Funded Projects

FRESHBIO
PROJECT

Success story: FRESHBIO

This project will study the diversity, biological states and uses of freshwater biotas in the insular biodiversity hotspots of Southeast Asia. It was funded under the 1st Call of the Southeast Asia - Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation.
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Background

Around the world, natural ecosystems are being put under increasing pressure by mankind. Maintaining high levels of biodiversity is vital to ensuring the continuing sustainability of ecosystems, and areas at particular risk are identified as ‘biodiversity hotspots’. There are three such insular hotspots in Southeast Asia, which are among the most endangered in the world.

However, there is a lack of consistent recording of animal and plant life within these ecosystems, which hampers conservation efforts. This lack of accurate and reliable databases in Southeast Asia, limits research on ecology and global climate change. Such research is becoming increasingly important as greater areas and populations begin to experience the effects of climate change – particularly those whose livelihoods depend on wildlife.

To get a clearer picture of the state of freshwater biotas in insular hotspots in Southeast Asia, urgent steps must be taken. Firstly, DNA-based methods of species inventory are needed to speed up the inventory of biodiversity, and accurate biodiversity mapping is urgently needed to guide conservation strategies.

For this work to take place, capacity building on wildlife forensics is needed to promote new and sustainable practices for species identification, while local populations living in these areas will also need guidance to adapt to the potential effects of biodiversity loss.

The project

The FRESHBIO project aims to address all of these issues through the following steps. Firstly, the team will support DNA barcoding campaigns to build-up reference libraries for automated species identification and its application in environmental DNA barcoding. They will then explore historical trends in population demography and species aggregation in ecological communities to address the state of aquatic biotas (expansion vs. contraction), and estimate the impact of land conversion on diversity patterns through a geographic information system approach. Finally, the project will explore the dynamics of adaptation and resilience of human populations to environmental changes.

The Science

Three main hypotheses are underpinning FRESHBIO: (1) DNA barcoding is an effective paradigm to document biodiversity as it is effective whatever the life stages, spectacular levels of cryptic diversity are often reported and libraries are publicly available. (2) Pleistocene climatic fluctuations predict diversity patterns. Emerged land in Sundaland represents only 50-75% of its maximal Pleistocene surface and its biotas are currently in a refugial state. By contrast, the Wallacea and Philippines hotspots have been continuously isolated from the main land during PCF. (3) Wildlife dependent peoples are sentinels of environmental changes. Resilience and adaptive responses of local fisherfolk to disturbed aquatic ecosystems may be assessed through the peoples’ capacity to anticipate ongoing changes. If addressed through time, people adaptive strategies might be indicative of early ecosystemic changes.

The FRESHBIO partners are:

Dr. Hendrik FREITAG: Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU)

Dr. Daisy WOWOR: Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI)

Dr. Nicolas HUBERT: Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), France Sud

Dr. Thomas von RINTELEN: Museum für Naturkunde (MfN)

Dr. Philippe KEITH: Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN)

Dr. Edmond DOUNIAS: Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Indonésie

Contact:

Nicolas Hubert: Nicolas.hubert@ird.fr

SKUD
PROJECT

Success story: SKUD

This project studies the emergence of Skin Ulceration Diseases in Edible Sea Cucumbers in a Global Change Framework. It was funded under the 1st Call of the Southeast Asia - Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation
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Background

Sea cucumbers are a delicacy across South and East Asia, yet with increasing market pressure and the effects of climate change, numbers are reducing at an alarming rate, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. Sea cucumber fisheries are in a worse state than most fisheries globally.

Over the past 2 decades, the production a particular breed of edible sea cucumber, Holothuria scabra, has ensured sufficient production and made its aquaculture profitable. However, it is thought that increasing water temperatures and ocean acidification could be causing an increase in skin ulceration diseases in sea cucumbers. Such diseases could seriously affect their production, affecting not only the animals, but also the local economies which depend upon their growth and sale. 

The project

The SKUD project aims to study the emergence of diseases, especially SKUDs, in edible sea cucumbers outside Madagascar, especially in Thailand and France, within a global change framework.

The team aim to firstly make a survey of parasites and diseases of two edible sea cucumbers (Holothuria forskali in France and Holothuria scabra in Thailand, and will then determine the cause(s) of SKUDs on these species. With this information, the team will then assess the effects of increased temperature and decreased pH, at values commensurate with predicted global changes, on SKUD prevalence and development.

