of research on farm animal reproduction. It will also increase the practical value of the research results and have direct output to the animal production industry. As a result, the viability of embryos and rate of conception will increase, and ensure better health and welfare of the females and their offspring. Work package 2 is led by SU.
WP3 Improvement of Bovine IVF Embryo Production and Early Embryonic Analysis (UCPH) During the first year of the SEARMET project, this WP will focus primarily on knowledge transfer between UCPH and EMU that will enable EMU to develop its IVF embryo production process. EMU staff will receive advanced training on the best practices related to bovine IVF embryo production. Based upon this, EMU will establish efficient protocols for in vitro production of bovine embryos. During the 2nd year of the project, EMU will receive consultation from UCPH experts in implementing the protocols and developing a plan for scaling up the production process. In the final year of the project, UCPH will transfer knowledge to EMU on the state-of-the-art methods for analyzing and fostering the early development of animal embryos. UCPH will also work with EMU to assess what changes could be made to its research infrastructure (such as its animal and embryo production facilities or molecular research laboratory) to increase research excellence and improve animal welfare. Thid work package is led by UCPH.
WP4 Increase EMU’s International Research Profile (EMU) Through this work package, actions will be taken to translate the expertise gained in WP2 and 3 into an increased presence within the international scientific community. This will be accomplished by preparing EMU researchers at all levels to be able to better present research findings at different stages of the process. EMU researchers will also join relevant academic associations and will attend and present more actively (in some cases jointly with UCPH or SU) at higher level conferences that they have not presented at previously. Examples of these include the International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) and the International Embryo Transfer Society IETS. A further way that EMU can establish itself in the international scientific community is by hosting strategically important conferences. For this reason, EMU will seek to implement a strategy to host more focused conferences on animal reproduction and genomic topics such as for the European Embryo Transfer Association (AETE). Another key way that EMU can increase its international profile and thus its scientific excellence is by leading an international, multi-partner research project on veterinary medicine/animal science. A key part of this strategy will be EMU’s hosting of 1 winter and 1 summer school for MSc/PhD students.The schools will focus on animal periconception and early embryonic analysis as well as other subjects touched upon in WP2 and WP3. Participants will also receive training on ethics, project proposal writing and other relevant topics. Experts from UCPH and SU will help in organizing and marketing the schools and will teach several sessions. The work package is led by EMU.
WP5 Strengthen Linkages with Industry and Society to Exploit Research Results (UCPH) The research expertise that will be developed as part of the SEARMET project could have direct beneficial results for a wide range of industrial actors but the two with the highest potential will be focused upon. Animal breeders, dairy and beef producers would be highly interested in the various reproduction techniques particularly production of genetically valuable IVF embryos that EMU will be able to develop based upon the training and guidance received in work packages 2 and 3. For example, these technologies could increase the number of offspring from selected parent animals and therefore significantly increase the possibilities for selection on the basis of specific breeding objectives such as health, fertility and milk quality related traits. The key strategic partner for reaching this audience would be the Animal Breeders` Association of Estonia (ABAE), which unites the majority of Estonian dairy cattle breeders. The ABAE has significantly expanded its target markets in purebred animals and sperm sale. The technology of production of genetically tested offspring would give ABAE an advantage in offering high quality breeding material and insemination service in the Baltic states, Ukraine and Belarus. EMU could also exploit the successful implementation of transgenic technology by producing transgenic farm animals as bioreactors that synthesize biopharmaceutical products such as peptides and hormones. Transgenic animals could also be used as test subjects for drug development where phenotypic and epigenetic information can be monitored. Work package 5 is led by UCPH.