Comments from the Advisory Board, Valencia, February 2014.

At the half-way point of the RENEB project it is gratifying to note that all scheduled deliverables have been produced and milestones reached. The participants are to be congratulated with their progress so far.

At the general meeting in Valencia the Advisory Board (AB) took particular interest in the progress made by WP1 which examines the operational deployment of the various biodosimetry assays. The work so far concentrated mainly on laboratory intercomparisons and the AB was a little concerned that there was a wider variability in results between the partners than we would have expected, particularly for the more long-established and well-researched assays; the dicentric and micronucleus. It was clear that the Task leaders had given thought to this variability and in some cases plausible explanations were forthcoming. In one instance it was a machine setting problem in one partner lab for the automated micronucleus assay. In other cases some of the variability was due to statistics dependent on agreed limited numbers of cells that were required to be scored. However there was further variability that could not be confidently ascribed to particular causes. The AB feels that the Task leaders' plans to approach this problem are sensible:

    1) some further training visits between participants;

    2) in some instances a more tightly specified laboratory protocol to be produced followed by,

    3) second intercomparison exercises, which are scheduled deliverables time-tabled for 2014 and

    4) a more comprehensive evaluation of slides by all partners exchanging their slides in a 'round-robin' circulation.

This should help to pinpoint any future variability and, if present, distinguish between causes due to the 'wet-work' (sample transport and cell culture) and the microscopy skill of individual analysts.

The AB was particularly impressed by a contribution from the Task Group dealing with the PCC assay. Colleagues in Demokritos and CEA showed some impressive pictures of PCC spreads labelled with pan-centromere and telomere probes. This gave what promises to be reliably and easily scored images of dicentrics. When worked-up, this variant of the PCC/dicentric assays shows promise of delivering biological dose-estimates with the accuracy of the traditional dicentric assay but more speedily because the need for 48h cell cultures is by-passed. The AB recommended that a gallery of images should be produced for a telescoring intercomparison exercise among the partners. This was agreed and, as many photographs already exist, this would be a relatively easy task to undertake.

The AB was also particularly interested in the deliberations of WPs 2 and 4 which concern the formation and sustainability of a European Biodosimetry Network (EBN) to continue into the future after RENEB funding ceases. The AB agrees with the current view that an 'Association' should be set up, initially by letters of intent / memoranda of understanding between participating institutions. It is important that an EBN should have a clear identity and the suggestion that it should acquire a legal entity status, probably set up by French or Belgian law, is well received. Regarding the place of an EBN within EU structures, it was not yet clear to the AB whether it would be better for EBN to be a stand-alone association or seek to incorporate within a larger body. If the latter, the NERIS platform would seem quite appropriate, but consideration should also be given to EURADOS. In any case, what will be needed is a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA). Writing an SRA was not identified as a deliverable in the RENEB programme but the AB recommends that one should be drafted by a few appropriate consortium partners.