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Identification of biological markers for prevention and translational medicine in pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer (PC) has a high mortality rate and is projected to become a massive public health problem in Europe. The TRANSPAN COST action aims to boost research on the prevention of PC, particularly in the discovery of genetic risk factors, risk stratification, identification of biomarkers for early detection and patient monitoring, elucidation of biological mechanisms and functional pharmacogenomics for personalised medicine. 

COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a funding agency for research and innovation networks. Our Actions help connect research initiatives across Europe and enable scientists to grow their ideas by sharing them with their peers. This boosts their research, career and innovation

These aims will be attained by expanding an existing interdisciplinary network and organised in four working groups
Working Group 1 - Disease Risk Profiling

This WG will use germline genetic variants, epigenetics, transcriptomics and environmental factors to model disease risk and apply risk stratification scores to better select individuals eligible to be screened for PC or its precursors.

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Working Group 2 - Non-Invasive Biomarkers

This WG will apply state-of-the-art liquid biopsies for the detection and characterization of circulating tumor cells and DNA, tumor-derived exosomes, tumor-educated platelets, epigenetic markers, and will test their diagnostic value for PC precursors and early-stage PC.

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Working Group 3 - Tumor Profiling

Genomic, epigenomic and transcriptional profiling of PC and its precursors in a multiregional analysis fashion will be used to identify novel biomarkers with prognosis and predictive value for PC patient stratification.

Go to working group page

Working Group 4 - Functional genomics and therapy

This WG will functionally validate candidate genetic variants from germline or tumor studies by using cutting-edge approaches such as CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. It will also generate novel approaches such as organoids / zebrafish avatars to implement (chemo)therapeutic strategies based on the patient in an effort to implement personalized medicine for PC.

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This is a collection of all our calls about Open PhD and Post-Doc Positions, Short-Term Scientific Missions, Training Schools and other Grant Opportunities
Call for Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) Applications - 2024

The COST Action CA21116Identification of biological markers for prevention and translational medicine in pancreatic cancer (TRANSPAN)” opens a call for applications for Short-Term Scientific Missions (STSMs) to be developed under the scope of the referred Action, in the terms described in this document.

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The main procedures/regulations concerning STSMs can be found here:



  1. Scope of TRANSPAN COST Action. 1
  2. Purpose of STSMs. 1
  3. Eligibility criteria. 2
  4. Application deadlines. 2
  5. Funding. 3
  6. Application procedure. 4
  7. Intellectual Property Rights concerns. 5
  8. Selection committee. 6
  9. Evaluation criteria and communication of the results. 6
  10. STSM reporting and payment 6
  11. STSM contacts. 8


1. Scope of TRANSPAN COST Action

For details and specific objectives, please read the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).


2. Purpose of STSMs

STSMs are stays of a researcher or innovator to a host organization located in a different country than the country of affiliation (for Affiliation, see Article on Annotated Rules for COST Actions document) for a specific work and for a determined period. STSMs are worthwhile:

  1. for the STSM grantee, who has the chance to receive funding to help him/her to undertake a stay to participate in a project with an international team, to gain new knowledge or to access to equipment or techniques not available in the home institution.
  2. for the STSM host, who can receive an international partner in their institution and extend or create a long-lasting collaboration.

An STSM should specifically contribute to the scientific objectives of the COST Action, helping to achieve the Action MoU objectives and deliverables.


3. Eligibility criteria
  1. The Grant applicant(s) are Action participants with a primary affiliation to a legal entity located in a COST Full or Cooperating Member country, a COST Near Neighbour Country or a European RTD Organization (see Article on Annotated Rules for COST Actions).
  2. The Grant applicant is a researcher or innovator who visits a host organization located in a different country than the country of affiliation (for Affiliation, see Article on Annotated Rules for COST Actions document) for a specific work and for a determined period of time.
  3. The STSM must have a minimum duration of 5 calendar days (including travel) and end by September 30th, 2024.
  4. The COST Association and the Grant Holder of the Action cannot be considered as being an STSM grantee’s employer, i.e., the STSM Grant cannot be considered as a salary.


4. Application deadlines

Applications will be welcomed during two periods (see below). Please note that the STSMs need to be concluded by September 30, 2024.

#1 First call: The deadline for application is February 15, at 11:59 a.m. (Central European Standard Time). The first call results will be published on February 22.

