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Europe gives a boost to Supek’s research in cancer genomics




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ERC Starting Grants support young talented researchers over 5 years.

The IRB Barcelona group leader will focus on the genomes of hypermutated tumours to detect cancer vulnerabilities.

Today, the European Research Council (ERC) has announced the award of its Starting Grants to 406 early-career researchers throughout Europe. IRB Barcelona scientist Fran Supek (b. Zagreb, Croatia, 1981), is among this year’s awardees in a highly competitive call: the ERC received 3,085 proposals, of which around 13% were funded. Fran Supek said, “I am very pleased and honoured to have received an ERC Starting Grant. ERC funding is immensely helpful for young independent researchers as it allows us to think in the long term and to focus on the most exciting scientific ideas.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said, "Top talent needs good conditions at the right time to thrive. ERC Starting Grants are an investment that will pay off, boosting the EU's growth and innovation."

Exploring hypermutated tumours

In February 2018, Supek, group leader of the Genome Data Science laboratory, will start a five-year project called “HYPER-INSIGHT”, which has received 1.5 M€ of funding. The aim is to study tumours that have accumulated an unusually high number of mutations — so-called “hypermutators” — to advance our knowledge of cancer biology and find new potential opportunities for personalised cancer therapy.

“The research proposed aims to pick up where the initial wave of tumour genome sequencing studies left off, making the best of the currently available genomic ‘big data’, while complementing it in a targeted manner by our own experiments,” explains Supek.

The project’s ultimate goal is to characterise the processes that cause mutations in humans, examine the consequences of a high mutation burden on the cell, and determine how to best exploit these consequences to target tumours while sparing healthy tissues.

“The time is right to realise the promise of cancer genome sequencing projects to improve the lives of patients, while also furthering our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying DNA replication and repair in human cells,” he adds.

In addition to cancer, Supek’s project might provide a better understanding of how heritable disorders arise, how human populations evolve, and how somatic mutations contribute to aging-related disorders.

Fran Supek is the tenth scientist at IRB Barcelona to receive an ERC grant.

More information: ERC website


About IRB Barcelona
Created in 2005 by the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia) and University of Barcelona, IRB Barcelona is a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence, a seal that was awarded in 2011. The institute is devoted to conducting research of excellence in biomedicine and to transferring results to clinical practice, thus improving people’s quality of life, while simultaneously promoting the training of outstanding researchers, technology transfer, and public communication of science. Its 25 laboratories and seven core facilities address basic questions in biology and are orientated to diseases such as cancer, metastasis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and rare conditions. IRB Barcelona is an international centre that hosts 400 employees and 32 nationalities. It is located in the Barcelona Science Park. IRB Barcelona forms part of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) and the “Xarxa de Centres de Recerca de Catalunya” (CERCA).

About IRB Barcelona

The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) pursues a society free of disease. To this end, it conducts multidisciplinary research of excellence to cure cancer and other diseases linked to ageing. It establishes technology transfer agreements with the pharmaceutical industry and major hospitals to bring research results closer to society, and organises a range of science outreach activities to engage the public in an open dialogue. IRB Barcelona is an international centre that hosts 400 researchers and more than 30 nationalities. Recognised as a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence since 2011, IRB Barcelona is a CERCA centre and member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST).