Success Stories

"CORBEL aims to establish and support a new model for biological and medical research in Europe by harmonising user access, unifying data management, creating common ethical and legal services, and offering joint innovation support" - what does that mean in practice?

Learn from our Success Stories how we were able to help other researchers - stay tuned for more stories and subscribe to our newsletter to be informed!

Revealing the morphological plasticity of a cell in planktonic symbioses

Service Providers:
Euro-BioImaging EMBL Node

EMBRC, CNRS Marine Observatory, Villefranche-sur-mer, France

Symbiosis with photosynthetic cells occurred several times in the evolutionary history of eukaryotes and led to the acquisition of the chloroplast– the organelle that performs photosynthesis. Chloroplast acquisition gave rise to a wide diversity of photosynthetic organisms and is considered to be one of the most important biological innovations in eukaryotes.
Living in symbiosis with microalgae is still a widespread phenomenon in today’s oceanic plankton. These ecological interactions contribute significantly to oceanic primary production and the functioning of marine ecosystems. Large-scale environmental sequencing projects (e.g. Tara-Oceans) have unveiled the worldwide prevalence of these cell-cell symbioses in the oceanic plankton.

Despite their key ecological roles in the oceans, the basic functioning of these symbiotic interactions, as well as the subcellular mechanisms by which a cell can accommodate and engineer an intracellular microalgal cell remain unknown. Dr. Johan Decelle, a young group leader at the University of Grenoble Alpes, who played an active role in the Tara-Ocean expeditions, has focused on revealing these mechanisms in his research. The goal of his project is to unveil the structural architecture of the symbiotic cells, in particular the chloroplasts, using cutting-edge imaging technologies. Working with the CNRS Marine Observatory of Villefranche-sur-mer, which is part of EMBRC, has allowed him to collect his study material despite being based away from the sea with his institute. This site offers a favorable oceanographic context for the presence of symbiotic plankton in near-shore waters, which facilitate experiments on live cells. At the Euro-BioImaging EMBL Node, he used the 3D imaging technique FIB-SEM (Focused Ion Beam scanning electron microscopy) to visualize subcellular modifications of the photosynthetic machinery and the microalgal cell at high imaging volume before and during symbiotic interaction.

What started as a project selected via the CORBEL Open Call developed into a long-term collaboration. All partners agree that this project will improve our knowledge of the functioning of planktonic symbioses and bring new evolutionary insights into chloroplast acquisition in eukaryotes.

‘Learning about these available resources and accessible technologies in Europe was such luck! To have the possibility to go all the way from collecting planktonic cells in the ocean to high-end cutting-edge imaging technologies is a unique opportunity to better understand these ecologically-important cells!’ - Johan Decelle

Investigating Toxin-Antitoxin systems in lactic acid bacteria

CORBEL user Camilla Lazzi works in the Department of Food and Drug of the University of Parma, Italy as a food microbiologist in the research field of lactic acid bacteria. These are microorganisms with a wide ecological distribution and important applications, especially in the food industry. Their activity as fermentation workhorses is highly regulated. A bacterial community can induce death or dormancy of some cells, in response to different stress conditions, resulting in a sacrifice to favor the survival of the entire ecosystem. These responses are often mediated by a Toxin-Antitoxin (TA) system. TA systems are two-component systems that involve a stable toxin, able to kill the cells or confer growth stasis, and an unstable antitoxin which inhibits toxin activity. Little is known about the distribution and function of TA systems in lactic acid bacteria, but the activation of these systems could modulate the bacterial population dynamics. Understanding the mechanism of action could have promising scientific and applicative perspectives in the field of fermented food but also in the study of intestinal microbiota.

With the use of CORBEL facilities, Camilla and the research group of Parma University aim to identify TA systems in wild isolates of Lactobacillus strains, and subsequently characterize the mode of action of the TA systems. They collaborate with two service providers, the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens (BRFAA) and the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO). The results of the sequencing at BRFAA were presented at the 26th ICFMH Conference FoodMicro2018. Furthermore, a postdoc student, Alessia Levante, plans to visit BRFAA to perform the final elaboration of the data with Dr. Giannis Vatsellas and Dr. Periklis Makrythanasis. As a second step, Camilla and the research group at Parma University want to elucidate the function of the newly identified TAs. To this end, they requested the ICFO in Barcelona as service provider to perform high-resolution fluorescence microscopy (PALM microscopy). Also in this case, a PhD student will spend a period of time at the service provider to set up the final experimental procedure in collaboration with Dr. Pablo Loza, Dr. Maria Marsal and Dr. Jordi Andilla.

