Redox reactions involve the transfer of electrons between the living cell and the inanimate world. Monitoring these reactions is both scientifically and commercially important. It would lead to detecting trace amounts of pollutants and catching diseases at an early stage. This would in turn have a positive impact on both the environment and indeed our health.
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Started on 1st October 2006, EdRox was a four year, €2,022,030 Marie Curie Actions (MCAs) research training network that provided advanced and in-depth training in bio-nanotechnology to early stage researchers (ESRs) and experienced researchers (ERs).
The research programme focused on the implementation of a novel concept known as "Fluorox" that monitors redox reactions by using fluorescence detection. Detection levels are as a result, a lot more sensitive than those provided by conventional electrochemical methods. Enzymes are studied at the single molecule level which is key to understanding them even better.
"This method is a lot more sensitive than for example, a glucose sensor that monitors diabetes," says EdRox project coordinator and Professor of Biophysics at Leiden University, Thijs J. Aartsma. "By using the Fluorox method to monitor the fish, we could see the increase of histamine levels which are indicative of the degree of spoiling. In other studies we were also able to accurately measure oxygen and cholesterol concentrations, which if you think about it, has huge potential for various applications."
EdRox takes pride in its training and research programme which included instruction in state-of-the-art techniques in biophysics, chemistry, biochemistry and biology, and teaching of complementary skills such as communication and presentation, research management, intellectual property (IP), teaching and entrepreneurship.
In addition, the programme is unprecedented in that it guarantees that all 8 researchers will gain a fully funded Ph.D. "Most Ph.Ds are only funded for three years. This was however not the case in the EdRox programme - each participating university paid for the extra year," says the Professor.
EdRox was led by the University of Leiden in the Netherlands with other key partners in Israel, Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Educational programmes and goals, including personal career development plans, were individually tailored for each ESR and ER fellow in the network and each received training in at least two laboratories. The Marie Curie grants were vital for EdRox as they attracted talented young researchers to the programme and encouraged an impressive degree of mobility.
Asked about what the researchers are doing now, Aartsma explains that one ER has moved on to a postdoctoral position in Japan, while another has a permanent research appointment at the CEA research centre in Saclay, France. Meanwhile, four ESRs are completing their PhD theses and at least two have moved on to a postdoctoral position in academia or to a research position in industry.
Various network meetings and workshops were organised over the duration of EdRox, offering excellent networking opportunities with other bright minds from across Europe and beyond.
"These meetings of the minds were important as they will no doubt lead to future collaborations between the crème de la crème of the world's physicists, biochemists and biologists that may well shape the future, especially when it comes to discovering more about the enzymes that are life's machinery," concludes Aartsma.