Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Rudjer Boskovic Institute's Project May Result in Faster Diagnosis

May the 11th, 2022 - The Rudjer Boskovic Institute's new project which analyses proteins could be the key to a more rapid diagnosis. It can also be applied in many fields, from medicine to biological product quality control.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, on Monday, the Rudjer Boskovic Institute (RBI) presented its project of qualitative and quantitative analysis of proteins worth more than eight million kuna, which, in addition to very wide application in industry, aims to shorten a large number of diagnostic tests.

The Qua / Qua Protein project is being implemented by the Institute in cooperation with Conscius, with 6.8 million kuna having been provided from the European Regional Development Fund, and the project is expected to result in a patent application for an innovative reagent.

“Through this project, we will be able to identify beings, for example, bacteria from urine, or some bacteria from spoiled food, or benign bacteria from let's say a skin sample, and at the same time measure their amounts.

This analysis has a wide range of applications, in medicine, primarily in diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, bioanalytics, and the food industry, including applications in quality control of biological products, as well as in the scientific and academic community,'' said Mario Cindric, the project manager and the head of the Laboratory for Bioanalytics of the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute.

More than 20 scientists from several different laboratories from across the Republic of Croatia are working on this project, including students and young scientists, and the project was supported by colleagues from both Canada and Israel.

For more, make sure to check out Made in Croatia.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Rudjer Boskovic Institute Scientists Detect Changes in Vrana Lake

March the 22nd, 2022 - Over the last twenty or so years, the gorgeous Vrana Lake has been experiencing some changes. Some of them are to do with the aging process, and a group of Rudjer Boskovic Institute scientists have been researching the goings on.

As Morski writes, cases of the influence of sea water have been recorded in Vrana Lake, which has led to the death of the lake's fish, but also the entry of marine organisms into Vrana Lake. An international interdisciplinary team led by researchers from the Rudjer Boskovic Institute have investigated how these changes in the balance of precipitation and evaporation, the prolongation of dry seasons and intensive irrigation affect microbial communities in coastal freshwater lakes.

Even with a slight increase in salinity in freshwater lakes, there may be a complete change in nutrients, which affects the growth and development of naturally occurring flora and fauna, or accelerate the aging process of coastal freshwater lakes.

Resident microorganisms are responsible for the role of energy transfer in aquatic ecosystems and act as a link between dissolved organic matter and organisms belonging to higher trophic levels. Their metabolic activity regulates the amount and shape of molecular carbon present in lakes and thus affects the global carbon cycle and the emission of greenhouse gases from biological sources.

Microorganisms are highly sensitive to changes in their environment and can therefore be used as indicators of change. In the coastal area of ​​Dalmatia, more and more frequent hydrological changes are being observed, which manifest themselves as prolonged periods of drought or intense showers in the wetter period of the year. Vrana Lake near Biograd na Moru is the largest natural lake in all of the Republic of Croatia, and together with local sources, it supplies the most agriculturally developed part of central Dalmatia - Ravni Kotari.

The aging process of the lake has been studied by Rudjer Boskovic Institute scientists

The level and characteristics of lake water in Vrana Lake all depend on the amount of precipitation experienced and the load of local springs used for field irrigation. In the last twenty years, periods have been recorded in which seawater affected the lake through a partially eroded limestone reef and a canal connecting the lake with the sea, causing fish deaths and the entry of marine species.

''We decided to investigate the seasonal changes in the microbial community of Vrana Lake because its stability is key to establishing balance within the entire lake. We wanted to determine if there's a link between the dissolved organic matter present in the lake, the phytoplankton community that produces it, and the bacteria that feed on it. We conducted sampling at two points in order to collect information on changes in the microbiological community that could be caused by potential salinisation and agronomic activity,'' explained Lorena Selak of the Rudjer Boskovic Institute in Zagreb.

While conducting this research, she added, they used a high-throughput method of sequencing environmental DNA.

''Based on the distribution of the dissolved organic matter and its molecular composition, we found that Vrana Lake is highly productive and doesn't depend on the intake of organic matter from external sources. The microbial communities of the water column(s) are interconnected by the native production of organic matter, which is highest in the summer months. Prolonged droughts and intensive irrigation have caused a precipitation-evaporation imbalance that has led to an increase in potentially harmful cyanobacteria on the one hand, and the entry of seawater and marine species within microbial eukaryotes and bacteria on the other,'' Selak stated.

''Using the results we obtained, we can say that there's a great need to deepen our level of understanding of the microbial community and its response to intense changes in freshwater ecosystems that are extremely rare and valuable sources in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean,'' concluded the head of the research team, Dr. Sandi Orlic.

In nature, this process goes on for thousands of years, but due to various environmental changes in the aquatic ecosystem and human impact, the process of eutrophication of the environment has been shortened to a span of only a few years. In the process of eutrophication of aquatic systems, algae grow intensively, the amount of oxygen decreases and animal species gradually die out, and aquatic ecosystems, usually lakes, change colour to dark green and brown.

Scientists from the Liebniz Institute in Germany, Hrvatske vode (Croatian waters) and the Faculty of Science in Zagreb all participated in the international research headed by Rudjer Boskovic Institute scientists.

For more, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

David M Smith Confirmed as Rudjer Boskovic Institute Director

Dr David M. Smith has been once again confirmed as the Rudjer Boskovic Institute director for the second time following a recently held session at which this decision was made.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at a session held on February the 18th, 2022, the Governing Board of the Rudjer Bosković Institute (RBI) elected Dr. sc. David Matthew Smith as the director for a term spanning four years, beginning during this one.

The Governing Board elected Dr. sc. Smith after considering the positive opinion of the Tender Committee and the Scientific Council, and appointed him as the Rudjer Boskovic Institute director for the term of office from 2022 to 2026.

This is otherwise Dr. sc. This is David M. Smith's second term as the Rudjer Boskovic Institute director. The previous four-year period during which he held this same position was marked by numerous global challenges, but also great results of this most famous Croatian institute and the conclusion of a historic contract for the capital infrastructure project Open Science-Infrastructure Platform for Innovative Applications in Economy and Society (O-ZIP).

In this continually challenging period, this institute has further strengthened its position as a leading Croatian institution in terms of contracting international and domestic projects, and has shown excellent progress in contracting development projects in cooperation with the business sector through structural funds.

"I would like to thank the Governing Board and the Scientific Council, and in particular all the employees of the Institute for their support in my work so far and, in particular, for their renewed trust for this, my second term. I'm hereby honoured and entrusted with a great responsibility in continuing to lead the Institute. Behind us is a very challenging period marked by earthquakes and a pandemic, but also great results of the RBI. Moreover, a quick review of the Nature Index, which measures production in leading international scientific journals, shows that the RBI is responsible for approximately half of Croatia's overall contribution.

About 300 competitive Croatian and international scientific projects are currently being implemented at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute and the European project portfolio has reached a value of 110 million euros. A historic contract has been signed for the capital structural project O-ZIP, which brings us an investment in RBI infrastructure worth 72 million euros, the number of publications has grown, and we've achieved significant results in the ''brain drain'' to the RBI by attracting foreign scientists and returnees, which makes me especially happy, as does the influx of doctoral and postdoctoral students at the RBI.

Flexibility and adaptation to these new working conditions will be our everyday life in the future. Stability, harmonisation and progress are the key points of my vision of the RBI, while the greatest strength of this institute is its employees,'' said Dr. sc. David M. Smith upon being appointed as the Rudjer Boskovic Institute director once again, adding that he hopes that the institute will continue to achieve these results in somewhat more stable conditions in the future.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Contract for €70 mn Project Signed at Rudjer Boskovic Institute

ZAGREB, November 16, 2020 - A signing ceremony for a €70 million contract for the establishment of scientific infrastructure and procurement at the Croatian Rudjer Boskovic Institute (RBI) took place in Zagreb on Monday, with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic attending the event.

The O-ZIP project (Open Scientific Infrastructural Platforms for Innovative Applications in the Economy and Society) is a key part of the Institute's development strategy and is based on strengthening the IRB's most competitive parts with the aim of a closer cooperation with the industrial sector, and it is the largest investment in research infrastructure in Croatia in the last 30 years, it was said.

Plenkovic said that the government's goal is to increase funding for research and science to 2.5% of GDP. Our ambition by 2030 is 3% of GDP, and we want a real connection between science and the economy, he said, recalling that in the past three years investments increased from 0.85% in 2017 to 1.11% of GDP in 2019.

All of this is part of a policy enabling scientists to contribute to the development of the country and young people to get quality education and become more competitive on the labour market, the Prime Minister said.

Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said that this was the largest project in the field of science in Croatia. It will provide the Rudjer Boskovic Institute with excellent infrastructure, the lack of which has been an obstacle to its development for the last 15 years, he said.

