Brussels, 18 Dec 2003
Ten very varied projects have been selected for funding under the new and emerging science and technology (NEST) activity of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
The activity was introduced for the first time under FP6, and is designed to respond to new scientific opportunities and challenges as they arise. The projects selected for funding thus far deal with issues ranging from immunisation against weapons of bioterrorism to breath testing for the detection of diseases, helium atom microscopy, the impact of perfluorinated organic compounds (PFCs) on human health, and obesity.
Researchers have exhibited a high degree of interest in NEST. Around 170 proposals were submitted before the first deadline in April 2003, while 5 were received before the second deadline, in October 2003. Competition for the 215 million euro, to be spread over the four year duration of FP6, is therefore high. The NEST budget was originally intended to be more than double that of 215 million euro, but was cut during the inter-institutional negotiations leading up to the adoption of FP6.
Every six months, when the deadlines for proposal submissions arise, around 30 proposals are selected for further evaluation, and around ten of these will go on to be offered funding. The first retained projects are now the subject of contract negotiations, and work is expected to start in spring 2004.
The BIODEFENCE project will address the rapid induction of passive immunity against weapons of bioterrorism using transformed organisms which are generally regarded as safe (GRAS). The objective is to develop a completely new mechanism of rapid immunisation through the genetic engineering of Lactobacilli, microorganisms that live in the human gastrointestinal tract. After ingestion, the microorganisms will colonise the intestinal mucosa and secrete antibodies enabling rapid protection against bioterrorism agents or emerging diseases.
The ELCAT (electrocatalytic gas-phase conversion of CO2 in confined catalysts) project will work on combining the size-selectivity of nanoporous membranes with the catalytic properties of noble metals, with the aim of producing chemicals from CO2 and H2 under mild reaction conditions. This could have enormous industrial and environmental implications, ranging from the use of solar energy to produce fuels from CO2 and H2O, and the reduction of greenhouse gases, to chemical syntheses and processing.
For further information on the selected projects, please visit: