The aim of the COMBIVET project is to establish an ERA Chair of Comparative Medicine under the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences (IVMAS) at the Estonian University of Life Sciences. Comparative medicine has great untapped research potential as many of the health challenges faced by humans and animals are the same. This includes age-related diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, bone and joint diseases (e.g. osteoarthritis and osteoporosis) and metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes and insulin resistance). Thanks to these similarities, knowledge gained from studying and treating animal patients can be applied in humans while developing new diagnostic tools, vaccines and therapies for both humans and animals. As such, IVMAS seeks to establish the ERA Chair of Comparative Medicine in order to develop its competences and capacities in the research field and ultimately become one of the leading European research organizations in comparative medicine. As the first step, the COMBIVET project will focus on e.g. creating the new ERA Chair as a physical unit at IVMAS, recruiting an outstanding Chair holder and research team with complementary skillsets, improving the ERA team’s comparative medicine skills and knowledge, developing databases and animal models based on collected samples and carrying out various activities designed to increase the sustainability of the ERA Chair beyond the project lifetime (including making presentations, preparing publications, organizing seminars, industry and public sector meetings, submitting research proposals and popularizing comparative medicine in society).
Pulp and paper industries (PPI) are known for producing large quantities of organic residues. Considering the economic and environmental aspects, the resource recovery from PPI wastes is necessary in order to increase the resource efficiency. In that regard, developing novel biorefinery processes to produce multiple products from PPI wastes is interesting under bio and circular economy. On the other hand, the interest on torrefied biomass is rising over the globe as it can replace the coal. However, the economics of torrefied pellets is not competitive compared to the coal. As the majority of the torrefied pellets production costs are coming from raw materials, sourcing them from low cost resources could be helpful to improve the economic competitiveness of the torrefied pellets over coal. To address the above said two issues, this project will study the feasibility of the torrefaction of pulp and paper industry sludge (PPIS) and integrating it with microbial conversion to produce bioenergy carriers i.e. bio-coal and bio-methane and volatile fatty acids. To achieve this, the expertise of the experienced researcher on biomass torrefaction, process modeling and feasibility analysis will be combined with the expertise of the supervisor on microbial conversion processes and biomass pretreatment. Initially, torrefaction of dewatered PPIS will be carried out in order to establish the biofuel characteristics of torrefied PPIS. Later, anaerobic digestion of torrefaction condensate produced through the torrefaction of PPIS will be studied at varied operating conditions in order to establish the production potential of bio-methane and volatile fatty acids. Finally, the proposed process integration will be simulated to a commercial scale from laboratory experimental results in order to evaluate the techno-economic and environmental feasibility. The proposed study can help the European society to shift toward low carbon economy and achieve sustainable development goals.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) has irrupted as the most important alternative for getting pregnant in a global world with decreasing natality rates. Currently, IVF success rate is around 20%. In order to improve it, the selection of the most suitable embryo for implantation is the most important factor. In the proposed project, we aim to assess embryo selection based on the analysis of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) they emit during their development. Gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS) technique will be employed in the first step of the project for identifying the pattern of VOCs that characterise the embryos that successfully reach the blastocyst stage, as well as the blastocysts that hatch. An electronic nose system, which possesses several advantages over the GC-MS technique, such as portability, ease of use and considerably lower price, will be next developed for the selective detection of the VOC patterns identified by the GC-MS studies. Initially, the study will be performed on bovine during fellow’s placement at the Beneficiary. The electronic nose that will be developed for the bovine model will be tested on humans in a real-world environment during the additional non-academic placement of the researcher at the business partner. The results of this test will constitute the basis for the future development of a reliable device for the selection of the most suitable embryos for successful IVF outcomes.