When we read about the CORBEL open call we thought it was a great opportunity to gain access to important Research Infrastructures with experience that is not at all present in our laboratory. Through this call, we have filled a gap improving our research.
Camilla Lazzi, University of Parma, project leader

Research group of Parma University, Department of Food and Drug (from left to right): Claudia Folli, Stefania Grifone, Korotoum Yabre, Alberto Ferrari, Alessia Levante, Camilla Lazzi (missing: Erasmo Neviani, Barbara Montanini)

Staff Visit “INSTRUCT ARIA introduction and adaptations for EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC”

August 14-17, 2018 in Oxford (England), hosted by INSTRUCT

In the CORBEL Project, transnational user access projects are implemented using the user-friendly online access management system (“ARIA”), which was developed by INSTRUCT ERIC. This system covers all administrative stages of the project including proposal submission, review, project execution and reporting. To learn more about how this administration system for the management and tracking of user projects can be customised to the needs of EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC, Katja Herzog visited the INSTRUCT central office in August. Katja got insights into all identifications, functionalities and feasible customisations in ARIA concerning proposal workflows, centre and technology configurations, access routes, forms, calls and surveys, management of administration and finances, possibility of a content-management system, booking calendar and network options. In a second step, Katja directly tested general features in the beta version of the ARIA system. Together with the INSTRUCT team, Katja discussed the development of potential future features and the next steps for the implementation of ARIA for EU-OPENSCREEN.

In addition to learning how to further streamline our project management and administrative workflows with ARIA, it was extremely helpful to get insights into the daily operations (legal/ financial/ outreach) of the INSTRUCT central office and to discuss administrative hurdles linked to the establishment of ERICs. Many thanks to the INSTRUCT team for this very insightful and well prepared staff exchange as well as the very warm welcome.

If you are interested to participate in / to host a CORBEL Staff Exchange event, please contact
Vera Matser.

Staff Exchange “User relationship management”

October 17-19, 2017 in Faro (Portugal), hosted by CCMAR (EMBRC)

This Staff Exchange focused on the interactions with users and user relationship management related to the CORBEL services and their target user community, including the identification of user needs, user experience, user support, user training, customer support practices, problem solving/troubleshooting with users, health and safety for visitors requiring physical access to research infrastructures, and client liability.

The best part of the Staff Exchange was the opportunity to share experiences on the management of research infrastructures with the people directly involved in their management, the aquaculture facilities tour, and all sessions regarding our respective experience in terms of user access and service provision.
  Feedback from the participants

If you are interested to participate in / to host a CORBEL Staff Exchange event, please contact
Vera Matser.

Staff Exchange “Ethical and legal framework for data sharing and reuse”

October 9-10, 2017 in Paris (France), hosted by ECRIN/BBMRI

The objective of the Staff Exchange was to provide a comprehensive overview of the legal, ethical and practical framework related to data protection and data sharing with a particular focus to clinical research and sensitive data. BBMRI-ERIC provided complementary expertise from the perspective of the biobanks and human samples collection.


We appreciated the general overview of the issue of data protection and the implications of the new regulation as well as the opportunity to engage in open discussion with members of the other RIs and the increased understanding of the different RIs activities and challenges.
   Feedback from the participants

If you are interested to participate in / to host a CORBEL Staff Exchange event, please contact
Vera Matser.

Greetings from the Sea – a CORBEL Open Call user reports about her first visit

Prof. Simona Candiani from the University of Genoa is one of our successful applicants, who were selected with her project in the 1st CORBEL Open Call. Her scientific interest addresses certain genes that might play an important role in evolutionary neural development. For her research, she uses amphioxus as a model system.
Simona’s first visit in the framework of her CORBEL access brought her to the marine station at Banyuls-sur-mer, which is the only Mediterranean infrastructure that offers the possibility to collect amphioxus adult. She received training to perform in vitro fertilization of the collected animals to prepare embryo cultures, which will be needed for RNA extraction and whole mount in situ hybridization.

My stay in Banyuls was really useful as I had the opportunity to gain experience with amphioxus egg microinjection – a very challenging technique, as I was warned by several of my colleagues ahead of my trip! Nevertheless, I obtained a few microinjected animals and now I am looking forward to the next steps in my CORBEL project! 

Simona’s visit was facilitated a lot by the administrative support from CORBEL project managers and the technical assistance by local scientific staff.

As second service provider in her project pipeline, Simona requested access to the Advanced Light Microscopy Facility (ALMF) at EMBL Heidelberg. Here, she will receive not only access to the most advanced imaging technologies, but also technical support in developing a suitable imaging protocol. The goal is to reveal the 3D localization of several neural markers in amphioxus, which will eventually help to better characterize the function of the genes of interest in neural differentiation of amphioxus.

S. Candiani performing
amphioxus egg microinjection
model system amphioxus
research vessel Nereis