VIROPLANT Consortium was assembled following four main requirements: i) the scientific excellence in each of the many specific subjects of the proposal, ii) the specific capacity to successfully pursue the general and specific objectives of the SFS-17 call, iii) the multidisciplinary approach necessary to carry out the basic and applied research required in the project, and iv) the multi-actors approach that is required in this specific calls. When possible, gender balance among the leading positions for each partner was also taken in consideration. The consortium has all the expertise to pursue the general and specific objectives described in the call and in VIROPLANT respectively. Basic and applied research, are both well represented.
VIROPLANT includes 17 partners in the consortium; 11 are research organization (RO), 4 are SME, 1 is a farmers’ Union, and 1 is a non-profit foundation for the support in agricultural research (network of technical support in Piedmont region).
The 11 RO were included in order to ensure an ample know-how that goes beyond plant pathology, entomology and microbiology, the three main subject areas represented in the consortium. In facts, we included among the RO, a unit that belongs to humanities with wide expertise in sociology and scientific communication (UniMIB) and a unit with specific expertise in agricultural economics (ILVO). These two units will allow to extend the expertise of the scientific part of the consortium into areas that are not included in basic and applied biological sciences, but that will help monitoring social acceptance of some of the biotechnological innovation potential present in VIROPLANT, business opportunities in disease and pest control, and impacts on European agricultural policies. The other 9 RO represent specific expertise in viruses, with arguably the three most important groups currently working on mycoviruses in Europe (IPSP-CNR, LUKE, and UPM); three groups covering specific expertise in insect virology (IPSP-CNR, UVEG, INRA) both for RNA viruses (UVEG and IPSP-CNR) and DNA viruses (INRA); the PI of the last two groups are leading insect virologists widely recognized by the scientific community on a world-wide scale; finally, the groups dealing with phage therapy include arguably one of the motor of the renewed interest in phage therapy in applied medicine (again, bringing the specific knowledge of a different field) on a world wide scale (KULEUVEN), two groups representing a wide experience in applied research with phage therapy (UniREADING and ILVO) and finally two environmental microbiologists who will bring in the consortium a more theoretical approach looking at the impact of phage on native bacterial communities (TI-BD) (a component of biological risk assessment), and looking into a specific application of a phage-bacteria population evolution into a strategy to control a phytopathogenic bacterial disease (UniUTRECHT). A further specific knowledge about pathogen-vector relationships is provided by IPSP-CNR with both groups involved in Thrips-Tospovirus and Leafhopper-phytoplasma relationships, having made important contributions in the fields.
VIROPLANT includes also three SMEs, that will have different roles in the consortium: APS biocontrol is the first company that was able to register and bring to the market a Phage based product to be used in agriculture; therefore the best conceivable partner for not only accomplishing its specific task, but also constantly advise on issues related to management of innovation, and the regulatory burden associated to registering a phage therapy product. Such regulatory landscape (adapted to the idea of an environmental dispersal of the phage therapy, as opposed to the confined product treatment registered by APS) will be the specific research subject of GABA, a consulting SME specialized in registering biocontrol products. ELEPHANT VERT, is the third SME, and this company will look at the business opportunity with a specific market analysis that would identify possible specific bacterial pathosystems where a phage therapy would have a chance of economic success. METEC is a consulting company which will help in managing the administrative and financial parts of VIROPLANT and will advise on communication and dissemination strategies.
Furthermore VIROPLANT includes a farmers’ union (Boerenbond). Based in Belgium, it represents 16700 farmers. This farmers’ organization will be constantly consulted for any issue related to the innovative aspects of VIROPLANT, and to get direct access to information related to each of the pathogenic/pest system under scrutiny in VIROPLANT.
Three out of seven WPs are led by women ensuring a good representation of women in management position inside VIROPLANT. Furthermore 7 units out of 17 in the consortium are also lead by women.