RBI director David M. Smith thanked all those who had worked on preparing the project, as well as the authorities for their support. Since 2012, when this project was launched, this is the fourth government and the seventh minister, he said.

The project will turn the Rudjer Boskovic Institute into a contemporary science institute that will be able to compete with others in the field, Smith said, adding that the RBI employs excellent scientists, five percent of whom are foreign nationals, and that it accounts for more than a half of Croatian science in leading scientific databases.

The RBI, which this year marks its 70th anniversary, employs a total of 956 people, 738 of whom work in science. The RBI staff lead 34 projects financed from the European Structural and Investment Funds and 102 projects financed by the Croatian Science Foundation.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Ruđer Bošković Institute Builds 100% Spy-Free Communications System

September 3, 2020 – Scientists from the Ruđer Bošković Institute in Zagreb were integral to an international effort to realise the world's first fully functioning quantum communication network. 100% spy-free, it's the communication system of the future

Despite what some apps tell you, no online communication is completely secure. However, we have moved one step closer to that becoming a reality thanks, in part, to quantum physicists from the Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI) in Zagreb.

Working in collaboration with scientists from the University of Bristol (UK) and the Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the international team have built the world's first fully functioning quantum communication network.

Quantum communication is a well-known field of applied quantum physics. For years, one of its most interesting applications has been regarded as its ability to protect information channels against eavesdropping. It does this by using quantum cryptography.

The security of quantum transmissions are ensured by the no-cloning theorem. This makes reproduction, or cloning, of a quantum system impossible without instant detection. If someone attempts to read the encoded data, the quantum state will be changed via the no-cloning theorem. Quantum communication is also much faster than traditional methods of communication because entangled photons can transmit information instantaneously.

The computer and communications systems of the future have been on the radar for a long time. Industry giants like Google and IBM are already investing millions in quantum computer hardware research in anticipation of our sure-fire futures.

Kvantni-Internet-sigurni-Internet-buducnosti.jpg
The team of scientists from the Ruđer Bošković Institute involved in the breakthrough © Ruđer Bošković Institute

The difficulty of introducing quantum communications has been the construction of a large and easily expandable quantum-protected network. It's proven incredibly complicated to build a template for a potentially limitless number of users while also maintaining connection stability. But, that's exactly what the international team containing scientists from the Ruđer Bošković Institute have done.

The scientists from the Ruđer Bošković Institute designed and made the optical receivers for the network. This is the part of the system that will be employed by the end-user. The team of Croatian scientists from the Ruđer Bošković Institute involved in the breakthrough includes Dr Martin Lončarić, Dr Mario Stipčević and Željko Samec. The team published their world first in the prestigious scientific journal Science Advances.

Founded in 1950, the Ruđer Bošković Institute is the largest Croatian research institute working in the fields of natural sciences and technology. It operates in many different areas of scientific research, has been responsible for countless scientific discoveries and employs over 500 academics and students. It has an annual budget of over 20 million Euros and receives the majority of its funding from the Croatian state.

Friday, 24 April 2020

IRB: Genetic Sequence of the COVID-19 Virus Genome Determined

ZAGREB, April 24, 2020 - An interdisciplinary team of Croatian scientists has determined the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 virus genome, which will make it possible to determine the source of the infection in Croatia and track it as well as contribute to global efforts to curb the pandemic.

The Zagreb-based Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) said in a statement that this was a joint success of its researchers and those working at the Rijeka School of Medicine and the Teaching Institute for Public Health.

The success confirms that Croatia has both the technical and human resources that place it along other countries contributing to the understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The first detailed analysis of the virus genome was done at the IRB Laboratory for Advanced Genomics, led by Oliver Vugrek.

Participating in the project were also Igor Jurak of the Rijeka University Department for Biotechnology and Tomislav Rukavina and Neven Sučić of the Rijeka School of Medicine and Teaching Institute for Public Health.

Their results have helped develop an own protocol for the analysis of the COVID-19 disease, which could be applied broadly in the analysis of other viruses too, the IRB said.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Rudjer Boskovic Institute: Innovative Protocol in Fluorescent Labelling of Proteins

New protocol by Croatian scientists has strong commercial potential. The research team hopes to join forces with industry partner to successfully complete the commercialization of their innovation.

