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SAVE the date August 29: "Beating Cancer with SEEIIST while Shaping Science in South-East Europe" by Dr. Sanja Damjanovic

By Christine Marie-Therese Darve posted 06-09-2024 12:54


Join us for an enlightening colloquium featuring Dr. Sanja Damjanovic, who will share her groundbreaking work in high-energy nuclear physics and science diplomacy.

Title: “Beating Cancer with SEEIIST while Shaping Science in South-East Europe

When : Thursday August 29, 2024

16:00 CET  (10:00 ET)


(to receive the Zoom link promptly even without being APS member)


Dr. Sanja Damjanovic is a Scientist/Physicist with over 20 years of experience working at prominent international research institutions such as CERN in Geneva and GSI Helmholtz Centre for Nuclear Research in Darmstadt, Germany. In addition to her scientific career, she had the honor of serving as the Minister of Science in the Government of Montenegro from November 2016 to December 2020.

She made her Diploma in Physics at the University of Belgrade and her PhD from Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg in 2002. She continued her scientific career at CERN. In 2006 she obtained a CERN Fellowship, and award-type position, becoming the first scientist from the former Yugoslavia directly employed by CERN. Since 1999 she was embedded international teams and has ever since worked in two large International Organizations, at CERN and GSI-FAIR, contributing to high-energy nuclear physics research with over 100 publications. In 2007, she initiated an international cooperation agreement between Montenegro and CERN.

During her Ministerial term, she focused on developing Montenegro’s innovation ecosystem and led the country to become the first outside the EU to adopt the Smart Specialization Strategy (, approved by the European Commission in 2019. Her term ended with the best grades for the Chapter 25 in the 2020 European Commission Report for Montenegro.

Dr. Damjanovic also promoted regional cooperation, leading the creation of the Southeast European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST). She was the first Chairperson of the SEEIIST Steering Committee and coordinated the SEEIIST@ESFRI Roadmap 2021 application.

After her ministerial term, she resumed a permanent position at GSI-FAIR and continues to promote the SEEIIST Project. She is the President of the General Assembly of the EU H2020 HITRIplus project, which attracted 18 European research centers and clinics to finilize the Design phase for SEEIIST. She is also a member of the EU Science Diplomacy Working Group and the International Academy of Science and Arts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (IANUBIH).


Inspired by successful science diplomacy models like CERN and SESAME, the states in South-East Europe are joining forces to establish a large-scale, competitive research infrastructure—the South East European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST). SEEIIST aims to foster regional cooperation in science, technology, and industry, promoting a sustainable economy and social cohesion by creating new opportunities for cutting-edge research and technology, and building mutual trust. The project received its first official support from the Government of Montenegro, led by the Minister of Science, Dr. Sanja Damjanovic, in March 2017. 

However, the question arrose: what should SEEIIST be to have a direct impact on society and easily attact political support? The proposal for SEEIIST to be an Accelerator-based Research Infrastructure for Cancer Therapy and Biomedical Research with Ion Beams, along with the first conceptual design, came from two key pioneers in the use of ion beams to treat cancer. Prof. Hans J. Specht, a former Scientific Director of GSI Helmoltz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, who played a crucial role in establishing a pilote project at GSI where the first 450 patients were treated, leading to Europe's first hadron cancer therapy clinic, HIT, in Heidelberg, Germany; and Prof. Ugo Amaldi, formerly at CERN and another pioneer in the design of particle accelerators for cancer treatment, who was instrumental in establishing Europe's second hadron cancer therapy clinic, CNAO, in Pavia, Italy.

The choice of such a facility as the core of SEEIIST has boosted momentum, attracting  political support from 10 SEE countries that signed the Declaration of Intend on the CERN ground in October 2017. This also garnered the first financial support from the Europen Commision to start the second development phase – the Design study. Importantly, SEEIIST has attracted inetrnalation support from 18 renown Europen research centers and clinics to develeop a next generation of accelerators for cancer therapy, leveraging experience gained from the LHC construction to explore new technologies and extend benefits to a wider fraction of society.

From Radiotherapy to Particle Therapy: Particle accelerators are formidable tools for medicine, and are the way to realize old dream of bloodless surgery and imaging. They penetrate the human body to treat diseases and observe internal organs without using surgical tools. Current statistics show that servival probability for patients five years after treatment with Carbon-ion therapy is about 90%, compared to only 10-20% with conventional radiation. The beuty of the Bragg peak deserves worldwide application.

Current status of SEEIIST: The design phase of SEEIIST is nearing completion, and the project is ready to start the third, preparatory phase. It is highly recognized in the EU Agenda as one of six leading EU-Western Balkans projects in the Innovation Agenda and is part of the Economic Investment Plan for the Western Balkans. Currently, SEEIIST is part of the Reform Agenda of several Western Balkans countries. The EU Parliament has positively voted for the New Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, which includes 6 billion EUR in support.

SEEIIST has the potential to serve as a Flagship Project for EU Enlargement. Its success relies on collaboration and aims to be a shining exemplar of science diplomacy. SEEIIST aspires to effectively achieve global development objectives and evolve into the next generation of medical accelerators.

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