In Vivo - May 2016

INVIVO - Newsletter of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine - IRB Barcelona
Can't see this properly? Click here MAY 2016
RESEARCH NEWS
FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS
Why did the genetic code of life on earth stop evolving?
The genetic code evolved to include a maximum of 20 amino acids and was unable to grow further because of a limitation in the shape of tranfer RNAs. In a paper published in Science Advances, a team of biologists led by ICREA researcher and group leader Lluís Ribas de Pouplana propose this explanation as to why the genetic code stopped growing 3 billion years ago. Their work demonstrates that when designing synthetic tRNAs, scientists need to be especially aware of limitations in their shape in order for them to be fully compatible with the translation process. (Image: The family of Laocoon entwined in coils of DNA. Scraperboard drawing by Bill Sanderson, 1990. Wellcome Library, London).
  • Find out why Ribas is "in love with the genetic code," in the fourth video in the series Meet Our Scientists
  • Read an article about the study in Motherboard.
CANCER METABOLISM
Lipid availability might be “the Achilles heel of breast cancer”
Breast cancer cells need to take up lipids from the extracellular environment in order to continue proliferating. The main protein involved in this process is LIPG, an enzyme found in the cell membrane and without which tumour cell growth is arrested. Analyses of clinical samples from patients with various kinds of breast tumours reveal that 85% have high levels of LIPG expression. The research was published in Nature Communications. “This new discovery could be the Achilles heel of breast cancer,” explains ICREA researcher and group leader Roger Gomis.
MEIOSIS
RingoA regulates sex
The protein RingoA is a key regulator of meiosis, the cell division process that gives rise to sex cells. Mice deficient in RingoA, generated in Angel Nebreda’s Signalling and Cell Cycling Laboratory, are apparently healthy but both sexes are completely sterile. After three years of experiments, postdoctoral researchers Petra Mikolcevic and Michitaka Isoda describe the molecular imbalances that occur during meiosis as a result of the absence of this protein. Scientists discovered that RingoA is a key activator of Cdk2, the protein kinase with which it forms a complex required for meiosis. The research was published in Nature Communications.
TECHNOLOGY
 
NEW INSTRUMENTATION
The High-Throughput Proteomics era has begun
IRB Barcelona steps into High-Throughput Proteomics. The Mass Spectrometry Core Facility has recently been enlarged to host a new Orbitrap Fusion Lumos, a faster and more sensitive mass spectrometer, which has just been installed and is fully operational. Facility manager Marta Vilaseca is excited about the developments in the facility and is looking forward to making the best use of this powerful analytical tool.
EQUALITY
Equality and Diversity Committee
Neus Prats: “Our aim is to promote ways in which equality and diversity can benefit the entire IRB Barcelona community”
How well does IRB Barcelona fare in addressing its employees - both male and female - expectations when it comes to gender equality, inclusion and diversity? To answer this crucial question, a working group has been set up at the Institute. Its goal is to pave the way for the implementation of gender equality and diversity procedures and policies for all employees. Histopathology Core Facility Manager Neus Prats is leading this working group, which will soon give way to a proper Equality and Diversity Committee.
INSTITUTIONAL NEWS
 
EXTERNAL ADVISORY BOARD 2016
Checkpoint step for IRB Barcelona
IRB Barcelona's External Advisory Board (EAB), formed by senior researchers from institutes and universities across the world, convened on 9-10 May to take stock of the developments taking place at the Institute. EAB meetings, scheduled every two years, provide an important opportunity to evaluate the progress being made by IRB Barcelona in achieving its scientific and organisational goals.
Over two intensive days, the 16 scientists, whose collective expertise covers the range of scientific areas that IRB Barcelona is active in, were tasked with evaluating the research of the 13 Group Leaders whose work was up for appraisal, and providing input for future directions. They also heard about strategic developments in the scientific and academic areas, innovation and communications as well as IRB Barcelona's incorporation into the recently founded Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology.
SPOTLIGHT
How to improve your scientific presentations workshop
“Not all the things that are important to you are important for your audience”
IRB Barcelona takes soft skills very seriously. In collaboration with the Dr. Antoni Esteve Foundation, every year it organises workshops such as How to improve your scientific presentations and Scientific Communication: Getting Started. Brian McCarthy, Irish theatre director and acting teacher, philosopher and writer, coaches these courses. His goal is to “help people get their greatest work into the world and turn their big ideas into reality.” In vivo had a chat with him.
CREATIVITY WORKSHOP
“Be thankful for hardships: it forces you to ask questions and find alternative routes”
“Scientists need data. What I bring them doesn’t have numbers associated with it”. Hannoch Piven (Montevideo, 1963) gave a well-attended lecture at IRB Barcelona on 22 April, but it wasn’t the usual plenary seminar of every Friday at 12.00 am. Piven is an artist who became famous for, as he says, “playing with things”. And he adds, “I think that it plays an important part at the beginning of any process, even the scientific process.”
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT NEWS
SETMANA DE LA CIÈNCIA AT THE TANDEM SCHOOL
'Tandem' primary school kids turn into scientists for a week
It was a special week for the primary school children participating in IRB Barcelona's Tandem School project. From 31 March to 5 April, scientists from the Institute visited the school and inspired teachers to design hands-on science workshops. On one of these days, the kids were visited by a 'very special scientist' for them: Joan J. Guinovart. He answered questions about his research and and danced the IRB Barcelona dance video with the kids, as you can hear in this podcast (in Catalan). Take a look at some of the pictures of the event.
CiÈncia After Work
Batlle: “The immune system is incredibly powerful against tumours”
On 3 May, the Auditorium of “La Pedrera” hosted a new session of the “Ciencia After Work at la Pedrera” entitled “Colon cancer: what’s the latest?”. Antoni Castells, from the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, ​​Elena Élez, from the Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebrón, and group leader Eduard Batlle were the three guests. This event was organised by the Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation, the Olga Torres Foundation, IRB Barcelona and the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology.
MEET OUR SCIENTISTS SERIES
Maria Macias: “Structural biologists are as meticulous as watchmakers”
Take a look at the third and fourth installments in this series, launched in 2016, that brings together talent and character, passion and vision, science and ambition, with the aim to give people a glimpse into the research performed at IRB Barcelona.
In the latest two videos, you'll meet group leader and ICREA Research Professor Lluís Ribas , who is “looking for answers about the origin and evolution of life,” and group leader and ICREA Research Professor Maria Macias, a structural biologist who is as “meticulous as a watchmaker”.
PHILANTHROPY NEWS
 
VI PER VIDA
Sixth wine taste against cancer
On 9 April, the “Pavelló Firal” in Mollerussa hosted the latest “Vi per Vida” charity wine-tasting session, in which more than 250 people had the opportunity to savour 5 exquisite wines. Launched in 2014 by the sommelier Xavier Ayala, this charity initiative raises funds for research into cancer metastasis undertaken at IRB Barcelona. During the event, “Vi per Vida” presented IRB Barcelona with a cheque for the proceeds collected in 2015. Associate researcher Andreu Casali received the cheque on behalf of the Institute.
IN SHORT
 
TECH TRANSFER
Geared up to boost transfer
Through the last VALUNI call launched by ACCIÓ 2015, the Catalan Government (Generalitat de Catalunya) awarded funding to IRB Barcelona's Strategic Research Commercialisation Plan, named INNOVAL. Seeking to encourage action plans developed by innovation departments to promote technology commercialisation in universities and non-profit organisations in Catalonia, this grant has been given to the Innovation Office in recognition of the activities undertaken during 2015.
 
EDITORIAL BOARD OF G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
González appointed Associate Editor
Cayetano González, Group Leader of IRB Barcelona's Cell Division Laboratory, has been appointed Associate Editor of G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, a scientific journal published by the Genetics Society of America. The journal provides a forum for the publication of high‐quality foundational research, particularly research that generates useful genetic and genomic information such as genome maps, single gene studies, genome‐wide association and QTL studies, as well as mutant screens and advances in methods and technology. Dr. González thus joins a distinguished board of more than 175 specialists who contribute to the rapid review and publication of important results in all areas of genetics.
PEOPLE AT IRB
ON THE MOVE
Patricia Nadal
“I like new challenges, I like facing changes. I am not afraid to embark on a new adventure”. Academic Coordinator Patricia Nadal said these words in May when she left IRB Barcelona to become Programme Manager at the ”la Caixa” Foundation. After a little over six years at the Institute, she has moved on to run the international PhD Programme (INPhINIT) that the Foundation is currently setting up.
NEW AT IRB BARCELONA
Muriel Arimon
IRB Barcelona’s new Public Engagement and Science Education Officer has recently gone full circle. Muriel Arimon has all the qualities and experience of a scientist and has now decided to apply them to share what science is all about with the public. “I wish more scientists visited schools and got a kick out of kid’s excitement about science,” she says.
THE STORY
Ferran Aragón
Upon hearing the news about the refugee camps in Greece, this Senior Research Officer in the Mouse Mutant Core Facility was troubled. The 36-old-scientist was prompted to take action when he learnt about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people leaving the coasts of Turkey in search of a safer shore in Europe. “We have a moral duty to apply our scientific critical thinking to make society a better place,” he says.
COMING UP
3-5 OCT
 
Epithelial transitions and cell migration; Learning from development to tackle disease
INSTITUT D'ESTUDIS CATALANS, C. DEL CARME, 47, BARCELONA
Barcelona BioMed Conference. Chairs: Jordi Casanova, IRB Barcelona/IBMB-CSIC & Jean Paul Thiery, National University of Singapore (Singapore, Singapore).
Registration deadline: Sunday, 5 June 2016.
28-30 NOV
 
From genomes to structures: looking at big data with an atomic perspective
INSTITUT D'ESTUDIS CATALANS, C. DEL CARME, 47, BARCELONA
Barcelona BioMed Conference. Chairs: Maria J. Macias, IRB Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain) & Hartmut Oschkinat, Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (Berlin, Germany)
Registration deadline: Sunday, 30 July 2016.
 
Newsletter of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine
The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology
© IRB Barcelona 2016
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Authors: 
LUCA TANCREDI BARONE