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Newsletter Archive

2015-06-22   Newsletter n. 7

June 2015



 On a European Train to Fight Mitochondrial Disease



Dear all,

We are glad to share with all of you the launch of the MEET Newsletter focused on Gender and Science. In the comments section you will find MEET project upcoming events and activities.


  • Women and science: How to reduce gender gap

  • Gender under Horizon 2020: what are we talking about?

  • Women’s mitochondria, i.e. mitochondria are female organelles

  • Laura Bassi: the first female professor at a European university

  • MEETers at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

  • The importance of training and outreach activities within science

  • The MEET website has now a multi-language version



Women and science: How to reduce gender gap


Despite encouraging signs, women are still under-represented in science whether in basic scientific research or at higher decision-making levels. Achieving gender equality in scientific research remains an important challenge for policy-makers and the whole scientific community. For this reason, the MEET Consortium decided to dedicate this Newsletter to women in science, in order to highlight gender gap and to show how, thanks to the European Commission funds, it is possible to increase women participation in academic and non-academic science. Indeed, obstructions to women scientists have deep institutional roots, the lack of full female participation in academic careers is often a systemic consequence strictly connected to cultural stereotypes and prejudices of higher-education institutions. Many women in the early stages of their scientific careers can only get jobs on short term contracts. Indeed, most of women are forced to choose the career option in place of having a family. By definition, science is synonymous with progress and breaking down barriers, so, how can a professional, whose aim is to innovate and to improve many different health care processes, be the victim of a gender gap?
In the United States and in Europe, around half of those who obtain doctoral degrees in science and engineering are female — but only just one-fifth of full professors are women (Nature 495, 5). Indeed, the sad reality is that only men continue to occupy the most senior positions in academic and private fields. Indeed, a complexity of factors conspire to render difficult for women to pursue scientific careers at the highest levels: lack of financial supports, politics, family issues, work/life balance, motherhood and child-care.
Last week, Sir Tim Hunt (he won the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on cell division) shocked the world public opinion, because of his sexist comments about "trouble with girls" in the lab, during his lecture at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul. Here are his words: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry.” He also added that women scientists do not like being criticized once “men scientists” start dating them. Women scientists coming from all over the world started the #Distractinglysexy# campaign on twitter, describing Sir Hunt as a terrible sexist. After defending his own remarks in an interview with the BBC, Sir Hunt has resigned from his post at UCL. Her wife, Professor Mary Collins, one of Britain’s most senior immunologists, declares that: “It was an unbelievably stupid thing to say, You can see why it could be taken as offensive if you didn’t know Tim. But really it was just part of his upbringing. He went to a single-sex school in the 1960s. Nevertheless, he is not sexist. I am a feminist, and I would not have put up with him if he were sexist.”
To achieve lasting equality, science has to secure the interest and collaboration of highly qualified women and men by offering predictable academic careers, attractive working places and job-conditions that make their lives liveable. Only investing in training, social and political rights, science will be synonymous with bringing down barriers, innovation, freedom, life. Nobody thinks that it will be easy, but now it is time to stop making excuses and to make the difference: fighting sexism in science.
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less" (Marie Curie)
Serena Paterlini, MEET Project Manager, UNIBO, Dept. of Medical and Surgical Sciences (DIMEC), University of Bologna



Gender under Horizon 2020: what are we talking about?


The issue of gender within European research, brings to mind first of all, the underrepresentation of women1 within research teams. This is also what most MSCA grant applicants will think when ticking the box on gender in their application form. However, gender equality within research as understood by the European Commission encompasses a much broader concept. Ensuring gender balance within the research team is a good start, but other issues also are: how can we involve more women in the management of the research projects (MSCA supervisors are mostly men)? Is the science that is being developed taking into account the gender dimension i.e. the biological and sociological differences between females and males? 
Under Horizon 2020, for the first time, gender has been integrated within the common work programme for all EU research funded projects2 (regardless of the research topic).
Gender equality under Horizon 2020 covers the following objectives:
  • Fostering gender balance in Horizon 2020 research teams
  • Ensuring gender balance in decision-making, in order to reach the Commission’s target of 40% of the under-represented sex in its expert panels and groups
  • Integrating gender/sex analysis in research and innovation (R&I) content, which helps improve the scientific quality and societal relevance of the produced knowledge, technology and/or innovation.
For the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA), this reference to gender will also be clearly stated in the specific Work Programme of 2016-2017. The objective is to include the gender dimension at all stages of the research project from the evaluation of the proposal by external experts to the monitoring of the completed project (see box). Let's have a closer look at the concrete implications of this:


