NEWs FROM THE EMBO cOMMUNITy
Amit Mong Chiara Joanna Elisa Ghadeer Pawan
Kumar Sing Lai Lucca Niska Ferrari Shubassi Singh
The Milan-based Institute of Molecular Oncology Foundation finds innovative ways of recruiting top group leaders.
“We are proud of our country and culture but we acknowledge that senior research- ers from overseas face various entry barriers
when moving to our institute,” says Marco Foiani, EMBO Member and director of the Institute of Molecular Oncology Foundation (IFOM) in Italy. The molecular biologist is just one of five EMBO Members on the IFOM board of senior group lead- ers. The institute is part of a strong network of alliances and strategic partnerships with other
Italian institutes. But according to recent survey, foreign scientists rarely choose Italy as their desti- nation because of the excessive bureaucracy, poor housing and a challenging situation for childcare.
Not being able to recruit more top group lead- ers from other countries, the institute decided to solve this problem by going abroad itself – to Asia. Singapore was the first Asian country to launch a new partnership with IFOM in 2011.
In the same year, EMBO also signed a cooperation agreement with Singapore (see EMBOencounters issue 19) that allows its scien- tists to participate in EMBO programmes. Both institutes realized that joining forces on Asian territory might help them strengthen the newly established ties. To discuss synergies in their respective global activities, Foiani and other IFOM representatives came to Heidelberg and met with EMBO leadership in early June. “The meeting was excellent,” commented both sides. “We found lots of common ground,” said Foiani.
IFOM’s expansion always follows the same pattern. It is launched by an agreement with one or more local institutes. The partners then set up a joint research laboratory and the investments as well as the revenues from patents are shared fifty-fifty. Staff have a dual affiliation and publi- cations acknowledge both partner organizations. “We started with Singapore, because of its deep experience in the life sciences,” explains Foiani. IFOM signed an agreement with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), one of the top institutes in Singapore, and jointly appointed Cheok Chit Fang as the leader of the joint lab in July 2011.
In 2012, Bangalore in India became the second partner. The agreement was signed with three local partners including the National Centre for Biological Sciences NCBS in Bangalore. Now discussions about cooperation agreements with the Kyoto University in Japan are under way. During a joint symposium in late October, scien- tists from Kyoto University Medical School and IFOM had a chance to exchange their latest find- ings in stem cell research, signalling in develop- ment, mechanisms of tumour suppression and other fields.
“We have already had a huge return on our investment in Asia,” summarizes IFOM director Foiani. Vacancies in Milan attract top postdoctor- al researchers from all over the world and around half of the scientists in the director’s lab come from Asia. The plan is to strengthen IFOM’s alli- ances even further – a vision shared by EMBO that also hopes to catalyse more exchange in future for world-class scientific research.
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