By 15th March 2019 March 18th, 2019 News

Photo from the Core Course

MANNA is the European Joint Doctorate in Molecular Animal Nutrition designed to establish an EU network whose mission is to provide a Double Doctorate level training programme, valid throughout all Europe, on innovative technologies applied to animal science and nutrition. MANNA will provide future research leaders with the capability to address the needs to improve livestock health, welfare and efficiency. The MANNA Joint Doctoral project is a Marie-Skłodowska Curie Innovative Training Network funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Programme (H2020-MSCA- ITN-2017- EJD: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (European Joint Doctorate) – Grant agreement nº: 765423 – MANNA).

This project connects 18 leading groups from universities, companies and research institution from 8 different European Countries. Being more specific, MANNA is formed by 6 university (Milano, Glasgow, Bonn, Zagreb, Barcelona and Košice), 9 private companies (AbAgri, Acuvet Biotech, BASF, Evonik, Life Diagnostic, RAFT, Nutrition Science, SPRIM, MetLabs) and 3 public research institute (INRA, Leibnitz Institute and Porto Conte Ricerche). This strong connection between different groups is fundamental in order to develop an Elite EU School to train Early Stage Researchers (ESR) in OMIC technologies applied to animal science and nutrition. The aims of the MANNA are to evaluate the influence of innovative feed additives on animal production and to deliver a double doctoral (PhD) degrees to develop a generation of internationally equipped scientists for the global workplace.

All of this will be achievable by the composition of a supervisory team for each of the 11 ESR. In fact, every PhD student will be supervised by 3 supervisors: 2 will be from the academia and 1 will be from a company. Every ESRs will work on integrated innovative research projects, designed to investigate the effects of various solution: from anti-oxidants, microRNA, exosomes, methionine, lipids to plant derived anti-inflammatory agents in livestock diets that have effects on growth, intestinal health and systemic metabolism. This innovative research will be assessed also by integrating transcriptomic, microbiomic, proteomic and metabolomic approaches in both in vivo and in vitro models. The results will be then processed using informatics platforms to build analytic systems based on IBM-Watson cognitive computing.

One of the strength of this project is the offer of a rich secondment programme involving industry and non-academic research institutes, whose specialised fields of activity include animal nutrition, veterinary diagnostic and clinical research, bioinformatics and professional communication in the agro-food sector. ESRs will be so able to receive a complete training which will cover both aspect of animal nutrition and advanced OMIC techniques. All academic and non-academic partners will contribute to this training and will reinforce the graduate programmes of each university also by taking part in lectures and training sessions during the various Summer Schools and workshops that will take place during the 3-years PhD programme.

The networking strategy will be promoted by establishing a number of different work packages (WP). Beside the WP for management, training and dissemination, there are 4 research WP with synergistically overlapping research activities. One is focused on anti-oxidant and immune-modulatory supplements for animal health, another one is focused on in vitro models of animal nutrition, the third one has the aim to improve the knowledge about the activity spectra of “classical” supplements for animal health and productivity and the last one focused on the necessity to develop an immuno-metabolic bioinformatics platform.

Important to underline, that the doctoral regulations stipulate that each doctorate student will earn 180 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System or equivalent in total and will have an Individual Career Plan, jointly drawn between the PhD and his/her supervisory team. The curriculum of the MANNA Doctoral Programme include a training programme aiming to provide each ESR with the following skills:

  • CORE RESEARCH SKILLS will be acquired via the original research projects, listed in the implementation part, and integrated in the research work packages of MANNA;
  • ADVANCED RESEARCH SKILLS provided by Local Training specific for each project will be delivered by the individual doctorate programmes, via enrolment in their individual training programmes and by industrial training during the secondment of the ESR to the partners;
  • TRANSFERABLE (SOFT) SKILLS will also be acquired by the network wide training supplemented by local training, and will include entrepreneurial thinking and strategic planning, active participation in teaching (lecture, practical course, tutorial, lab visits).

Moreover, three Summer Schools will be focused on OMICS, essential management skills, media communication and translation of research into commercial products and applications, providing a mix of specific hard-skill focused instructions and soft skills that are of direct relevance to the work packages. Each Summer School will be held in conjunction with a MANNA conference where each ESR will present a report on the progress of their dissertation, and international experts will be invited to give plenary lectures.

Summarising, the MANNA consortium provides 11 three-year doctoral programmes, co-supervised by two beneficiary participants in two different countries and a non-academic supervisor for training. Each research project, approved in its final version by the supervisory and training board, will include a mobility period of at least one year in the co-supervisor’s institution, in accordance with their individual career plan. The concept of MANNA is to expose the PhD student to an international, inter-sectorial and interdisciplinary environment, with the aim to improve his/her career perspectives in both the public and the private sector. Each project has an industrial background and is linked to an industrial research or implementation period.

MANNA officially started in October with a common course (the Core Course) that had the aim to bridge the gaps between individual ESR, providing each of them with the basic knowledge in animal science related disciplines and an introduction to OMICS. Topics included physiology and lipid metabolism, animal nutrition, animal immunology and pathology, microbiology and microbiomics and finally an introduction to OMICS disciplines, based on theoretical lectures and practices; but if you want to know more about this first Core Course you should have a look to the related article!