#2 Second call (to be issued if funds are still available after the first call): The deadline for application is May 1, at 11:59 a.m. (Central European Standard Time). The second call results will be published on May 8.

A third call may be issued if residual or additional funds will be available after the TRANSPAN general meeting.

Please note that applicants of the first call may select to spend a period abroad also after May 1st, but it must end by September 30.

5. Funding

In compliance with the Annotated rules the maximum amount that can be reimbursed is up to 4,000 €. However, under this call the maximum amount that may be granted to each applicant will be evaluated before approval by the TRANSPAN Core Group and on the basis of the reasons provided during the submission of the application. If the requested budget is not approved, the proponent may be asked to submit a new application with a reduced budget.

An STSM Grant is a lump financial contribution that takes into consideration the budget request of the applicant and the outcome of the evaluation of the STSM application. Please note that STSM Grants do not necessarily cover all expenses related to undertaking a given mission, being only a contribution to the overall travel, accommodation and meal expenses of the Grantee. Applicants are encouraged to assess their budget request based on a high benefit/cost ratio and to justify it based on the perceived cost of living in the host country/city.

STSM grantees should make their own arrangements for all provisions related to personal security, health, taxation, social security and pension matters.

The Grant Holder Institution pays grants after the completion of the activity and approval of all required report/documentation. However, STSMs grantees may request up to 50% pre-payment of the approved grant. This amount is subject to availability of funds and approval by the Grant Holder Institution. The request of pre-payment shall be submitted to the Grant Awarding Coordinator and the Grant Holder Manager.

To be considered concluded, an STSM will require, in addition to the mandatory documentation imposed by the COST rules (section A2-2.3), a letter signed by the host manager to be sent within one week of the end date set for the grant.


6. Application procedure

The application procedure is legally bound to the Rules for COST Actions. Eligible STSM applicants must submit their STSM applications online by logging into e-COST (https://e-services.cost.eu) and go to “Grant applications and click on “Apply for a grant”.



The applicant can select “Continue” on the “Short-Term Scientific Mission grant” section.



The application form will contain different sections, some are pre-filled by e-COST, such as Application name or Primary affiliation.

After encoding the Grant application form by filling all above-mentioned sections, the applicant also needs to upload:

  1. the Grant Application Template (you can find it here: https://www.cost.eu/STSM_GrantApplication).
  2. Acceptance/Invitation letter from the Host institution: it is the responsibility of the applicant to obtain a written agreement from the Host institution stating that the applicant will perform the activities detailed in the STSM working plan on the agreed dates. The letter must be dated back not more than 3 months and must be signed by a permanent staff representative of the Host institution (e.g., head of the research group, PI, director of the department, head of the institute/division etc.).
  • Candidate CV: a short (max. 2 pages) CV should be submitted. A list of academic publications can be added on separate pages.

In the Application template please briefly address the following points:

  1. Proposed contribution to the scientific objectives of the Action. Include how the planned activities will contribute to the plan of one or more WG(s) of the Action.
  2. Detail which techniques or equipment you would wish to learn to use, if applicable.
  3. Underline the aspects of complementarity between expertise and instrumentation of the home and hosting institution/research groups.
  4. Detail the steps you will take to achieve your proposed goals.
  5. Provide an itemized justification of the requested budget.

Applicants are requested to present a Working Plan that is reasonably feasible and coherent with the time slot requested in the application.

After adding the supporting documents, the applicant can submit the grant application.


Non-compliance with the above listed points will result in exclusion from the proposal evaluation.


7. Intellectual Property Rights concerns

In case of potential intellectual property concern requested by the host and/or sending institutions, this must be mentioned in the application and managed by IP teams from host and/or sending institutions. In this case, the reviewers of the application may be requested to sign a confidential agreement.


8. Selection committee

The selection of applicants is based on the scientific scope of the STSM application, which must be coherent with the overall objectives of the Action. The STSM evaluation and selection will be carried out by TRANSPAN Core Group.


9. Evaluation criteria and communication of the results

The general criteria for the evaluation of STSM proposals are:

- Priority to PhD students/residents and post-docs until 2 years after the completion of the PhD.

- Priority to applicants from inclusiveness target countries (ITCs).

- Clarity of activity planning (working plan) and complementarity of resources between home and host institutions/research groups (resources are intended as: technical expertise, infrastructure, or instrumentation).

- Main expected results and their contribution to the progress towards the Action objectives and deliverables.