The Science

The SKUDs that are emerging diseases in new aquacultures will be characterized for the first time by adequate “high tech” methods including metagenomic analyses and the originality of the researches as well as the strength of the involved teams insures the diffusion of the results through international publications. The assessment of the possible impact of global change stressors on SKUD diseases will help forecasting and preventing their exacerbation in aquaculture conditions. The cost of possible mitigations through manipulation of temperature and/of pH in aquaculture basins can then be assessed.

Commercially, the understanding of sea cucumber diseases is of the utmost importance as these fisheries expand worldwide with a Chinese market pressure of increasing affluence. Sea cucumbers have attracted much interest in export-oriented fisheries in at least 70 countries. Collecting sea cucumbers for production of ‘‘bêche-de-mer’’ or ‘‘trepang’’ (the dried body wall) and export to the Asian dried seafood market has a long history in the productive waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The majority (66%) of sea cucumber fisheries involved small-scale fishing operations for export. The Team:

The SKUD partners are:

Igor EECKHAUT/ University of Mons (Belgium)

Anchana PRATHEP / Prince of Songkla University (Thailand)

Philippe DUBOIS / Free University of Brussels (Belgium)

Nadia AMEZIANE / Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Station de Biologie Marine de Concarneau (France)

Contact:

Igor Eeckhaut: Igor.Eeckhaut@umons.ac.be

 

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***

FarmResist
PROJECT

Success story: FarmResist

This project studies the occupational risks for animal farmers to be colonised with animal-associated resistant bacteria, impact on the faecal microbiota. It was funded under the 1st Call of the Southeast Asia - Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation.
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Background:

Animal farming is a worldwide industry, with millions of people involved in the production of animal products every day. Protecting farmed animals from disease and infection is therefore vitally important not only for livestock and consumer wellbeing, but also for those working within the farming industry.

The Project:

The FarmResist project will use a “One Health” approach, to investigate the occupational risk for pig and poultry farmers of of catching animal-associated ESBL-E and colistin-resistant enterobacteria. It is hoped that this research will lead to the development of preventive measures for avoiding the transmission of zoonotic bacteria from animal to farmers, as well as reducing the spread of antibioresistance in the environment.

The Science:

The researchers will study both small family farms and medium-big industrial farms. At each farm, faecal samples of farmers, animals (included pets and rodents) will be collected. The prevalence, genotyping and microbiota diversity will be studied by using both culture-dependent methods, molecular biology and next generation sequencing.

The association between farm parameters and antimicrobial resistance will be analysed in order to propose preventive measures to avoid the transmission of zoonotic bacteria from animal to farmers and to reduce the spread of antibioresistance in the environment.  The influence of faecal carriage of ESBL-E or colistin resistant bacteria on the faecal microbiota of farmers will then also be studied.

The Team:

The FarmResist partners are:

  • Visanu Thamlikitkul, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University.
  • Suwit Chotinun, Chiang Mai University, poultry clinic.
  • Morand Serge, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Faculty Veterinary Technology
  • Jean-Marc Rolain, URMITE- IHU Méditerranée Infection, Valorization and Transfer, Marseille, France
  • Morand Serge, CNRS- Cirad, France
  • Markus Hilty, IFIK, Bern University, Switzerland
  • Oppliger Anne, IST, Lausanne University, Switzerland

Contact:

Anne Oppliger: Anne.Oppliger@hospvd.ch

 

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***

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DeZi
PROJECT

Success story: DeZi Project

This project aims to produce a single component pentavalent Dengue-Zika vaccine preventing antibody-dependent enhancement phenomenon. It was funded under the 1st Call of the Southeast Asia - Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation.
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Background:

Dengue and Zika are viruses spread through mosquito bites which can cause serious illness and even death. They are highly prevalent both in Southeast Asia, with an estimated 390 million dengue infections worldwide every year.[1] The number of outbreaks for both viruses is increasing every year, and recent cases of Zika outbreaks in French Polynesia and Brazil in 2013 and 2014 made news around the world.  As of 2016, the WHO has declared ZIKV infection is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

There is currently no specific treatment for either the Dengue or Zika viruses. A Zika vaccine is yet to be discovered, while despite two decades of dengue vaccine development, only one vaccine has been licensed in a few countries, which not cover all 4 types of the virus, and cannot be used by all ages – leaving those under the age of 9 or over 45 at risk.

