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An intense meeting to lay the foundations for new projects on the topics of education and scientific research

Between 19 and 22 November 2021, a delegation led by Professor Munis Dundar and including members of the European Biotechnology Society – EBTNA and the Magi Group, visited the Near East University (NEU) in Northern Cyprus.

The main focus of this visit was to lay the foundations for future collaborations between EBTNA, MAGI Group and NEU on the topics of education and scientific research.

During these two days, the delegation had the pleasure of discussing with important representatives of Near East University, including: Associate Professor Mahmut Cerkez Ergoren, Associate Professor Pınar Tulay, Professor Murat Ozgoren, Professor İhsan Calis and Professor Kemal Husnu Can Baser.

With regard to this last point, it is necessary to devote a few lines to the above-mentioned figures and their work, focusing in particular on the collaborations carried out with the MAGI group and the EBTNA company.

We begin with Associate Professor Mahmut Cerkez Ergoren, who received his PhD in human genetics at the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester in 2013 under the supervision of the pioneer of DNA fingerprinting Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys. In 2012, he started his academic life as a lecturer at Eastern Mediterranean University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Since 2013 he is a faculty member of Near East University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Genetics. Between 2014-2017, he was elected as the Cyprus national representative of the European Society of Human Embryology and Reproduction. In 2017, he established molecular medicine master and PhD programs affiliated to the Institute of Graduate Studies, Near East University and these programs contribute to the training of many researchers every year.  Since 2018, Dr.  Ergoren became an associate professor of medical genetics at NEU.  He has been appointed as an executive board member of Experimental Health Sciences (DESAM) Research Institute in 2019. He is the leader of DESAM Research Institute Rare Diseases Research Group. Since July 2020 to present, he is the one of the principal people of the DESAM Institute COVID-19 PCR Diagnostic Laboratory. Additionally, he has been promoted as a head of Medical Genetic Diagnostic Laboratory at Near East University Hospital since August 202.

Recently, Prof. Ergoren was appointed as Representative of Near East University and Northern Cyprus in Turkish National Genome Consortium

In the last few years, he has published about fifteen scientific articles and more than thirty articles printed in respected peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Very significant was his collaboration with some members of the MAGI Group company in a very delicate and important project concerning the evaluation of the efficacy of some natural molecules, such as Hydroxytyrosol and Alpha-Cyclodextrins, to improve the defence against SARS-Cov-2. He also helped to assess the safety profile of Endovir Oral Spray, a supplement which, due to the presence of olive polyphenols, would inhibit the endocytosis of SARS-Cov-2.

Another exponent met in Cyprus was Associated Professor Pinar Tulay who received her PhD in human genetics at the Department of Prenatal Genetics and Fetal Medicine, University College London, UK. During her PhD, she worked as a honorary scientist in Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) UCL Centre for PGD, London between 2009-2012. She worked as a post-doctoral fellow in Molecular Biology and Genetics Bahceci IVF Clinic, Istanbul, Turkey. Since 2014, she is the academic member of the Faculty of Medicine, NEU. In 2016, Dr. Pinar became an associate professor of medical genetics at NEU. In 2018, after accomplishing the Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) Laboratory Practices Certified Training Program by Ministry of Health Republic of Turkey, she received the title of clinical embryologist. Since September 2020, Assoc. Prof. Pinar  Tulat was selected as the Head of the Department of Medical Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, NEU. She, as an executive board member, is the leader of DESAM Research Institute Reproductive Medicine Group. Since July 2020 to present, she is the one of the principal people of the DESAM Institute COVID-19 PCR Diagnostic Laboratory.

Her published scientific articles were related to Molecular basis of many diseases affecting reproductive health, gene expression level, epigenetic studies cover more effective diagnosis and treatment methods.

In addition to these two professors, Professor Murat Ozgoren, a graduate of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ege, was also present.

After completing his residency in general medicine, he completed his doctorate in biophysics. Part of his doctorate was in the field of Biomedicine at the University of Miami in the USA.

He is currently a member of the ESFRI Forum and the Working Group on Healthy Foods. In addition, he is a member of the Foundation Board of the National Research Center IBG. He participated in many incubation programs and business projects, particularly international entrepreneurship, and was the founder of the G20/T20 boards of directors.

He is now working as a technology consultant at Near East University and he is promoting initiatives to establish an innovation ecosystem in Cyprus.

Other known professor was Professor İhsan Calis. He graduated from Ankara University Faculty of Pharmacy in 1972. In 1978, he received his doctorate degree from Hacettepe University Health Sciences Institute Pharmacognosy program. Between 1982 and 1983, with the scholarship of the Swiss National Science Foundation, he did post-doctoral studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – Zurich (ETH-Z), Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Pharmacognosy and Plant Chemistry. He was appointed as associate professor in 1983 and professor in 1988 at Hacettepe University, Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacognosy.

