Director’s Introduction – 2022

Petr Dráber

Dear Colleagues,

when entering the new year, allow me to shortly summarize the events of the past year at our Institute and those awaiting us in 2022. Our main task in 2021 was to manage the Institute, similarly as in previous years, to ensure the professional background and conditions for scientific research within the limits of a public research organization, procure funding for our activities, and contribute to converting the funding that the Institute had obtained to significant new knowledge in the area of our research in accordance with the relevant rules. These tasks were managed at the level of the Institute Management Board, Supervisory Board, as well as the Institute Council.

Similarly as in the past year and in contrast to the pre-covid years, our work was extensively influenced by the coronavirus pandemic that hit us during the spring, autumn and winter waves. In the course of 2021, the disease struck 55 of our employees, and 170 employees had to undergo ordered quarantine. At present, about 95 % of our employees completed vaccination against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus or underwent the Covid-19 disease less than six months ago. When speaking of ensuring the anti-pandemic measures at the Institute level, I would like to particularly thank V. Novotná, M. Polák, P. Divina, and members of the Office of the Director. My thanks also go to V. Hořejší and J. Pačes for clearing the issues associated with the coronavirus pandemic to the lay public in a popular form.

Scientific research continued in 2021 in 26 research groups (20 in Krč, five in Vestec within the framework of project BIOCEV and one in Dejvice), two research-service groups, and in four large national infrastructures, three situated in Krč (Czech-BioImagingCZ-OPENSCREEN and ELIXIR CZ) and one in Vestec (Czech Centre for Phenogenomics). Our research departments greatly benefited from our core facilities, including the Proteomics Service Laboratory, joint laboratory of the Institute of Physiology and IMG, which started to operate on January 1st, 2021. By January 1st, 2022 our Institute includes a total of 541 employees (483 when recalculated to FTE); of these 392 work in Krč, 140 in Vestec within the framework of project BIOCEV, and 9 at the detached site in the Koleč farm. In total, IMG comprises 328 researchers (238 FTE), which also includes 105 PhD students (83 FTE).

Our 2021 research results were published in a number of renowned international journals. To name the three most important, I would choose the work by Zuzana Loubalová et al. originating from the group of Petr Svoboda and published in Nature Cell Biology, by Klára Klimešová et al. originating from the group of David Staněk and published in Nature Communications, and by Naoko Dupačová et al. originating from the group of Zbyněk Kozmik and published in PNAS.

Activities of our research groups also resulted in novel application outputs and patents, in many cases reflecting collaboration with the business sphere and bringing considerable financial contribution to our budget. The Council for Commercialization and the Centre of Technology Transfer (CTT) also continued their work, and beside other activities participated in interim evaluation of nine projects of the TACR Gamma 2 programme.

In 2021, we obtained the major part (>60 %) of support for completing our research tasks in the form of specific funding from grant agencies and other providers. It is therefore not surprising that in  2021, we worked on 125 grant projects from various providers, including the Czech Science Foundation (47 projects), Czech Academy of Sciences (7), Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (21), EU (15), Ministry of Health (11), and others. Each research group is thus involved in about four research projects. To improve conditions for preparing grants and get information on the possibility to obtain specific funding, our grant department continued its activities and systematically monitored sources of specific funding, informed on grant news at our intranet, helped prepare grant applications, and assisted in inspections from the grant agencies.

The year 2021 also marked completion of evaluation of the Academy Institutes for the period 2015–2019. Evaluation of research groups was done in distance form during the period March 8th – March 21st, 2021. In most parameters, our Institute was scored highly positively and was classified to category A. Both the evaluation documentation and conclusions are available at the website of the Czech Academy of Science. Subsequent to the conclusions of this evaluation, activities of the Laboratory of Structural Biology were terminated by December 31st, 2021 and the group was transferred to the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry. Other changes in research groups include termination of activities of the “Guest Group” of K. Caldecott, establishment of two new junior groups headed by H. Hanzlíková (Laboratory of Genome Dynamics; sited in Krč) and T. Middelkoop (Laboratory of Developmental Mechanobiology; sited in BIOCEV), and hierarchical elevation of research groups to senior groups (Laboratory of Haematooncology – M. Alberich‐Jorda and Laboratory of Leukocyte Signalling – T. Brdička) or junior groups (Laboratory of Cell Motility – V. Varga). The above-mentioned groups, which were selected based on a demanding open competition and/or internal evaluation by the IMG Council, will start acting on January 1st, 2022. In addition, four research groups were evaluated by the International Advisory Board, and recommendations for group reclassifications were adopted as indicated in the Organizational Structure valid as of January 1st, 2022.

Great attention was paid to organization of the PhD programme, including the PhD Conference, and to the already 45th year of the course Advances in Molecular Biology and Genetics. In addition, with participation of many of our research groups, we organized a number of courses.

After completing the obligatory five-year sustainability phase, project BIOCEV continued as a centre of excellent research in cooperation of two Charles University faculties and six Academy institutes. Within the framework of this project, on January 1st, 2021 the Administration Team of project BIOCEV was transferred and incorporated to the Institute of Biotechnology, the only project BIOCEV partner residing in Vestec. Along with that, the proprietary arrangement of the BIOCEV infrastructure was modified, so that the costs for maintenance and restoration of the academic part of this infrastructure are not solely managed via the IMG administrative-technical unit. The composition of the BIOCEV Council was also updated.

An essential role in securing conditions for research of our entire Institute is played by IMG administrative and technical departments, which include the Administration Team, Economy Department, Building Maintenance, and IT Department; in 2021, they successfully dealt with the change of the economic information system. Most of the research groups at our Institute also rely on animal breeding facilities situated in Krč, Vestec and Koleč, and despite the problems associated with the coronavirus pandemic, these facilities showed trouble-free operation.

In 2021, renovation works continued at the Koleč farm and in the Krč and Vestec sites in relation to the upgrade and purchase of additional instruments for our large national infrastructures. We expect that the renovations in Koleč will continue with our founder’s support in 2022 as well. A number of our further activities have been recorded at our web and in the minutes from the IMG Council, which are accessible at our Institute intranet. In 2022, we expect launching of the new version of our Institute website.

Similarly as in the past years, in 2021 our researchers also obtained a number of awards, which are reflected at our web, InstagramTwitterFacebook, YouTube, or LinkedIn.

Finally, I would like to thank all our Institute employees, both in research laboratories and service, administrative, as well as animal facility units, for their accomplished work, and I am looking forward to further excellent collaboration and new discoveries from our research departments in 2022.

I expect that in the spring months of 2022, after the coronavirus pandemic subsides, we will again organize the annual conference with a subsequent party for all Institute employees, which were originally planned to December 17th, 2021.

January 1st, 2022
Petr Dráber