- Curriculum Vitae (CV) of the applicant.


The Grant Awarding Coordinator (or the Action Chair/Vice-Chair, in case of conflict of interest) will inform the Grant Holder of the approved STSMs. The Grant Holder will inform each approved applicant by sending a Grant Letter generated from e-COST. The applicant must return this letter of acceptance with his/her signature.


10. STSM reporting and payment

Within 30 days from the end date of the STSM (or 15 days after the end of the Grant Period, whichever date comes first), the successful applicant must submit (A) the scientific report, (B) the dissemination materials and (C) the approval letter of the scientific report from the Host institution. These documents must be uploaded on e-COST to proceed with the request for payment.


  1. A) Scientific reports on e-COST:

- A template for the report can be found in e-COST (https://www.cost.eu/STSM_Report) (max 4 pages).

When preparing the scientific report please consider the following:

- The scientific report for COST is a public document. Please take this into account in terms of Intellectual Property Rights.

- The scientific report does not need to contain specific and detailed results of the research. Rather, it should focus on the aspects that are the aim of STSM, in particular how the collaborative research during STSM has strengthen the scientific relationship between Home and Hosting institutions within the framework of COST.

A copy of the scientific report in PDF format must be sent, by email, to the Grant Awarding Coordinator.

The Grant Awarding Coordinator and representatives of the working groups will be responsible for approving the scientific report and informing the Action Chair and the Grant Holder that the STSM has been successfully accomplished.

(Please note that the COST Association can request additional information to substantiate the information contained within the documents submitted by STSM applicants).

  1. B) Dissemination materials to Science Communication Team:

- A poster/short video/success story describing the subject of your collaborative STSM activities.

- A strong, short advertising sentence summarizing your STSM experience that will be used for promotion of the above material.

- Your credentials in social media (if you have such) to tag you in publication of your post.

Please remember to present Home and Host institutions and your passion for science. Use pictures showing you at work but also after-work. Do not sound too abstract, avoid scientific jargon, use short sentences. The material is to advertise TRANSPAN research, promote you, and will be shown in social media for public audience.

The materials have to be sent directly to the Science Communication Manager.

  1. C) Host approval of scientific report:

An official letter/email from a senior Researcher affiliated to the Host institution formally stating the acceptance of the scientific report.

Failure to submit the scientific report and dissemination materials, and Host approval of report within the above specified timeframe will effectively cancel the Grant. The grantee shall be aware that the COST Association reserves the right to postpone or cancel all payments and to recover the amounts paid to the grantee in case the grantee does not fulfil their obligations.


All STSM grantees are required to give an oral presentation during the TRANSPAN general assembly or a webinar, where they must present the main points of their activity and/or the results they obtained during their STSM.


11. STSM contacts

Dr. Manuel Gentiluomo

CA21116 Grant Awarding Coordinator

Department of Biology

University of Pisa

mailto: manuel.gentiluomo@biologia.unipi.it

call for applications for the Short-Term Scientific Missions (STSM) of our COST action for the first budget year

this is the call for applications for the Short-Term Scientific Missions (STSM) of our COST action for the first budget year. According to COST, STSMs consist of a visit to a host organization located in a different country than the country of affiliation by a researcher or innovator for specific work to be carried out and for a determined period of time.

Please refer to the COST annotated rules for a complete overview:
STSMs are described in sections A2-1.1.1, A2-2.3, A2-2.4, A2-3 and A3-3.1.

If you are interested in receiving an STSM grant, please do the following:
• Find your host-grantee match. You can finhttps://transpan.eu/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/STSM-application-template.docxd the list of all action participants here: https://www.cost.eu/actions/CA21116/#tabs+Name:Working%20Groups%20and%20Membership
Both host and grantee must be members of at least one WG of our action. If you want to be hosted by a group that is not yet part of TRANSPAN, please ask them to join our WGs (https://www.cost.eu/actions/CA21116/#tabs+Name:Working%20Groups%20and%20Membership).
The WG leaders of course are available to help you.

• Fill your application in e-COST here: https://e-services.cost.eu/activity/grants/add?type=STSM
with this information:
- Title of the STSM
- Start and end date (the end date must be by the end of September, in order to allow for time to write reports and complete grant payments)
- Budget requested by the applicant (maximum 4000€)
- Information about the host institution and contact person.

• Upload to e-COST this material:
- Application form (a template is attached) describing: Goals, description of the work to be carried out by the applicant, expected outcomes and description of the contribution to the Action memorandum of understanding (MoU) objectives. Our MoU is available here: https://e-services.cost.eu/files/domain_files/CA/Action_CA21116/mou/CA21116-e.pdf;
- Confirmation of the host on the agreement from the host institution in receiving the applicant;

The deadline for submission is June 10, 2023. Successful applicants will be notified shortly afterward. The applications will be evaluated by the core group according to the quality of the applicant CV and the content of the application. Extra points will be given if the grantee has affiliation in an ITC and if he/she is a PhD/MD student or a post-doctoral scientist (without tenure). 

Please be aware that the awardees should finish the STSM before the end of September!

We look forward to receiving your applications!

Download the application form template

Training School (TS) entitled: Genomic data analysis in association studies, the first TS of our COST action


this is the call for applications for the Training School (TS) entitled: Genomic data analysis in association studies, the first TS of our COST action. According to COST, TS consist of a course of a small number of days focused on a topic relevant to the Action. Our first TS will be held in Pisa from the 19th to the 21st of June 2023. All days the course will start at 9.00 and finish at 17.30. The topic is Genome wide association studies (GWAS) data analysis, please see the attached flyer for more details. We will be able to financially support 20 trainees for a maximum of 500€ for travel expenses and 150€ as maximum daily allowance, per person.

If you are interested in attending, please fill the application form at this link.


The deadline for submission of your application is May 15. The applications will be evaluated by the core group according to the quality of the applicant CV and the content of the application. Extra points will be given if the grantee has affiliation in an ITC and if the grantee is a PhD/MD student or a post-doctoral scientist (without tenure).

Download the PDF

International PhD fellowship on Liquid Biopsies in Turin, Italy

The interdisciplinary Cancer Heterogeneity Group is aiming to improve the outcome of patients with pancreatic cancer. Our working
language is English. We are using state-of-the-art technologies including single-cell omics to dissect the heterogeneity of pancreatic
cancers and develop more effective therapies. It has now become evident that cancer heterogeneity is not only related to the existence
of different sub clones within the tumor, but heterogeneity is further enhanced by so-called cancer stem cells at the subclonal level.
These cells are responsible for intraclonal heterogeneity, promote metastasis and are inherently resistant to conventional therapies.

Our research efforts center on large-scale and high-resolution interrogation of (metastatic) cancer stem cells in their natural
microenvironment. We use valuable fresh patient material, single-cell omics, and complementary approaches for functional taxonomy
of cancer stem cells. We aim to define the landscape of stemness and therapeutic resistance via non-genetic evolution. This provides
the basis for developing novel, more effective treatment strategies.

We are performing internationally leading research with a strong emphasis on translational research (e.g. Cell Stem Cell 2007, 2011,
2015, Cell Metab 2015, 2021, Cancer Cell 2008, 2014, 2016, 2023, Nat Methods 2014, Nat Microbiol. 2022, Nat Comm 2018, 2020,
2021, Gut 2015, 2016, 2019, 2022).

We are offering a PhD fellowship in the following research areas:

• Dissecting the heterogeneity of primary tumors and circulating cancer cells (CTC) at single-cell resolution;
• Bioinformatic analysis of large-scale single-cell omics data;
• Reprogramming the transcriptional circuitry of stemness / drug resistance.

The eligible candidate must have graduated outside of Italy.

The Candiolo Cancer Institute (FPO-IRCCS) is a private non-profit institution operated by the Fondazione del Piemonte per l’Oncologia
(FPO) and endorsed by the Italian Ministry of Health as an IRCCS (Institute for Scientific Research and Care) for its scientific activity.
The institute is a highly regarded medical center that combines a strong commitment to personalized patient care with cutting-edge
cancer research. The institute is accommodated in a modern 56.000-square-meter building with excellent infrastructure for translational
research. FPO-IRCCS is situated in a spacious green-field site just outside Turin in north-western Italy, close to the Alps and the
Mediterranean Sea. Turin is the main city of the Piedmont region and is a center for culture and technological innovation.

If you are interested, please contact:

Christopher Heeschen, MD PhD
Professor of Oncology
Head, Pancreatic Cancer Heterogeneity
Candiolo Cancer Institute - FPO - IRCCS
Strada Provinciale 142 Km 3,95
10060 Candiolo (Torino) - Italy
Phone: +39 011 993 3238