From the proposal to the end of the project
When applying for a grant under Horizon 2020, applicants are encouraged to promote gender balance at all levels in teams and in management structures. Applicants should seek a balanced participation, as close as possible to 50/50, of both men and women in the teams and among the leading roles. Concretely, this means that in panels where female researchers tend to be predominant such as Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) or sometimes Life Sciences, participation of men is strongly encouraged.
At the evaluation stage, gender balance in staff could be one of the ranking factors that come into play to distinguish proposals with identical scores. Evaluators should rank higher the proposal with the better gender balance.
By signing the grant agreement, beneficiaries commit to promoting equal opportunities between men and women in the implementation of their action, as well as gender balance at all levels of personnel assigned to the action, including at managerial level.
The project Coordinator will report on the gender composition of the workforce employed in the project.
In case of non-compliance, the Commission or the Agency may apply any of the measures described in chapter 6 of the grant agreement (i.e. rejection of costs, recovery, reduction of grant).
Gender within the research content
Under Horizon 2020, applicants will also be asked whether the gender dimension is addressed within their research. Here again, the way sex and/or gender analysis is taken into account in the proposal will be assessed by the evaluators alongside the other relevant aspects of the proposal. Of course, integrating gender within the research content is more important for some topics than others.
Gender has long been a prerogative of humanities, however the gender/sex dimension can be easily integrated within life sciences projects by, for instance, conducting experiments on female mice (whose hormonal fluctuations may significantly alter the results of an experiment). For engineering, this would mean conceiving norms and models taking into account the biological differences between males and females (difference of weight and height, etc). The benefits are clear, as integrating gender within the scientific approach improves the scientific quality of the research project and may also lead to potential market benefits (with products/medicines that are more adapted to the end user).
The European Commission has developed in collaboration with the University of Stanford a website "gendered innovations" which provides case studies in various disciplines on how to integrate gender within research.
Want to know more? The MSCA unit at the European Commission will prepare a short fact sheet (to be published in September) for project coordinators and evaluators in order to help them understand the approach gender and to give clear instructions/examples.
Although MSCA are above the European average in terms of gender equality (almost 37% of MSCA beneficiaries are women), there are still some disparities in terms of gender balance in some panels. Women are more represented among MSCA early careers researchers (ITN) and less represented within the management roles of MSCA projects.
Distribution of MSCA fellows by action:


Distribution of MSCA fellows by panel:

1According to Eurostat figures only 33% those working in research in the EU in 2011 were women .
2The promotion of gender equality, including the integration of the gender dimension in research and innovation content, is enshrined in the legislative documents on Horizon 2020 (cf. Annex 1 for full details):
- The Horizon 2020 Regulation
- The Rules for participation
- The Specific Programme implementing Horizon 2020


Arya-Marie Ba-Trung, European Commission; People Programme; Marie Curie Actions Communication Officer


Women’s mitochondria, i.e. mitochondria are female organelles


Where do we come from?
Why are we here?
These are some of the fundamental questions, which most people ask as soon as they can talk. For many years the only evidences were the scattered bones and the artifacts our ancestors left behind, which were found by archeologists in different places. Many hypotheses have been since formulated on our origins.
Then, in 1987, a group of geneticists published a revolutionary study in the journal “Nature” in which they examined the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) taken from 147 people across all of today's major racial groups. They demonstrated that every human alive today is probably descendent of a single woman who lived somewhere in or near Ethiopia, around 200,000 years ago.
This conclusion was possible because mtDNA is not subject to the “mixing” of male and female genetic material that comes with fertilization. It is inherited only from one’s mother and does not undergo recombination during meiosis.
Based on this study, it also seems likely that her descendants left Africa, perhaps as recently as 90,000 years ago, and displaced all of the earlier human populations of Europe and Asia.
This one woman was nicknamed “Eve” and because her existence is postulated based on the evidence of mtDNA, she is usually called “Mitochondrial Eve”.
This does not mean that other women at the time of Eve do not have descendants today; they simply do not have living descendants through female links. Ergo, females are important in mitochondrial stuff.
After this introduction, I would like to introduce myself and announce that another woman has recently been involved in the MEET project. My name is Giulia Girolimetti, I am a biologist and the new Dissemination Assistant of MEET. I have been long involved in mitochondrial research and I am definitely a descendant of the Mitochondrial Eve, as all of you. I am very glad to be a part of the MEET team and I will do my best to be a valuable asset for all of you.
Giulia Girolimetti, MEET Dissemination Assistant, UNIBO, Dept. of Medical and Surgical Sciences (DIMEC), University of Bologna