The Project:

The DeZi project aims to address this issue by proposing new concepts for vaccine development. It hopes to addresses the bottleneck of flavivirus vaccine development starting from the hypothesis that development of these vaccines should be based on an integrative approach by studying cross-reactivity among flaviviruses.

To do this, the project team will firstly transfer technology of DNA vaccine production from France to Thailand. Once in place, they will aim to demonstrate that their vaccine protects against dengue virus.

The Science:

The researchers believe that a more efficient dengue vaccine should contain either T-cell epitopes or both B-and T-cell epitopes. The best animal model for prediction of vaccine efficacy should demonstrate its protection against the effect of ADE, not only primary infection.

This would prevent imbalanced immunity among the four serotypes upon tetravalent live attenuated dengue vaccine. In addition, these T cells epitopes will allow us to create a single component vaccine composed of multiple Dengue & Zika epitopes (4DZVx), which will cover concurrently the four DENV serotypes and ZIKV at the same time.

The team hypothesise that balanced immunity against all four DENV serotypes and ZIKV with a protective T cell response can prevent the risk of ADE. The 4DZVx will include the T cell component of the anti-DENV and -ZIKV response. Ideally, the T-cell response will protect against the adverse effect of ADE due to pre-existing antibodies induced following primary infections as occurring in endemic countries.

 

The Team:

The DeZi partners are:

Contact:

Anavaj Sakuntabhai: anavaj@pasteur.fr  

 

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***

 

[1] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dengue-fever-reference#1

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CAREChild
PROJECT

Success story: CAREChild

This project aims to contain antibiotic resistance and find measures to improve antibiotic use in pregnancy, childbirth and children. It was funded under the 1st Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation.
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Background

Antibiotics are life-saving medicines, but increasing antibiotic resistant bacteria are making common infections increasingly difficult to treat, and antibiotic resistance is now recognised as one of the greatest threats to global health. The main cause of this increasing resistance is the unnecessary use of antibiotics, which forces bacteria to adapt in the so-called “selective pressure”.

During normal childbirth without complications, antibiotics should not be used; however, reports and small studies from Asian countries show alarmingly high levels of antibiotic use in these cases. Similarly, there is a worrying trend of over-prescribing and poor use of antibiotics for treating children under five years of age.  Focusing particularly on Lao PDR, little is known about the situation of potential overuse and misuse of antibiotics during childbirth and for treating children.

The Project

The CAREChild project aims to understand and improve antibiotic use in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and children in Lao PDR with the long-term aim of containing antibiotic resistance.

The team will explore and assess perceptions, knowledge, attitudes and reported practice as well as actual practice among health care providers and in the community, to estimate antibiotic prescribing to estimate the situation of antibiotic resistance, focusing particularly on ESBLs in Escherichia coli in infections and carriage in faecal samples.

The Science

The study is an intervention study with a formative phase leading to the development of the intervention, which will be implemented and evaluated through time series analysis. The content of the innovative intervention will be based on qualitative and quantitative findings from the formative phase and contain two components: a participatory and process-based educational intervention aimed towards health care providers, and an mHealth component aimed at pregnant women, and mothers of children under five years of age.

The main outcome measure will be the proportion of uncomplicated vaginal deliveries during which antibiotics are used, and to show changes over time during the intervention using time series analysis over a 24-month period. Additional outcomes will be knowledge and attitudes to antibiotic use and resistance, as well as antibiotic resistance levels.

Data will be collected using structured interviews regarding knowledge and practice of antibiotic use and resistance. In addition, individual interviews and focus group discussions will be held with relevant stakeholders to further understand perceptions about antibiotic use and resistance and how the situation can be improved.

The study is expected to generate important knowledge regarding antibiotic use and resistance development in Lao PDR, but with potential implications to other South East Asian countries and beyond. Furthermore, our project aims to strengthen collaborative ties between Laos-Sweden-Vietnam and to create a long-term collaboration between the partner countries that will serve the purpose of exchange of knowledge and expertise between those countries.

