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Happy Friday! In this Morning Brief, we open with a fascinating project by INESC TEC and other entities that allows detecting the presence of antibiotics in environmental waters with a mobile phone, a new joint European action for more affordable, secure and sustainable energy, a new FAO publication on the future of agri-food, a consultation on hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, and more!  

Any comments or suggestions, hit me up with an email on teresa.carvalho@inesc.pt.

In today's Morning Brief:

In today’s Morning Brief:

Technology allows detecting the presence of antibiotics in environmental waters with a mobile phone

INESC TEC, LAQV-REQUIMTE, the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Porto and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences developed a solution that evaluates antibiotic contamination – namely sulphonamides and fluoroquinolones – in environmental waters, and in real time, using mobile phones. The technology, developed within the scope of the S-MODE– Screening of antibiotic contamination by mobile devices, will also contribute to the monitoring and protection of ecosystems.

As explained by Hélder Oliveira, researcher at INESC TEC, the technology combines a mobile application, compatible with Android and iOS systems, and an image processing algorithm based on machine learning incorporated into the mobile devices, which can be used to evaluate antibiotic contamination. In addition, the use of computer vision techniques to collect and analyse field images, associated with the possibility of obtaining geographical locations, thanks to the use of mobile devices, allows the elaboration of an immediate mapping of the places where the sample was collected.

Find out more here.


REPowerEU: Joint European action for more affordable, secure and sustainable energy

This week, the European Commission has proposed an outline of a plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, starting with gas, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This plan also outlines a series of measures to respond to rising energy prices in Europe and to replenish gas stocks for next winter. Europe has been facing increased energy prices for several months, but now uncertainty on supply is exacerbating the problem. REPowerEU will seek to diversify gas supplies, speed up the roll-out of renewable gases and replace gas in heating and power generation. This can reduce EU demand for Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year.

Phasing out our dependence on fossil fuels from Russia can be done well before 2030. To do so, the Commission proposes to develop a REPowerEU plan that will increase the resilience of the EU-wide energy system based on two pillars: Diversifying gas supplies, via higher Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and pipeline imports from non-Russian suppliers, and larger volumes of biomethane and renewable hydrogen production and imports; and, reducing faster the use of fossil fuels in our homes, buildings, industry, and power system, by boosting energy efficiency, increasing renewables and electrification, and addressing infrastructure bottlenecks.

Click here for more information.

Q&A on REPowerEU.

FActsheet – REPowerEU.


New EU rules for international research already outpaced by shifting geopolitics

According to Science|Business, “EU research ministers signed a declaration laying out common principles and values for international cooperation in research and innovation in Marseille on Monday, but these rules arrive as the rapid pace of geopolitical change threatens to render them useless in selecting scientific collaborators from outside the EU. The declaration is a culmination of years of debates among EU member states on a common strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation. It basically tells science organisations across the world what are the principles they must uphold if they want to work with EU counterparts. The declaration says the EU promotes and protects freedom of scientific research and academic freedom, it cherishes research integrity and gender equality, promotes free circulation of researchers and knowledge, and is equally committed to open science and to the protection of intellectual property. (…) EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threaten opens research. “European research and innovation programmes have a tradition of openness, but geopolitical changes put this at risk,” she said.”.


Using foresight to prepare what the future may bring for tomorrow’s food

A new FAO publication Thinking about the future of food safety – A foresight report, was released on Monday 7 March, outlining how major global drivers and trends will shape food safety in tomorrow’s world.

All food needs to be safe for human consumption; thus, appropriate food safety measures must form the core of food production in our agri-food systems. As agri-food systems are transformed to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is need to develop and maintain a deep understanding of the future opportunities, threats and challenges ahead of us.

This foresight report explores the impact of major global drivers and trends on food safety, including climate change, changing consumer behaviour and food consumption patterns, new food sources and food production systems, technological advances, microbiome science, circular economy and food fraud.

Make sure to read the publication here.


Viewpoint: Time for a long-term strategy on Russian science relations and academic collaborations

In this piece for Science|Business, Ole Petter Ottersen, Karolinska Institutet’s president is interviewed stating: “Now, he says, comes an even harder question – especially for universities: What is the west’s longer-term strategy for Russia? If the west stops scientific cooperation entirely, rather than “suspending” it as today, how will that affect the world’s ability to manage the current pandemic, or prepare for a new one? How will we deal with the health crisis that war brings?  “That’s the task of a university: we should have a long-term perspective. We should really reflect upon  the long-term consequences of these sanctions,” Ottersen said. That call, for a longer perspective on scientific relations with Russia, is something many university faculties around the world are debating right now. In the two weeks since the war began, hundreds of western universities and academic associations, from Berlin to Boston, have suspended formal university partnerships with Russia – often at the request of their governments. And like Karolinska Institutet, Europe’s pre-eminent medical school and home to the Nobel Assembly that chooses the Nobel prize laureates in physiology or medicine, most universities are continuing personal researcher-to-researcher connections as a way of keeping communication channels open and supporting Russian colleagues opposed to the war.”.


Commission seeks views on reviewing rules on hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the review of EU rules restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive). The review of the current rules will contribute to the objectives of the European Green Deal, Circular Economy Action Plan and the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. The consultation is open for feedback for a 12-week period, until 2 June 2022.

Through this public consultation, the Commission invites citizens and interested parties to express views to help to identify any changes needed, and assess the impacts of such changes, for the Directive to meet its objectives in the most effective and efficient way. These changes should be in line with the latest technical and scientific developments and be coherent with other EU legislation addressing electronic and electrical equipment and chemical substances.

Click here for more information.


France to invest €1 billion in nuclear reactor R&I

France is looking to nuclear to level up its carbon neutrality ambitions as it launches a €1 billion programme to develop novel nuclear fission and fusion reactors and integrate better waste management. 

The first €500 million call launched this week and looks to fund several projects at different stages of maturity. 

The announcement follows President Emmanuel Macron’s reveal of a €2 billion strategy for developing disruptive renewable and nuclear energy technologies. It aims to bring France closer to the EU-wide goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and enable the country’s nuclear systems to compete with other global leaders, such as United States, China, Russia, United Kingdom, Canada and Japan. 

While France bets on nuclear, not all EU countries agree that it is green and safe enough. After year-long discussions, Germany decided to shut down all of its nuclear power reactors by the end of 2022, prompted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. It is unclear whether Berlin will try to revert that policy to protect its energy sector from the shock of a potential embargo on Russian gas.

Click here for more information (FR only).


New method matches drugs with faulty DNA replication, helping identify childhood cancer drug candidates

The Innovative Health Initiative-funded ITCC-P4 project’s methodology helped identify some of the best targets in childhood tumours that could be candidates for treatment with adult therapies.

There is an urgent need to identify new therapies for childhood cancer tumours. Drugs originally developed for adult cancers could offer hope as options for paediatric cancer patients. But which ones?

To help answer this question, the researchers in the IMI-funded ITCC-P4 project created a unique methodology called a Target Actionability Review (TAR), which involves a review of published studies that identify potential matches between mechanism-of-action based anti-cancer drugs and specific cancer types. Such a strategy has not been applied to the paediatric cancer population before.

Clinical development of novel mechanism-of-action based agents often requires robust preclinical data. The TAR methodology offers a new science-based way to figure out which drugs could be selected and prioritised. The methodology also helps to identify matches with strong preclinical ‘proof of concept’ that may have a higher likelihood of response to treatment. They also highlight where further research is necessary.

Click here for more information.

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