R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Institute of Biophysics and Biomedical Engineering (IBEB) [HESC-LVT-Lisboa-645] visitada em 05/03/2008

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
General Assessment
The IBEB is partnering with several top quality international laboratories in the functional imaging area and its members are publishing in the best and the highest impact journals in their fields. This is impressive and the panel congratulates the group leader for attracting the talent of Portuguese researchers to this area and establishing such a network of international collaborators. However, the panel felt that the international collaboration is lopsided, with most of the research agenda being initiated and implemented abroad, and the group’s input being limited sometimes to graduate student participation. Although "learning with the masters" is a necessary step, the panel felt that to merit an Excellent in the evaluation, IBEB must show a larger role in defining the research agenda, and must be able to initiate, articulate and promote the group's activities in amore convincing way. The educational activities are very good, and there are patents being submitted and collaborations with the industry, therefore the overall assessment is VERY GOOD. The proposed restructuring of activities is a step in the right direction because it will create the critical mass to plan and execute within IBEB the research agenda. The panel felt that with the 3T MRI in Coimbra, the eventual NeuroNavigator for TMS, and new collaborations in optics the group has a golden opportunity to gain autonomy and continue to do high quality and visible research.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Biophysical mechanisms of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-645-686]
This group activity is focused on a better understanding of the mechanisms of transcranial magnetic stimulator (TMS) through forward modeling of the volume conductor, computational neuron modelling, and coil design, etc. TMS remains as an important neuroimaging tool and further elucidation of its mechanisms is of significance. The group although not yet with critical mass (1 Ph.D.) has expertise in TMS and plans to extend TMS research to experimentation in the future, which is very important. The group produced 1 Master student, trained 3 PhD students and several undergraduate students and collaborated in the organization of two conferences in Portugal, so the educational component is very good. The work is collaborative in nature but the majority of works are mainly based on IBEB, according to the presentation of the PI. The international collaboration with NIH is an excellent one and should further enhance the progress of the group. Other than 3 papers in leading journals the group also produced patent applications, which is a relevant contribution, and Bial (a pharmaceutical company) is already funding the group which is uncommon in Portuguese research.
Brain and heart electrophysiological activity (previously Binding problem) [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-645-2870]
The goals of this group activity are to study electrophysiology of the brain and heart, including EEG, MEG, fMRI/EEG, skull conductivity estimation, and heart rate variability. These are important problems. The group’s members are immersed in highly productive international groups and published 10 papers in many of high impact journals. The works are highly collaborative in nature representing unique opportunity to train young investigators in interdisciplinary environments. The interactions with international partners are excellent. The group consists of two Ph.Ds. but one of them seems to be abroad, and the one in Lisbon does not appear in the author list of none of the papers. One Ph.D. and one Master Thesis were completed during the period and also participated on Bioeng 2003, so the educational component is very good.

Proposed Organization for the next funding period - 2007 – 2010:
The proposed merger in two research lines was applauded by all the members of the panel. Indeed this consolidation will create the critical mass and new synergies within the Unit which are important when competing with larger and better equipped international centers and should hopefully decrease the excessive dependence on international collaboration. The Panel has the following two main points about the proposed reorganization:

1-Including the signal and image processing in the title puts emphasis on methods. The group must look inside and evaluate if they have the expertise to innovate signal and image processing methodologies on their own. Hopefully, the new Ph.D. being graduated will also contribute to this endeavour.
2- Bringing optical techniques into the picture in particular scanning laser technologies applied to ophthalmology and high speed microscopes for biological analysis requires realignment or an expansion of the collaboration of the unit, and there is one group in Coimbra (IBILI) with which further collaboration may be beneficial. The work (and its importance) on MonteCarlo simulations for PET and SPECT needs to be better articulated.
The plans for training young investigators are excellent and the proposed group activities involve many graduate and undergraduate students. The proposed international collaborations, as demonstrated in the past, are excellent. The panel suggests improving the international and national profile of the group through the organization of international or national symposium / workshop.
Evaluation of small-animal imaging systems using PET [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-645-685]
The goals of the group activities are to develop methods on PET, micro-PET, including simulation studies and applications of PET, and developing image reconstruction methods. These scientific goals are all important and the presentation showed a coherent and well articulated plan. The group is composed of two Ph.D.s who are supervising 7 PhD students and 2 MS students (and graduated 1 Ph.D. and 2 MSc) working in the project and are providing excellent training opportunities for young investigators. The work is collaborative in nature but many of the activities are based in IBEB. The group is productive and published several papers in journals including IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Sciences. The panel was also impressed with the efforts of technology transfer, with one patent submitted and companies involved, and funding from the Agencia de Inovacao. Another aspect of impact to society is the work done with software modules and new procedures for clinical applications. Moreover the group was involved in the organization of BioEng conference and others, so the educational impact is therefore excellent.
Functional imaging: nuclear and optical techniques and clinical applications [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-645-2872]
This proposed group activity involves nuclear and optical imaging which is based upon the successful micro-PET group with additional investigators on optical imaging. Many of the proposed group activities address important problems or needs in the field and the plan sounds feasible. The proposed group activities are important and built upon the previous successful activities on international collaboration, training of students and technology transfer. The proposed group is well organized and has strong leadership. Based on the previous achievements of some of the group members, it is highly likely that important progresses are to be made in the next several years. The proposed purchase of computer cluster is reasonable and needed for the proposed simulation and computational activities.
Signal and image processing: methods, Neurophysiology and clinical applications [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-645-2871]
This group reorganized the several highly active research activities in fMRI, electrophysiological imaging and signal processing and modelling into an integrated theme. The project goals identified are highly significant, and the group has a strong track record in these research areas and has a great potential for making further contributions to the state of the art on an international level. The group is well organized and has strong leadership. The investigators are well qualified and have been working on important problems. With the proposed TMS/EEG Neuronavigation system, they would be able to do an excellent job in this important area. However, a solid research plan should be outlined on how the major equipment of TMS/EEG Neuronavigation system would be used, considering this is major equipment. Study functional connectivity is good but the proposed activities would be enhanced: what scientific hypothesis to test, what questions to address and how they can be achieved.
Spectral analysis of functional magnetic resonance brain imaging data [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-645-683]
This group activity is centered in the development of tools for analyzing functional MRI data, including coherence analysis and connectivity mapping. These scientific goals are important and represent important trends in the field. The publication list is also impressive including peer-reviewed articles in high impact journals in the field. The group activities are high collaborative in nature, conducted mostly in other international institutes, which are commendable and positive. However, the PI is neither the first nor last author in any of the publications, which raises the question if research of the same quality can be realized locally. This group seems not to have reached the critical mass (one Ph.D.), but there are two Ph.D. students on the way. The group does not show any activity in Ph.D. and Master Graduation.