Science and Technology

Two Técnico exploratory projects recommended for FCT funding

The projects led by C2TN and CERENA are among the 8 projects selected by FCT, under the 2021 Call for Exploratory Projects - University of Texas at Austin Portugal Program.

Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) announced the results of the 2021 Call for Exploratory Projects – University of Texas at Austin Portugal Program, last Wednesday, November 10. Two Técnico exploratory projects were recommended for funding. In total, 8 projects were selected among 44 applications submitted.

The project “Multi-source modelling of the ocean: coupling Earth observations with acoustic waves”, led by Leonardo Azevedo, professor at IST Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Georesources (DECivil) and researcher at Centro de Recursos Naturais e Ambiente (CERENA), received funding close to 50 thousand euros.

The purpose of this project is to create a computational tool based on machine learning, not resorting to the use of high-resolution numerical models – executed only in large-scale computational infrastructures. To this end, the research team will use indirect measurement data (geophysics and satellite images) that exist in most regions of the globe.

“We propose a new paradigm in studying the oceans – an easier-to-use tool that acts as a proxy to real physical models. This allows research groups with fewer resources to obtain data and simulate scenarios that would otherwise be impossible”, highlights professor Leonardo Azevedo.

The project “Theranostic Strategy for Proton Boron Capture Therapy of Pancreatic Cancer”, led by Dr António Paulo, researcher at C2TN – Center for Nuclear Sciences and Technologies, received funding that exceeds 49 thousand euros.

Proton Boron Capture Therapy (PBCT) is an innovative strategy that can contribute to the development of new radiotherapeutic methodologies to treat different types of cancer, namely the most common type of pancreatic cancer – Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC). The C2TN team proposes an experimental approach based on the delivery of micelles (stable spherical structures formed by hundreds of amphipathic molecules) to deliver boron-containing compounds to radioresistant pancreatic cancer cells. Then, the scientists plan to study the biological effects resulting from irradiating these cells with 80-MeV clinical proton beam, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC), University of Texas.

“We hope to demonstrate that PBCT will lead to a significant ‘Dose Enhancement Factor (DEF), proportional to the amount of boron atoms accumulated by the cells, which should enhance its usefulness for the treatment of PDAC”, highlights the researcher. If successful, this strategy should contribute to the development of a more personalized radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer with a better ability to predict the respective therapeutic effects”, stresses researcher António Paulo.

Each project can be funded between 49 thousand and 50 thousand euros, resulting in a total investment of 398,779.54 euros from the FCT budget.

The projects are supported for a maximum duration of 12 months (extendable up to an additional 3 months, in duly justified cases).

This program aims to support exploratory and disruptive projects, with potential for high impact and relevance in the scientific and technological field, developed by teams of researchers from Portuguese universities and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin).

The 44 applications submitted were evaluated by international and independent panels of evaluators, based on the following criteria: scientific merit and innovative nature of the project from an international standpoint, and alignment with the goals of the UT Austin Portugal Program; scientific merit of the research team; feasibility of the work plan and reasonability of the budget; and the potential social and economic impact of the research work.