RareBoost Project

RareBoost Project

RareBoost is a Horizon 2020 ‘ERA Chairs’ project awarded to Izmir Biomedicine and Genome Center (IBG) in 2020.

European Research Area (ERA) Chairs projects support research organizations to recruit an outstanding academic researcher (the ERA Chair), with proven research excellence and management skills, to implement structural changes necessary to achieve excellence in a specific field.

In this regard, IBG has recruited Prof. Uğur Özbek as the Director for the RareBoost ERA Chair project. Dr. Özbek is leading and directing IBG’s Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases Platform (RUDiP) and guiding its development towards an internationally recognized research facility for rare diseases.

IBG is perfectly suited for this development, because:

  • it is the largest and best-equipped public biomedical research institute in Turkey,
  • its location in Turkey and its prominent standing within the Turkish research community facilitate the access to patient data and biological materials from rare disease patients,
  • IBG’s infrastructure, facilities, and human capital, provide an exceptional starting point to reach scientific excellence.

ERA Chair

Prof. Dr. Ugur OZBEK is RareBoost project’s ERA Chair holder. Dr. Ozbek, MD, PhD, is a Professor in Genetics with an extensive research history on the delineation of the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying childhood and adult hereditary cancers/hematological malignancies and rare/undiagnosed diseases.

Project Coordinator

Dr. Gerhard Wingender is RareBoost’s project coordinator. He is a group leader at IBG and an accomplished immunologist with over 20 years of experience in innate and adaptive immunity.

The RareBoost Management Office assists Dr. Wingender in the overall management of the project, to guarantee its ongoing monitoring and the timely completion of the deliverables.

Work Packages

The RareBoost project consists of 6 work packages (WP).

WP1. Project Management

WP1 concerns the overall management of the project, including the administrative, legal, contractual, and financial management, and allocation of the tasks. Project management also ensures timely completion of the project’s deliverables and efficient communication between the team members and the funding authority.

Dr. Duygu Sag leads Work Package 1. She is a group leader at IBG and a recognized expert on the role of macrophage polarization in tumors. Dr. Sag is the recipient of UNESCO/L’Oreal’s international ‘Rising Talent Award’ in 2018 and a member of the Turkish National Commission for UNESCO since 2022.

WP2. Recruitment of the ERA Chair holder

IBG’s selection committee will oversee the open, transparent and merit-based selection of a leading scientist in Rare Disease research as RareBoost’s ERA Chair holder.

Prof. Dr. Nese Atabey leads Work Package 2. She is a group leader at IBG and the director of its Basic and Translational Research Program. She is the national coordinator of BBMRI_Tr, and the contact person for the European biobanking platform BBMRI-ERIC.

WP3. Research capacity building

The RareBoost project’s main aim is to boost the quantity and quality of IBG’s Rare Disease research to achieve scientific excellence on an international level. Together with the ERA Chair holder and our stakeholders, we will define the areas in which IBG can make the most significant impact and implement tools to maximize synergies. An essential tool to this end will be RareBoost’s teaching & training activities for IBG’s researchers, technical personnel, and IBG’s Teaching Center.

Prof. Dr. Ugur OZBEK is Rareboost’s project ERA Chair holder and leads Work Package 3. His research interests include the delineation of the genetics and molecular biological mechanisms underlying the disorders of childhood/adolescence hematological malignancies, familial epilepsy syndromes, and undiagnosed rare disorders.

WP4. Soft skill capacity building

Besides the strictly research-related topics (WP3), teaching & training activities to strengthen the soft skills of all scientific, technical and administrative personnel at IBG are considered essential for RareBoost’s success. This will enhance the capacity and competitiveness of IBG’s personnel and foster their career development.

Prof. Dr. Ugur OZBEK (ERA Chair holder) leads Work Packages 4.

WP5. Smart specialization and innovation

To strengthen the innovative mindset of our personnel and to facilitate the translation of RareBoost’s research findings into novel approaches for diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, we will closely collaborate with our regional, national and international private and public partners. This will be connected to a robust sustainability strategy to guarantee the long-term strategic growth and the economic sustainability of IBG’s rare disease efforts.

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Inan leads Work Package 5. He is the platform leader of IBG-Pharma and Drug Analysis and Control Laboratories at IBG, with 25 years of experience in protein engineering and recombinant protein production both in the academic and private sectors.

WP6. Networking, communication and dissemination to stakeholders

RareBoost’s ambitious goals cannot be achieved by IBG alone, but only together with many partners in the academic, private and public sectors. Therefore, particular efforts will be made to establish, manage and maintain effective and beneficial mutual communication and interaction with our stakeholders. We invite everyone who wants to improve the lives of Rare Disease patients to reach out to us, so that we can find ways to combine and amplify our efforts.

Dr. Yavuz Oktay leads Work Package 6. He is the group leader of the Neuro-Genomics Lab at IBG. His research focuses on the elucidation of mechanisms leading from genomic variation to diseases of the human nervous system.

Scientific & Ethics Advisory Board

The Scientific and Ethics Advisory Board consists of six expert members with national and international recognition in the field of Rare Diseases.

Dr. Yasemin Alanay

Acıbadem Mehmet Ali Aydınlar University, Department of Pediatrics, Istanbul, Turkey

Dr. Gareth Baynam

The University of Western Australia, UWA Medical School, Paediatrics, Perth, Australia

Dr. Hakan Örer

Koc University, School of Medicine, Internal Medicine Department of Medical Pharmacology

Dr. Zeynep Tümer 

University of Copenhagen, Department of Clinical Medicine, Copenhagen, Denmark

Dr. Siddharth Banka

The University of Manchester, Division of Evolution, Infection and Genomics, Genomic Medicine and Rare Diseases, Manchester, UK

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee of RareBoost Project consists of eight members. In addition to the Work Package leaders and the Project Coordinator of the RareBoost, the steering committee includes the faculty members listed below.

Dr. Bayram Yılmaz is the Director of IBG. He is a Professor of Physiology, specializing on neuroendocrinology, reproductive endocrinology and fertility, and endocrine disrupters.

Dr. Şermin Genç is the Chair of the IBG Research Programs Committee. She is the Research Group Leader of the Neurodegeneration and Neuroprotection Laboratory.

Dr. Okay Çağlayan is a member of the Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases Platform. He is a Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Institute of Health Sciences at Dokuz Eylül University.