The Team:

The CAREChild partners are:

  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Ministry of Health, Department of Food and Drugs, Vientiane Laos
  • University of Health Sciences, Vientiane Laos
  • National Institute of Public Health, Vientiane Laos
  • Health Department of Vientiane Capital, Vientiane Laos
  • Hanoi Medical University, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Hanoi University of Pharmacy, Hanoi, Vietnam

Contact:

Cecilia Stålsby Lundborg: Cecilia.Stalsby.Lundborg@ki.se

 

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***

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Climate Resistant Rice
PROJECT

Success story: 'Climate-Resilient Rice' in Thailand and Laos

This project aims to strengthen rice breeding programs in Laos and Thailand and develop climate-resilient rice varieties. It was funded under the 1st Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation.
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The project:

Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world’s population, and one of the major crops for both consumption and as a commodity in Southeast Asia. However, it is also vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and increased temperatures worldwide are predicted to cause reduced crop yields in the future.  

To counteract this, the Climate-ResilientRice project (CRR) aims to strengthen rice breeding programs in Thailand and Laos, so that crops will be able to withstand the effects of climate change, and even enhance production under adverse conditions.

CRR has been funded through the 1st Call of the Southeast Asia-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for for Research and Innovation (JFS) and brings together a team from both regions to tackle this pressing issue.

The Science:

The project will use a varietal improvement process based on the most advanced knowledge of traits which are affected by climate change, such as  high temperatures (that cause yield losses due to rice flowers’ sterility), and use proven methods of marker-assisted selection on a state of the art breeding data-management system.

It will also make use of complementary experimental facilities, including field and greenhouse phenotyping facilities in NAFRI/BIOTEC, respectively, growth chamber facility mimicking high temperature at CIRAD, and molecular marker lab at BIOTEC.

The Team:

The CRR project partners are:

  • Rice Gene Discovery Unit, BIOTEC, NSTDA, Pathumthani, Thailand; http://www.biotec.or.th/en (Project Coordinator)
  • Agriculture Research Center (ARC),National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI), Vientianne, Laos ; www.nafri.org.la
  • French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), Montpellier, France; https://www.cirad.fr

Contact:

Jonaliza L. Siangliw: jonaliza.sia@biotec.or.th

 

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***

ThaiVacc
PROJECT

Success story: ThaiVacc

This project aims to develop Novel Leptospirosis and Dengue Fever Vaccines for Thailand. It was funded under the 1st Call of the Southeast Asia - Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation
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The Project:

Vaccination is one of the most effective strategies for the prevention and control of infectious diseases. However, not all vaccine are currently available in Thailand, particularly those for endemic diseases. This is in part due to low incidence and a lack of public information, but cost also plays an important factor, as most commercially available vaccines are imported, and too expensive for the general public to afford.

 The ThaiVacc project aims to address this issue through the research and development of vaccines for leptospirosis and dengue fever. By working with an international team of researchers in Thailand, Switzerland and France,  the project will not only help in strengthening the potential in vaccine research and development in Thailand, but will allow for knowledge and technology transfer between project partners in Europe and Southeast Asia.

The Science:

The project will be focused on the following activities:

  • Investigating the use of adjuvant systems in order to enhance the immunogenic properties of new multiple subunit vaccines for leptospirosis and suitable tetravalent DNA vaccine for dengue fever to allow higher immunogenicity and enhanced protection.
  • Developing new oral vaccination approaches against leptospirosis and dengue, which combine M-cell targeting strategies and specific mucosal adjuvants.
  • Organizing a workshop on mucosal vaccination in Chulalongkorn University, with the collaboration of Swiss and French partners.

The Team:

The ThaiVacc partners are:

Contact:

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kanitha Patarakul, MD, PhD: Kanitha.Pa@chula.ac.th

 

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***

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RESCuE
PROJECT

Success story: RESCuE

The project will undertake monitoring and restoration for sustainable coastal ecosystems. It was funded under the 1st Call of the Southeast Asia - Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation.
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The Project:

Mangroves are forests that grow along saline coastal areas with tropical and subtropical climates, and are a crucial part of the natural ecosystem throughout Southeast Asia. They are an indispensable natural resource; mangroves not only act as ‘nurseries’ for marine species and huge carbon storage areas, but they also protect coastal areas from erosion, storms and tsunamis.