Laura Bassi: the first female professor at a European university


I am the supervisor of Silvia Vidali, who is investigating the effect of ketogenic diet as possible adjuvant cancer therapy within the MEET training network. My research is focused on one side on the specific alterations of the energy metabolism in cancer cells and on the other side, since my post doc time at the Gavan Institute in Sydney, on neuropeptides and their involvement in inflammation. Related to the second topic I am the head of the Laura Bassi Centre of Expertise-THERAPEP (THERapeutic Application of NeuroPEPtides). Laura Bassi Centres of Expertise are a specific programme of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economy, which is unique throughout Europe. Alongside excellence in science, this programme puts an additional focus on equal opportunities in collaborative science and attempts to establish a contemporary research culture at the interface of academic research and industry. The centres were named after Laura Bassi, who in 1733 was the first woman in Europe to become a university professor at the University of Bologna, Italy. The Laura Bassi Centres aim to provide greater visibility for excellent female researchers in collaborative research and to create role models for new generations of researchers. Selection criteria are not only based on scientific performance but also future potential in management, team leadership as well as career development. The duration of the funding (7 years with an interim evaluation after 4 years) gives the centres the opportunity to create a stable working environment, which in staff members can be promoted in their carrier development. The Laura Bassi Centre provides me a platform to encourage young female researcher to pursue their career in science and to demonstrate that the career is compatible with having a family and children.
My husband’s support in raising our child helped me in my scientific career. I always knew that family management for our son would only work as a joint effort. We both went on leave for seven months each whereby father and son greatly enjoyed the time. I suggest that more female researchers follow my example. Female scientists themselves are responsible for effecting equal opportunities. They should be more vigorous about their partners taking over responsibilities in the household including paternity leave. Not only do we need more day-nurseries, we also need more men who are willing to contribute to raising their children.
Barbara Kofler,  Meet Project Supervisor, SALK, Laura Bassi Centre of Expertise – Salzburg, Austria


News from MEET:


Meeters Delegation at the Race for the Cure (May 17, 2015 Rome- Italy)



The Susan G. Komen® is the only not for profit organization that addresses breast cancer on multiple fronts such as research, community health, global outreach and public policy initiatives in order to make the biggest impact against this disease. In 1980, Nancy G. Brinker promised her young dying sister affected by a Brest cancer, Susan, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became the Susan G. Komen® organization and the beginning of a global movement. Susan G. Komen mission is to fight Brest cancer by empowering others, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find new cures and treatments.
The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Series® originated in1983 in Dallas, Texas, USA, is now recognized as the world's largest and most successful series of 5K run/fitness walk events designed to raise public awareness of breast cancer. Thanks to hard work and collaboration of a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governmental agencies and individuals who want to make a difference in breast cancer mortality rates, Komen Race for the Cure events are being organized in places throughout the world.
The Italian section of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure,  based in Rome,  focuses on raising awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer, conducting educational programs and campaigns, investing in survivor support programs across the country and raising money to fund screening and treatment programs for underserved women in Italy.
The Meet Consortium decided to support this initiative, taking part, with a fellows delegation and the coordination team, in the Race for the Cure. The “Meeters” Team ran 5 km (non-competitive run) and supported, thanks to the team registration fee, Susan G. Komen activities.
Be bold,  Make an impact!


