On April this year, Skoltech has launched the Systems biology Fellowship Program. Five young researchers were granted a three-year support of basic research in the broad field of systems biology and data-intensive biology as part of this first of its kind program in Russia. Six months have passed, and it is time for the researchers to present their projects in front of the Expert Panel and Coordinators Board in order to receive the funding of their research for the next year.
On November 9, the five program fellows presented their preliminary results to the distinguished panel of the expert board: Program coordinator and Skoltech Center for Data-Intensive Biomedicine and Biotechnology (CDIBB) Director, Prof. Konstantin Severinov; Dalia Cohen Ph.D., CSO & Head of Research at Beryllium; Manuel Peitsch Ph.D., CSO at Philip Morris International, a supporter of the program. The Coordinators Board was represented by Skoltech Prof. Mikhail Gelfand and Prof. Dmitry Chudakov, Director of the Department of Genetics and Postgenomic Technologies at the M.M. Shemyakin–Yu.A. Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry. The day of presentations concluded with a lecture given by Dalia Cohen on “Targeting MicroRNA With Small Molecules”.
Between the presentations section and the lectures, the program fellows and Skoltech students and postdocs informally discussed scientific and career issues with top scientists working in the systems biology field.
“The science presented is of very high quality”, said Dalia Cohen at the end of the day, “The progress is fantastic. The last time I read the applications was in March, and they made a great advancement since then. The projects are super important. The most useful project will be the project that we can translate the results from model system to human. Several of these projects have this potential.”
“The presentations were very good”, added Manuel Peitsch, “I think that the progress is quite good, after only a few months, and it’s off to a good start. I think they all have a different touch and different aspects of system biology, and I think it’s very much a landscape of what is possible in this kind of science. I very much like the diversity of the projects and the questions that are being asked.
“For all of the projects the next year will be the year where a lot of the data will be generated, and a lot of the analysis will happen. I’m looking forward to that. The first year is about collecting the data samples and the data, so I think the really interesting debate will start next year, when the data will flow in, and some of the early analysis will be done. These are very talented young scientists, very serious and dedicated people, and the level of science is absolutely marvelous. I’m excited to learn more about these projects as they develop.”
Prof. Severinov sums up the session and is also positive about the future: “It is always good to know that one did one’s job nicely. We heard presentations by five Skoltech Systems Biology fellows on very diverse subjects and the one thing that really united them was the outstanding quality of science. So program coordinators and Board members must have made the right choices during the highly competitive process of selection of our fellows. We got tantalizing bits of research in progress and there is no doubt in my mind that important discoveries will be made by the fellows in 2017. The Fellows program has been modeled on the one and only private postdoctoral fellowship in the life sciences in Russia, formerly run by the Dynasty foundation and we at CDIBB Center are proud to be able to continue this tradition with the help of industrial partner.”