Between 1986 and 2000, he served as the Head of the Department in the same unit. He directed eight master’s and eight doctoral theses in the Pharmacognosy Program. He worked as an assistant consultant in eight doctoral theses abroad (Switzerland and Germany). Between 1986 and 2005, he conducted scientific research as a visiting scholar in Switzerland (1986 – 2002: ETH-Z) and Germany (2004: Friedrich-Schiller University Jena; 2005: Regensburg University) for three months each year. He is a referee for many scientific journals and is a member of national and international scientific associations. He is a founding member of the Turkish Pharmacists Association (TEB) Pharmacy Academy and Near East University (NEU) Faculty of Pharmacy.

He still gives theoretical and practical courses at NEU, Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacognosy. Since 2007, he has been carrying out his administrative duties as the Head of the Department of Pharmacognosy and the Director of the Institute of Health Sciences at the NEU Faculty of Pharmacy. His main research interests are the isolation and structure determination of natural compounds (glycosides and terpenoids) that could be new drugs. In his studies, he introduced nearly 250 new compounds to science. There are around 170 research articles in international peer-reviewed journals. He is the owner of “Hacettepe University 1998-1999 Academic Year Science Award” and “2001 TUBITAK Science Award in the Field of Health Sciences”.

Finally, among these figures is Professor Kemal Husnu Can Baser, a graduate of the Eskisehir I.T.I.A. School of Pharmacy in 1972. Between 1974 and 1978, he completed his PhD in Pharmacognosy at Chelsea College, University of London.

From 2007 to 2015, he was a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicine (his mandate was recently extended as well).

In November 2020, he was appointed Director of the Institute of Graduate Studies at Near East University, Northern Cyprus.

His main research areas include essential oils, alkaloids and biological, chemical, pharmacological and technological research activities on natural products.

He has published 853 articles in international journals and 188 articles in Turkish journals. He has held 51 conferences for various organizations and companies and is the author of 61 books and 19 reports on different projects.

Finally, he was a member of 35 international and national scientific societies.

After this parenthesis on the Cypriot protagonists present at these two days of meetings, it is appropriate to illustrate some of the many interesting initiatives identified at these conferences.

First of all, the encouragement of Cypriot internships abroad, i.e. at foreign universities collaborating with EBTNA, was reconfirmed. For example, last year a Cypriot student went to the University of Erciyes, where Professor Munis Dundar is a lecturer, to attend a six-month scientific training course. This was a great success and strengthened the links between the different institutions.

Another initiative, identified by this working group, concerns the possibility of carrying out Cypriot research studies in collaboration with other universities abroad, the aim of which will be to publish medical-scientific papers to be known throughout the international scene.

In addition, in view of the issue of providing high-level and qualified education to foreign students, who will go to the Cypriot university, and to local students, who will get an excellent education, it was decided to enhance the study and specialization programmed by involving professors from other EBTNA partner universities, holding the European Biotechnology Society congresses at the NEU and organizing workshops, together with the MAGI Group and the Albert Schweitzer Association, with American university professors.

In fact, it should be recalled that the EBTNA Society is working on an educational project whose cornerstone is to raise the quality of study and professional skills of European and non-European students, especially in the field of biotechnology, health, and research.

As Professor Dundar says: “Across the continent of Europe, the world of biotechnology is becoming the cornerstone to find solutions to the various problems of today, such as: the issue of the production of anti-vaccines – Covid19, the presence of a high level of air pollution which is causing various imbalances in the ecosystem, the possibility of producing plants that can resist climate change, and, the increasing need to find new opportunities for people to graduate and to find jobs in the field of biotechnology.”

Furthermore, the EBTNA president emphasized: “since two thirds of the world’s population live in underdeveloped areas, it is extremely important that the EBTNA, together with many prestigious universities, is committed to providing qualified, high-level education”.

It was precisely on this last point that the delegation wanted to meet with key representatives of the Near East University.

The decision to choose this university to develop the European Society of Biotechnology project was dictated by the fact that the NEU is a fast-growing institution with great potential. This structure gathers students from over 59 countries, mainly from Africa and the Turkish Republics, who have come to the Cypriot capital to undertake a course of medical-scientific studies.

The activities that the EBTNA and MAGI Group delegation together with the NEU representatives have decided to pursue are important. Collaborations that will bring a glimmer of improvement in the medical-scientific world and in international research.

Dott.ssa Valentina Medeghini

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