The importance of training and outreach activities within science


The general default feeling for most young biological scientists, as well as most of the MEET fellows, is that choosing an academic career is their only option. Thanks to the all-round training offered by the MEET project, we are slowly realizing that infinite opportunities between science and its applications are present; broader horizons and different career opportunities are just waiting to be seized.
The inspiring INNOVA course we attended in February definitely strengthened this perception. Science has a continuous crosstalk with the “external real world”. Science cannot be confined only in high-tech labs; it cannot be a mere toy for never-grown scientists! Science has to produce knowledge, and that knowledge, sooner or later, has to enable progression for society. What this course clearly showed us is how critical and highly complex the knowledge transfer process is.
Moreover, social political and economic issues are highly impactful on every (scientific or not) decision process. A scientist cannot deal with these realities using his beloved hypothetic-deductive method; a well-rounded scientist has to learn how to interface with them. This course showed us the basics of how to interface with society; it provided important tools to emphasize the tangible direct outcome of our research.
It was very interesting for us, young scientists, to learn how to bridge the gap between research and public/private institutions and to have a general idea of how the main funding bodies, such as Horizon 2020, work.
Soft skills in science are often neglected or underestimated but they can be almost as important or even more important than knowing technical methodologies. It all depends on the career profile that you, as a young scientist, want to develop.
It was a very dynamic and interactive course, steeped in a friendly warm atmosphere, where all fellows were eager to participate.
Thanks for this great opportunity.

Eligio Iannetti, MEET Fellow, the new Speaker of the MEET Assembly of Trainees,  Khondrion, Nijmegen,Netherlands



The MEET website has now a multi-language version



The Coordination team, following the REA officer suggestions during the Mid-Term Review Meeting, provided to improve project website contents and multimedia sections. Clicking on the respective country flags, you will have MEET website in the respective language. MEET fellows have contributed by translating the MEET website sections in their respective own languages of origin.
The website structure has also been modified in order to make it accessible to people with visual disabilities.
We are now realizing some Sign Language Videos addressed to patients in order to introduce them the BOX of Ideas section, the MEET fellow and the project structure.
Stay Tuned!
Coordination team, MEET project, UNIBO, Dept. of Medical and Surgical Sciences (DIMEC), University of Bologna

Upcoming events:
  • A new website section in IS (International Sign Language) will be ready starting from September!
  • A Symposium on Mitochondrial diseases: strengthening interactions between patients clinicians and researchers” will be organized by the Consortium in January in Nijmegen (The Netherlands) on January 29th-30th, 2016 in concomitance with the celebration of the 20th NCMD ( anniversary. The targets of this symposium are patients, clinicians and researchers. It has to be a bidirectional and challenging communication from the patients to the researchers and vice versa with the crucial intermediate role of the clinicians. New info asap, Stay tuned!
  • Course in science communication (Rome, July 13-18, 2015)



Alma Mater Studiorum, Università di Bologna - UNIBO

Dipartimento Scienze Mediche e Chirurgiche (DIMEC)

Coordinator: Giuseppe Gasparre


Dipartimento Farmacia e Biotecnologie (FABIT)

Supervisors: Anna Maria Porcelli - Michela Rugolo


Dipartimento Scienze Biomediche e Neuromotorie (DIBINEM)

Supervisor: Valerio Carelli


Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta - FINCB
Supervisor: Valeria Tiranti


Gemeinnutzige Salzburger Landeskliniken Betriebsgesellschaft - SALK
Supervisors: Barbara Kofler - Johannes A. Mayr


University of Newcastle Upon Tyne - UNEW
Supervisors: Patrick Chinnery - Rita Horvath


Klinicum Rechts der Isar Der Technischen Universitat Munchen - TUM-MED
Supervisor: Holger Prokisch

Workpackage leader: Thomas Meitinger


Stichting Katholieke Universiteit - RUNMC
Supervisor: Leo Nijtmans


Fundacion Centro Nacional de Investigaciónes Cardiovasculares Carlos III - CNIC
Supervisor: Josè Antonio Enriquez 


Khondrion BV
Supervisors: Werner Koopman - Jan Smeitink
Co-supervisor: Peter Willems


Medical Research Council - MRC
Supervisors: Antonella Spinazzola - Edmund Kunji
Co-supervisor: Ian Holt




Centro Residenziale Universitario di Bertinoro - CEUB 


Seahorse Bioscience Europe


Innova S.p.A.








2015 Sep 07-11

MIP 2015 Prague, Czech Republic,

11th MiP Conference on Mitochondrial Physiology


2015, July 13-18
Rome, Italy,








Serena Paterlini

Project Manager
University of Bologna

Giulia Girolimetti
Dissemination Manager
University of Bologna

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The MEET website has a section dedicated to patients.

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"Box of ideas"









MEET Project - Grant Agreement no. 317433 - Start date 14th Jan 2013 - Final date 13th Jan 2017 - Privacy and Cookies policy