ERA Chair WELCOME2 Advisory Board Meeting – 23-24 August 2022

On August 23 and 24, 2022, the WELCOME2 ERA Chair Advisory Board met at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. During a two-day session, the work done during the first 18 months of the project by individual work package teams involved was summarized, and goals for the future were outlined.

The WELCOME2 ERA Chair Advisory Board meeting took place at a non-accidental setting, at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, which is the symbol of the capital and the seat of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The two-day meeting of the Advisory Board was attended by 22 people involved in the development and support of the project’s activities. The conference was divided into two topical sessions – the first discussed the progress towards achievement of WELCOME2 goals , and the second focused on the framework plans for the future (the coming months, but also 2023). Most importantly, however, the get-together was an opportunity for many of the AB members to network face-to-face with professor Carsten Carlberg for the first time.

“WELCOME2 ERA Chair is an ambitious project with clearly defined goals and aims to achieve them. These can change and even extend the lives of many people,” – said professor Romuald Zabielski, vice president of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Summary of the work done

Professor Peter van Bladeren, Chairman of WELCOME2 Advisory Board, started the first day of the conference. After welcoming the guests, he gave the floor to professor Mariusz Piskuła, Coordinator of the project and Director of the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research PAS. “I feel satisfied with the enormous workload that has been put into the WELCOME2 ERA Chair project so far, although I know that there is still a long way to go” – said professor Piskuła.

Then, professor Carsten Carlberg, the ERA Chair of WELCOME2 presented his scientific route that brought him ultimately to Olsztyn, Poland, and recalled on his over 30-year research in vitamin D. “My heart beats for vitamin D, so it could not be missing from the project carried out in Olsztyn,” – explained professor Carlberg. The core task of professor his research team will be to develop and lead the Centre of Excellence in Nutrigenomics at the Institute that will help to optimize human health and animal well-being.

“Professor Carsten Carlberg is an outstanding specialist whose interest in vitamin D is inspiring. I am sure that the WELCOME2 project will spread its wings thanks to him,” – said Professor Susanne Braun, head of the Hohenheim Research Center for Bioeconomy.

After introducing the silhouette of the ERA Chair, there was a “tour the table” session where all members of the Advisory Board and WELCOME2 team had a chance to properly present themselves. Professor Claudine Manach, Senior Chief Human Nutrition Scientist at INRAE ​​(France); professor Christine Morand, Human Nutrition Unit Director of INRAE ​​(France); professor Wiesław Oleszek, Director of the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation in Puławy (Poland); professor Susanne Braun, Head of the Hohenheim Research Center for Bioeconomy (Germany); professor Romuald Zabielski, Vice President of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland); professor Emily Sonestedt, Leader of the Lund University Research Group (Sweden); dr Joanna Kaniewska from the European Public Health Alliance (Belgium); Karolina Biel, Innovation Project Specialist at the Maspex Group (Poland); Damian Opalach from the Marshal’s Office of the Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship (Poland); as well as scientists and members of the WELCOME2 team from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research PAS.

After the introductory part, the leaders of groups involved in the WELCOME2 ERA Chair (WP Leaders) project delivered their presentations on the progress made in each of their work packages. Professor Barbara Gawrońska-Kozak, WP1 Leader: Recruitment of ERA Chair holder, described the complex and long-term recruitment process for the position of WELCOME2 ERA Chair and the details behind the selection of professor Carlberg. Krzysztof Wilczek, Grant Specialist, WP3 Leader: Research management & administration, talked about the work done on the development and launching of an online toolbox for preparing and managing grants, and introduced a template of a survey to determine the topical scope of sessions that would serve a part of Rising Managers Academy curriculum. Maciej Cieślik, HR Business Partner, WP4 Leader: European Charter & Code of Conduit, elaborated on the onboarding measures that have been developed to ensure a proper support for the international research staff joining WELCOME2 team and the Institute. This includes e.g. the HR Manual for Researchers available at project’s website. Professor Monika Kaczmarek, Head of the Molecular Biology Laboratory, WP5 Leader: Science as a public good, reported on the coordination of the development and implementation of the Good Laboratory Practice System (GLP) and the Research Data Management (RDM) Policy. Iwona Kieda, Senior Project Manager, WP6 Leader: Communication & Dissemination, talked about communication tools developed and dissemination activities undertaken to ensure proper visibility of WELCOME2-enabled understandings among regional, national, and European stakeholders, as well as improved recognition of the Institute. The last speaker was Dr. Tomasz Jeliński, Chief Specialist and WELCOME2 Project Manager, whose role is to ensure the optimal implementation of project activities, monitoring of human and financial resources, as well as and facilitating efficient communication between WP activities.

After each of the presentations delivered by the WP Leaders a discussion followed.

Plans for the future

The second day of the conference focused on the plans for the future presented by all the leaders of the groups involved in the development of the WELCOME2 ERA Chair project. New members of the research team who will be involved in creating the Centre of Excellence in Nutrigenomics and Carlberg’s research were also introduced.

Professor Carlberg described the assumptions of his research grant applications (including MAESTRO call of the National Science Centre) and outlined a preliminary draft of the first intervention studies. He also presented the ‘digital twins’ concept that will serve the core methodology of his group’s research investigations.

“People should understand that they have their fate in their own hands,” – explained professor Carlberg, referring to the essence of epigenome research and understanding nutrigenomics in the context of avoiding and treating diet-related diseases.

A heated discussion followed, with the AB meeting participants sharing their comments and suggestions on the scope, excellence and impact of the research plans included in the funding application presented by prof. Carlberg.

After the presentations by prof. Carlberg and WP leaders on the future steps in the project, a general discussion continued and final remarks were made.

“I admire how all the details related to the WELCOME2 ERA Chair project are organized. The results of Professor Carlberg’s research may not only improve but even save the lives of many people in the world,” – said Professor Claudine Manach.

The next meeting of the WELCOME2 ERA Chair Advisory Board will be held in the third quarter of 2023.

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