R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos Farmacêuticos [HESC-Centro-Coimbra-177] visitada em 22/04/2008

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
This unit appears to be defined by working within the same organization rather than by having a common scientific interest. Therefore, there appears to be only limited interaction between the groups of the unit. This may have contributed to an only moderate scientific output of the unit as a whole.

When talking to the students of the unit, the panel was happy to hear about their broad exposure to international science. However, the students stated that this was also crucial for their work as the opportunities to learn within the unit were too limited.

The panel recognizes that the unit has worked under poor circumstances in the past, i.e. being spread over three locations, and at least the location which the panel has seen during the site visit clearly provides less than optimal conditions to perform good science. While this may have contributed to limited scientific output of the unit in the past, it cannot be seen as an excuse for its poor scientific focus. Rather, these poor working conditions should create an even greater need to focus on a common theme, so that the limited resources can be put to optimal use. While the unit will move to a new building shortly which will allow them to all work in the same location under better circumstances, this does not alter the desperate need to develop a common theme if the various groups indeed want to be recognized as a Unit.

If some elements of this unit regroup around an identifiable common theme (perhaps including some other as of yet external partners), they may become eligible to reapply for recognition as a new Unit.

Regrouping of some groups around a common theme might help forming a new Unit that may apply in the future.
The Panel noted that there appears to be only limited interaction between the groups of the unit. This may have contributed to an only moderate scientific output of the unit as a whole.

Although in general the Unit’s performance as a whole can only be considered “fair” until now, we must add that some elements of this Unit have the potential to regroup around an identifiable common theme (namely the Bromatology group of Maria Irene Noronha da Silveira, and the Pharmaceutics group of João José Martins Simões de Sousa), in order to be able to make a new start in a reorganized Unit. In this context and with these limitations the score “GOOD” can be proposed, since the latter is a necessary condition for this research work to receive further FCT funding.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Bromatology [RG-HESC-Centro-Coimbra-177-737]
In contrast to others within this unit, this group appears to have more scientific focus. It works in the field of monitoring food and environmental toxicants, i.e. a field of major relevance to society. Their work involves developing analytical methods and using them for the analysis of material obtained from food, environmental and patient sources. Their publication record is good and, relative to group size, this is one of the scientifically most productive groups in this Unit. A more intensive international collaboration is recommended. The panel wondered whether this group is well placed in a Unit otherwise looking at drug discovery. It may fit more suitably into a Unit with a general public health interest, although this may require moving it outside of Coimbra.
Medicinal and Fine Chemistry [RG-HESC-Centro-Coimbra-177-735]
The group works on bioactive steroids but its overall research claims appear too wide and lacking focus. It states an ambitious research program on paper, but its ability to achieve that is not supported by previous publications in the CVs of the individual group scientists. The scientific value of generating structure-activity data against very complex biological endpoints such as apoptosis rather than against defined molecular targets appears questionable. The group also looks at some defined molecular targets (e.g. aromatase) but there were limited ideas how the current work on this target would go beyond compounds which are already in advanced clinical testing. The overall output of original papers of high quality appears moderate. The overall usefulness of having a medicinal chemistry group without direct access to an NMR is being questioned by the panel.
Microbiology [RG-HESC-Centro-Coimbra-177-738]
This group has an extremely broad approach to microbiology, i.e. looking at bacteria, viruses and parasites. The panel considers it as extremely unlikely that these very distinct potential pathogens share drug targets and/or create synergism within the group. Thus, the overall impression of this group is that it is far too broad to reach the necessary scientific depth. Accordingly, their scientific output both in terms of publications and human resources is poor. They stated research plans of the group are laudable but are hardly realistic given the lack of scientific productivity of the group members in the past.
Pharmaceutics [RG-HESC-Centro-Coimbra-177-739]
This group is focused on drug formulation technology to improve bioavailability. They have achieved interesting results with new formulations of insulin for oral delivery and a nasal vaccine delivery. They are protecting their findings with patent applications and have contracts with a leading vaccine developer to supply antigens for their vaccine technology. Such a contract is extremely difficult to obtain and speaks strongly for the potential of the technology being developed. Unfortunately, the listed publications of the group do not reflect well the important contributions of some of the group members.
Pharmacognosy [RG-HESC-Centro-Coimbra-177-736]
This group has a broad approach to natural compound discovery, a worthwhile field of discovery. However, the group is neither focused on a specific plant nor (preferably) on defined molecular targets against which extracts from several plants are being screened. The panel did not detect a rational approach to identify relevant new chemical entities from plants. A large percentage of the senior staff within the group has not demonstrated an active role in research within the last couple of years. Consequently, the research output of this group is only moderate, both in terms of publications and in the training of young scientists.
Pharmacology [RG-HESC-Centro-Coimbra-177-740]
This group concentrates on noradrenergic and serotinergic mechanisms in vascular tissue. The panel found this group difficult to evaluate as they do not describe general objectives or main achievements. The publication output of this group is poor, and no training of M.Sc. or Ph.D. students is being reported.

Comentários da unidade

The Center for Pharmaceutical Studies, CEF, a research unit under FCT independent evaluation, has a record of very positive and always increasing scientific achievements until now, as fully recognized by the previous evaluation panels. Indeed, the previous evaluation has classified CEF as excellent and since then the quality of scientific research has consistently improved.

The present evaluation, proposed for the unit, does not reflect our current situation. Therefore, we strongly disagree with the result.

We will appeal to FCT to review the proposed result of the evaluation. The research unit will present the comments in due time, as foreseen by the regulations.

Nevertheless, we would like to anticipate our perplexity on the comments addressed to the Pharmacology Group. This group has joined the unit in January 2008, reason why only the items for future research have been included in the written report, being the general objectives and the main achievements out of scope for this group evaluation.