The aim of the Nencki Institute-EMBL Center of Excellence for Neural Plasticity and Brain Disorders: BRAINCITY is to advance understanding of neuronal and synaptic plasticity in order to combat the most debilitating and costly human disorders.
Brain plasticity refers to the capacity of structural and functional reorganization of the neuronal network in response to environmental challenges. Beside learning and memory which allow for adaptation to the changing environment, neuroplasticity is necessary to recover after disorders and injuries. Brain plasticity is manifested at many levels in the nervous system, ranging from molecular events, such as changes in gene expression, to behavior. At the cellular level, the plasticity is supported by dynamic modifications in neuronal connectivity and excitability that are driven by molecular changes in neurons and glial cells. Molecular biology of the plastic re-organization of the neuronal circuitry concerns both the synapses (especially their protein content), as well as gene expression patterns in entire neurons (and even surrounding glia). Synapses are particularly prone to dynamic alterations and thus believed to play a major role in the plasticity. Aberrant synaptic plasticity leads to many pathological conditions, e.g., epileptogenesis, drug addiction, autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia or depression. Compensatory brain plasticity may reduce the effects of such pathologies as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, cognitive deterioration or Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, understanding the molecular underpinnings of the plasticity presents a major research challenge.
The BRAINCITY laboratories will study in state-of–the-art and highly complementary manner neural plasticity-dependent remodeling of the brain circuitry, whose abnormalities have recently been recognized as fundamental underpinnings of neuronal and psychiatric disorders (e.g. epilepsy, schizophrenia, addiction, depression, and autism spectrum disorders). The studies will cover a range of research questions and approaches from synaptic plasticity and its molecular mechanisms, to imaging, visualization and manipulation of the brain-wide neuronal networks. Our aim is to identify novel diagnostic and therapeutic targets and thus stimulate the development of new therapies. The attractive novelty and importance proposed by the BRAINCITY is in its close collaborations of multidisciplinary research with clinics that will sharpen the focus on relevant molecular mechanisms, while collaborations with companies will help to address market needs and opportunities. Collaboration among the BRAINCITY researchers of diverse expertise, as well as with clinical and industrial environments, and with EMBL research groups and other domestic and international partners is regarded as the key factor that will unify the efforts of various groups to bring the knowledge of the brain function and dysfunction to a higher level of understanding.
Topics of particular interest for BRAINCITY include genomics and epigenomics, clinical neuroscience, circuitry, neurodevelopment, and disease modeling studied by such experimental approaches as iPSC-derived brain organoids, bioimaging, in vivo and in vitro gene editing, bioinformatics, high-content behavioral assessment, and drug screening.
BRAINCITY and EMBL have established an institutional partnership. EMBL Partnerships are close cooperative affiliations with leading national institutions in EMBL member states, creating a network of international centers of scientific excellence and advanced training modelled on EMBL. In particular, EMBL offers active support in achieving BRAINCITY's goals by bringing complementary knowledge in neuroscience, new research culture and management approaches including selection, regular evaluation and internationalization of independent groups, as well as technology transfer best practice.
BRAINCITY follows the best practices in governance of scientific research. EMBL experience and achievements in scientist-driven governance will serve as a model for establishing and advising and implementing best practices, with International Scientific Committee playing a decisive role. ISC nine prominent members give advice to BRAINCITY management on key scientific issues required to achieve scientific excellence and will serve as a sounding board to help guide the implementation of BRAINCITY policies and decisions within its strategic vision.
BRAINCITY scientific focus on neural plasticity mechanisms. Six research groups studying various aspects of neural plasticity will form the core of BRAINCITY.
Group leaders will be selected according to scientific excellence and synergy with other research groups to produce a coherent and mutually complementary research environment. The figure presents broadly defined areas of possible research avenues.
International Scientific Committee
BRAINCITY is located on the big biomedical academic and research campus, in one of the most vibrant cities of Europe https://warsawtour.pl/en/main-page/
Ochota Campus, Warsaw
The campus encompasses universities, research institutes, the biggest clinical hospital in Poland, as well as start-ups and core facilities, namely:
BRAINCITY will recruit highly motivated individuals and provide them with excellent conditions for the development of their own research in line with BRAINCITY’s goals. We anticipate that this approach will strengthen BRAINCITY over the initial five year funding period, ensuring its dynamic growth and long‐term prospects beyond this period. Recruitment of candidates will be based on the scientific excellence of their past achievements and the proposed research plan as well as the complementarity of their future research with other groups at BRAINCITY and the institute’s stated strategic goals. Group Leaders will be offered generous lab space, excellent access to core facilities, including the animal house and administrative/accounting/technology transfer support. BRAINCITY will provide competitive salaries for both Group Leaders and postdocs/technicians/PhD students.
Recruiting the best Group Leaders. Group Leaders at BRAINCITY will be recruited by recommendation of BRAINCITY ISC from among international candidates through open competitions based on transparent criteria. The criteria for hiring of Group Leaders will be based on an evaluation of their achievements, future research plans, and their compatibility with the scope of BRAINCITY research agenda. Ideal candidates will be at the early stages of their career with a potential comparable to that of laureates of the ERC starting/consolidator grant program. BRAINCITY may, however, also consider senior leaders of high profile for recruitment. The hiring process is supported by EMBL, a strategic partner of BRAINCITY, who provides guidance in setting up appropriate management procedures and in recruitment and evaluation of the BRAINCITY Group Leaders. Group Leader candidates will be open to pursue projects of their choice in line with BRAINCITY research agenda and their research activities will therefore shape the future of BRAINCITY. The expected number of research groups is six: two senior groups that are already in place ( Laboratory of Neurobiology; Laboratory of Emotions Neurobiology ) and four newly recruited Group Leaders. The group leaders will have full freedom to develop their own scientific projects and responsibility for forming and leading an independent research group. Initial fixed-term positions will be offered with the possibility of obtaining tenure at the Nencki Institute upon successful review. Appointments will include core funding and internationally competitive salaries for the PI and several group members, as well as access to state-of-the-art research facilities, and the possibility to apply for large equipment funding.
Ensuring gender diversity. The Nencki Institute has a strong track record in recruiting outstanding female lab heads and BRAINCITY will continue this tradition by incorporating mechanisms to minimize conscious and unconscious bias in recruitments, especially at the Group Leader level. Except in exceptional and justifiable circumstances search committees will include women, and at least one woman will be invited to interview. The intention to recruit a diverse faculty will be explicitly discussed by the search committee prior to recruitment and pro-active mechanisms will be used to encourage and solicit applications from outstanding underrepresented groups, including women (invitation of promising researchers to give seminars, personal solicitation at scientific conferences, pre-recruitment symposia).
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