Unfortunately, mangroves have come under significant threat from industrial practices, such as shrimp farming and logging, as well as pollutants, chemicals and temperature stress. In Thailand, mangroves have been reduced by almost 50% over the past 4 decades,

The RESCuE project will work to mitigate mangrove forest loss and degradation in Thailand and Vietnam. It will do this by developing databases to understand, conserve and rehabilitate mangrove areas. The team will then work with local communities to identify areas which are suitable for replanting mangroves, and hold trainings and workshops for local practitioners to ensure that the coastal ecosystem management in Thailand and Mekong delta of Vietnam remain sustainable in the future.

The Science

The project will undertake the following activities:

  • Developing suitable decision-making tools for mapping and monitoring distribution of mangrove communities and cover loss in the conservation zone using satellite and ground survey data:
  • Estimating the mangrove community aboveground carbon stock and its dynamics
  • Providing decision support tools for the design of rehabilitation measures
  • Developing site-specific recommendations for rehabilitation projects to policy makers
  • To recommend the suitable model for ecosystem services in the coastal areas
  • Strengthening the capacity of local forest practitioners and disseminating knowledge of local communities via short training and meetings

The Team:

The RESCuE partners are:

Contact:

Prof. Valery Gond  (valery.gond@cirad.fr)

 

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***

PlasmID-SEA
PROJECT

Success Story: PlasmID-SEA

This project will use smartphone-based microscopy to study antibiotic resistance. It was funded under the 1st Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation.
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The Project:

Patients suffering from serious infections which cannot be cured with standard treatments are prescribed so called ‘last-resort’ antibiotics, such as carbapenem and colistin. They are used only when all other drug options have failed, and can be vital for saving lives.

However, with growing concern over antibiotic resistance, studies are needed to ensure infections can be safely controlled in the future.

The PlasmID-SEA project will use state-of-the-art smartphone-based microscopy to study plasmids that cause carbapenem and colistin resistance, and will use this information for infection control, epidemiological studies and diagnostics.

The Science:

This project will study plasmids which cause resistance against carbapenem and colistin antibiotics in Southeast Asia. To do this, the researchers will use a modern technique, based on optical DNA mapping, to analyse single plasmids through smartphone-based microscopy. The assay will then be transferred to a smartphone-based instrument, thus guaranteeing its long-term sustainable use in the region.

The Team:

The PlasmID-SEA partners are:

Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden https://www.karolinska.se/en

Contact:

Fredrik Westerlund: fredrikw@chalmers.se

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***

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CWSSEA
PROJECT

Success story: CWSSEA

This project will studying the effects of climatic water stress on mature and secondary forests in Southeast Asia. It was funded under the 1st Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Science and Innovation.
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Background:

Forests are the carbon banks of the world, playing a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and ensuring that ecosystems and soil are enriched and productive.  

However, the forests of many Southeast Asian countries, including in Thailand, have undergone significant deforestation in recent decades, while the effects of climate change also mean that incidents of climatic water stress - such as droughts and rising temperatures – will become more frequent and severe in the future.

This double threat could lead to rising mortality in the tropical monsoon forests of Southeast Asia. This would mean lower biodiversity, worsening climate change, and damage to entire ecosystems, resulting in real-life effects on human well-being.

The Project:

The CWSSEA (Climatic Water Stress – Southeast Asia) project will study the functioning of tropical forests, particularly secondary forests in Thailand, and assess how they will respond to climatic water stress and the potential impacts of future climate scenarios in these ecosystems.

This information will then assist in creating model predictions on the long-term scenarios of climate change impacts on forest ecosystem services, and influence future global policies to combat climate change.

The Science:

The researchers will measure canopy transpiration, which is frequently used to estimate canopy stomatal conductance; a central variable in modeling the uptake of carbon by forests. Measurements will be made in both mature and secondary forests, which in turn will allow for the investigation of species-specific responses to water stress by assessing tree hydraulics and drought vulnerability of the dominant species in each forest type.

The team will also explore the degree of soil water partitioning among species within each forest to provide a more mechanistic understanding of how individual trees are able to overcome drought stress.

Taken together, this will be one of the first studies to quantify canopy transpiration, tree hydraulics and drought vulnerability as well as the mechanisms dominant tree species in both mature and secondary tropical forests use to overcome drought stress, which will provide the necessary information to more accurately predict how climate change will affect the carbon and water cycle in tropical forests.

The Team:

The CWSSEA partners are:

Contact:

Pantana Tor-ngern: Pantana.t@chula.ac.th

 

***The 2nd Call of the SEA-Europe Joint Funding Scheme is now open! Click here for the full details.***