Networks pave the way for early stage researchers

Networks pave the way for early stage researchers

My name is Christina and I am a PhD student in the lab of Klaus Okkenhaug. My project is part of the innovative training network (ITN) ‘Deciphering PI3-kinase biology in health and disease (Phd)’, funded by the Marie Curie Sklodowska‐Curie Actions and Horizon 2020. The aim of the network is to train young investigators in deep understanding of the different PI3K isoforms in distinct tissues and to translate this knowledge into a new generation of PI3K inhibitors and the development of new treatment modalities. The PI3K pathway controls a wide range of cellular processes and has been identified as one of the most commonly activated signalling pathways in human cancer. To this end, the ITN has established a network involving the main academic and industrial partners across Europe focusing on PI3-kinase biochemistry and drug development.

Over the last two years, 15 PhD students with a diverse scientific background have been recruited and are participating in this multi‐disciplinary research programme. Through lectures, scientific workshops, training and placements in other laboratories within the network, the early stage researchers (ESRs) have the opportunity to acquire expertise across a range of discipline and increase their knowledge about PI3-kinase signalling and its involvement in biological processes.

This year’s annual meeting of the network was held in Cambridge at the Babraham Institute and was composed of an internal meeting, a multi-disciplinary workshop, and complementary skills training session. The internal meeting was attended by the group leaders of the consortium, the ESRs, as well as two members of the Research Executive Agency of the EU Commission. As students, we had the opportunity to present our projects and discuss our results with experts in the field of PI3-kinase. Also, a short promotional video where both Principal Investigators and PhD students of the network were interviewed about the programme was created to enable the dissemination of Marie Skłodowska‐Curie Actions. The video is soon going to be available on the Phd website, this is the first outcome of many from our network.

The one-day scientific workshop focused on the class I PI3-kinase p110δ and brought together leading experts in specialised field including signalling inputs, feedback loops, and newly developed inhibitors. This workshop was well attended by scientists from academia and industry, engaging in constructive discussions and exchange of knowledge.

The last day’s lecture, attended only by the ESRs, focused on basic principles of scientific communication, providing the ESRs with a toolbox to successfully present scientific data to a set of different audiences. This lecture was highly relevant as it trained the students to present scientific data in a conclusive and accessible way, thereby contributing to the dissemination of their work across a diverse range of audiences. 

Next year’s meeting is going to be held at the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin, with a scientific workshop focusing on monitoring super-resolution imaging of lipids and lipid-modifying enzymes, PI3P regulation of the endosomal system and novel chemical approaches to study  and manipulate PIs. Meanwhile, the complementary skills training will train the ESRs in research project management and collaborative projects.

I am convinced that being part of such a training network is a great opportunity for the students to develop a career in research and drug discovery in European industry and academia.

Do you want to know more about the Phd project, Marie Curie Actions of PI3-kinases? Visit our website and follow us on Twitter (@, and Facebook (