ZAGREB, CROATIA, 27 Jan 2020 - A multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute (RBI) in Zagreb, Croatia, has developed a novel protocol in fluorescent labelling of proteins based on unusual photochemical reactivity. The innovative and commercial potential of the new protocol is further backed by the pending patent application in the EU and the USA, whereas a part of the research has been published in one of the leading journals in the field 'ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces'

The latest results are a successful outcome of a synergy of theoretical and experimental research by Croatian scientists in the fields of organic synthesis, photochemistry and biology, as well as a fruitful collaboration with Professors Cornelia Bohne and Peter Wan from the University of Victoria in Canada.

The Croatian team of chemists involving Katarina Zlatic, Dr Ivana Antol and Dr Nikola Basaric from the RBI Department of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry and a team of biologists Dr Lidija Uzelac, Dr Ana-Matea Mikecin Drazic and Dr Marijeta Kralj from the RBI Division of Molecular Medicine have been working on the development of new dyes for the use in phototherapy of cancer for almost a decade.

The team has already filed a patent application for the new protocol, and they are looking for a potential partner in pharma, as well as companies and SMEs interested in applications of fluorescent technologies in biology to commercialize the invention.

''Our team has been working very hard on the development of new agents for the photochemical treatment of cancer, particularly for the past four years within the project funded by the Croatian Science Foundation.

Our new protocol is not based on the "photosensitization" and production of reactive singlet oxygen species, which is currently the major mechanism of photochemical anticancer treatment used in clinics. Instead, the new protocol works on the photochemical transformation of a non-harmful dye into a very reactive species 'quinone methide' which reacts with different intracellular molecules and is responsible for the cell death,'' explains Dr Nikola Basaric, the Head of the RBI Laboratory of Synthetic Organic Chemistry and HrZZ project manager.

''Since the treatment does not rely on the presence of dissolved oxygen in cells, which are often present at a very low concentration in cancer cells - the effect known as hypoxia, it represents a highly promising alternative in photochemical anticancer treatment. The selectivity of the method and minimization of the treatment side effects should be assured by selective excitation of the dye localized in the cancer tissue only, for example by use of fibre optics,'' says Dr Basaric.

Among different classes of synthesized dyes, some molecules are highly bright and fluorescent, as well as photochemically stable, if excited by visible light. In these cases, molecules can be used as fluorescent dyes for in vitro cellular images by fluorescent microscopy.

Although molecules are photochemically stable if they are excited by visible light, their photochemical reactivity can be turned on by use of UV-light. Upon excitation with UV-light, very reactive 'higher excited singlet states' are formed which undergo ultrafast reactions and deliver the reactive species 'quinone methides'.

These quinone methides can covalently attach to proteins and allow for their visualization by fluorescence spectroscopy. The demonstration of this unusual protocol and its applicability was recognized and accepted for the publication in one of the top journals in the field from the American Chemical Society.

''We will continue our endeavours on the development of photochemically reactive dyes which can be used in anticancer therapy as well as fluorescent dyes for labelling of biomolecules. This research is planned within the scope of newly granted project by the Croatian Science Foundation, and hopefully, soon we expect to join forces with industry partner to successfully complete the commercialization of our research,'' concludes Dr Basaric.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Regional Conference on Cooperation in Space Technologies Held in Zagreb

ZAGREB, October 7, 2019 - Space research, aeronautics and space technologies are not the domain of only big countries and companies as small countries can actively participate as well, participants and guests in the first regional conference on cooperation in space sciences and technologies said in Zagreb earlier this week.

The event was hosted by the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) and organised by the Adriatic Aerospace Association, in cooperation with the IRB and the University of Zadar, under the auspices of the Croatian Economy Ministry.

Mario Antonić, the state secretary at the ministry, said that without innovation and research there was no development and that Croatia wanted to step up those processes in order to catch up with European and global trends. In doing so, we wish to learn from other countries such as Israel, he added.

Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor said his country was willing to share its experience. Israel, although a small country and despite a hostile environment, looks into space and has ten satellites there now, he added.

Failures must not discourage us, we must learn from them and keep working, Mor said commenting on the failed landing of Israel's Baresheet spacecraft on the Moon, which crashed on the surface last April due to technical malfunctions.

Space research is important for the future of every country, including Croatia but, unfortunately, we cannot say that Croatia participates in it, said Tome Antičić, state secretary at the Science and Education Ministry. He added, however, that Croatia was trying to change that and was looking up to countries such as Israel.

IRB director David Matthew Smith said that many thought that space research was reserved only for big countries, but that it was not so. He added that many small companies in Croatia worked on some product that was important for space technologies.

Heinz Stoewer, one of the founders of the European Space Agency, said small countries could build small satellites and rockets as the technology was familiar and worked-out.

The president of the Adriatic Aerospace Association, Slobodan Danko Bosanac, said the aim of the conference was to encourage and strengthen regional cooperation in the research and development of space technologies, as well as establish contacts so that one could plan cooperation in space technologies, rocket power and rocket engineering.

Montenegrin Science Minister Sanja Damjanović presented a project which could help stop and reverse the brain drain problem in South East Europe.

The SEEIIST (Heavy Ions in South East Europe) project combines science and biomedicine, and envisages the construction of a scientific institute in one of the region's countries which would apply hadron therapy for cancer, i.e. treatment via protons and heavy ions, one of the most modern treatment methods for certain types of cancer.

There are 12 such centres in the world, including four in Europe, but none in South East Europe, so Damjanovic said its construction would help in the treatment of patients with a method that, for some cancers, had an almost 90% success rate.

Damjanovic said the countries in South East Europe needed financial assistance in this because the project was worth €200 million, adding that the goal of the SEEIIST was to build such a centre in the region by 2028.

She said Croatia had been among the first countries to support the project and that a Declaration of Intent was signed at CERN in October 2017. Ten ministers were there, including Croatian Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak. The declaration was signed by eight ministers, while Croatia agreed "ad referendum" and Greece agreed to observer status.

Six ministers signed a memorandum on the project in Poland last July. Damjanović said Slovenia would most likely sign it as well and that the signatories would be very glad if Croatia did too.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Ruđer Bošković Institute Boasts of High Share of Women Researchers

ZAGREB, February 17, 2019 -The Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI) has a 58% portion of female researchers, which is why it is above the European Union and global average when it comes to the share of female researchers, the Zagreb-based Institute reported when International Day of Women and Girls in Science was observed on 11 February.

This year, the theme for that day was "Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth".

"At present, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women. According to UNESCO data (2014 - 2016), only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in ICT (3 per cent), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5 per cent) and in engineering, manufacturing and construction (8 per cent)," according to the information available on the United Nations' website.

"Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science"

The main Croatian science institute says that it has a total of 880 employees, and of them 427 have PhD degrees, including 246 women (58%). Also, there are a total of 11 heads of departments and four are women (36%), and when it comes to the heads of laboratories, gender equality is balanced (50% to 50%).

Of the three assistant directors of the RBI institute, two are women.

The European Union's statistical office Eurostat provided data for 2017 about gender equality in science and in that year, 59% of researchers and engineers in the EU were men and 41% were women.

In Croatia, according to the Eurostat figures, the share of women in the science and research field is 48%.

More news on the Ruđer Bošković Institute can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Terry Fox Run Donation Presented to Ruđer Bošković Institute

ZAGREB, February 10, 2019 - A donation of 127,000 kuna (17,000 euro) raised during last year's Terry Fox Run charity event was formally presented to the Ruđer Bošković Institute's Laboratory for Hereditary Cancer at a ceremony in Zagreb on Saturday.

The formal presentation of the donation was organised by the Croatian Cancer Society and the Sveti Juraj Association of Cancer Patients as part of events marking the 25th anniversary of the World Day of the Sick.

The donation will be used by the Ruđer Bošković Institute's Laboratory for Hereditary Cancer for analysis of mutation profiles of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer to help in future therapeutic protocols.

Over 2,500 new cases of breast cancer are registered in Croatia annually, of which 200 are of a hereditary nature.

In the last 19 years, the international charity campaign the Terry Fox Run has attracted over 100,000 participants in Croatia. Last September, over 5,000 citizens joined the event at Zagreb's Lake Jarun, organisers said, thanking all the people who supported this charity effort with donations or in other ways.

The Terry Fox Run was organised, among others, by the Canadian Embassy in Croatia and the Croatian Cancer Society under the auspices of the President of the Republic, the Ministries of Health and Science, the State Office for Sport, and the Mayor of Zagreb.

This non-competitive event is organised every year in honour of Canadian athlete Terry Fox, who lost a leg to cancer. In order to raise money for treatment, in 1980 he embarked on a run across Canada, which he called the Marathon of Hope. He ran 143 days, covering 42 km a day, but failed to finish the run because the disease came back, claiming his life at 22. In his memory, the Fox family launched a drive to raise money for the fight against cancer, which is held every year in Canada and over 60 countries across the world, including Croatia.

More news on the Ruđer Bošković Institute can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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