Winners announced for the Poland-wide IRAP competition

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The Foundation for Polish Science has announced the winners of the latest edition of the Poland-wide competition as part of the International Research Agendas (IRAP) programme.

Out of 16 applications one project has been selected as the winner of the 10/2018 competition. Professor Maciej Wojtkowski from the Department of Physical Chemistry of Biological Systems at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Professor Krzysztof Palczewski from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine will receive a PLN 34,999,400 grant to fund the first five years of operation of a research centre whose core areas of research will include human-eye dynamics and plasticity. In the long term, the research is expected to enable the creation of new therapies and diagnostic tools that will be helpful in treating and diagnosing various visual dysfunctions.

The International Center for Translational Eye Research (ICTER) will be established in Warsaw as an organisational unit of the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the Polish Academy of Sciences. The founders expect to have up to five independent research groups working in the centre. The Institute of Ophthalmology at the University College London (UCL) is the strategic partner of this project.

“The burden of vision loss or impairment will concern a growing number of people, as the average human life-span increases in developed countries. This escalating concern has been acknowledged on a global scale by such organisations as the World Health Organisation or the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness,” said Professor Maciej Wojtkowski.

Vision consists of a complex and multi-staged process, which has already been well explored, mainly through major advancements in genetics, proteomics or imaging techniques. Nonetheless, the aetiology of many eye diseases, including especially retinal disorders, has remained fairly unknown. In order to unravel this mystery, it appears indispensable to thoroughly understand the complex cellular mechanisms responsible for the proper functioning of the retina, and to clarify the impact of various molecules on the occurrence of degenerative changes within that tissue. That is the intent of the founders of ICTER. The International Center for Translational Eye Research is a multidisciplinary initiative. ICTER will integrate research in the fields of applied optics, high technology, engineering, chemistry, biophysics, biology and medicine.

About the International Research Agendas programme (IRAP)

Funded by the Smart Growth Operational Programme (SG OP), the International Research Agendas (IRAP) Programme has been carried out by the Foundation for Polish Science since November 2015. The programme aims to facilitate the establishment of highly specialised research centres in Poland to deliver globally competitive research. It is modelled after the “Teaming for Excellence” scheme announced by the European Commission as part of Horizon 2020. A total of about €126 million has been allocated to fund the IRA project as part of the SG OP (Measure 4.3).

So far, the programme has provided funding to interdisciplinary projects focusing on subjects such as detecting and studying extremely weak signals and hidden information in physics, comprehensive research on immunotherapeutics that can lead to the development of personalised anti-cancer vaccines, and the design of devices and protocols based on quantum physics to process information that would be unobtainable using traditional methods. New research units created under IRAP include: the BRAINCITY centre led by Prof. Leszek Kaczmarek and Ewelina Knapska, Phd hab. in cooperation with the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, and the Astrocent project – a highly advanced astroparticle physics centre led by Prof. Leszek Roszkowski and Prof. Tomasz Bulik, also in Warsaw. Four of the new IRAP units are being established in cooperation with the institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Two IRAP projects have partnered with the University of Gdańsk, and further two with the University of Warsaw. International partners of the winning projects include the University of Oxford, the Uppsala University, the University of Edinburgh, EMBL, CNRS, as well as the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna and the Astroparticle and Cosmology (APC) laboratory in Paris.

See also a detailed description of the winning ICTER project and the founding researchers’ biographical notes

For more information on the IRA Programme, see: