In Vivo - January 2016

INVIVO - Newsletter of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine - IRB Barcelona
View the online version JANUARY 2016
In vivo goes digital
With this issue, IRB Barcelona's official newsletter transforms from a quarterly print edition into a more versatile bimonthly digital tool that we hope will make it easier to keep you informed of our vibrant scientific and professional activities. This new format will allow us to continue to deliver the same engaging news and stories, but in different multimedia formats, and more frequently. Make sure you sign up here to receive it every other month in your inbox, and tell us what you think. Enjoy!

The editors

Méndez and his group reveal a mechanism that could prevent cirrhosis
In a paper recently published online in Gastroenterology, ICREA Research Professor and IRB Barcelona Group Leader Raúl Méndez and his team describe a potential therapeutic target that could prevent angiogenesis in cirrhosis, the development of many abnormal blood vessels that cause gastrointestinal bleeding, one of the main complication in this disease. The key finding, says Méndez, is that "the development of pathological blood vessels can be stopped by interfering with CPEB4 proteins while positive vascularisation remains intact." Cirrhosis is the main risk factor for liver cancer.
Simulate this if you can
Modesto Orozco's lab has developed a new theoretical method to better understand the behaviour of bio-macromolecules, in particular nucleic acids, on a wide spatial-temporal scale with extreme accuracy. The platform - called Parmbsc1 - "provides good representations of the static and dynamic properties of DNA," as the researchers note in their paper published in Nature Methods. The data are stored in a freely available public website. In addition to other uses, the new method provides greater insight into how DNA is recognised by proteins that modify its function or by the drugs that bind to it to exert their therapeutic action, thereby furthering our understanding of the biological function of DNA.
EU funds 3D genomics with 3M €
“Multi-scale complex genomics” is the name of the project coordinated by Group Leader Modesto Orozco that just received funding from the EU's Horizon2020 Programme. IRB Barcelona is to coordinate this 3-year collaboration that has the goal to standardise experiments in 3D genomics and to develop a set of protocols, methods, and processes by which to exploit these data. The project falls within the call “e-Infrastructures for Virtual Research Environments.”
Severo Ochoa Award renewed
Four more years of excellence. The Secretary of State for I+D+I announced in October that the first eight ‘Severo Ochoa’ Centres of Excellence ─ whose strategic plans for 2016-2019 have been positively evaluated ─ have been awarded this distinction again. The award brings with it one million euros a year over four years. The renewal of the ‘Severo Ochoa’ Award by chance coincided with IRB Barcelona’s 10th anniversary celebration, a fitting way to mark the occasion.
“There has to be a marriage between the drug discovery part and the drug delivery part”
Among the speakers of the 27th Barcelona BioMed Conference, dedicated to the Blood-Brain Barrier, organised in collaboration with the BBVA Foundation, was William M. Partridge, a recognised authority who has been working since the '70s on this permeability barrier that separates and protects the Central Nervous System from circulating blood. His company, ArmaGen, is testing in two orphan diseases a new technology that transports drugs using engineered antibodies. If the approach works in orphan diseases, they will move on to more common diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
Serrano: “The best thing is the students’ enthusiasm”
The fourth edition of the IRB Barcelona PhD Symposium, “Science Fights Back”, took place on 12-13 November. Cell stress, ageing and senescence, homeostasis, photopharmacology, chromosegregation, and small molecule stabilisation were among the topics covered during this 2-day event organised entirely by 14 PhD students at the Institute.
Celebrating a decade of discovery in biomedical sciences
Over the past decade, IRB Barcelona has grown from a seedling in the minds and hearts of a handful of visionary people with big dreams to a thriving research institute that has taken up solid footing on the landscape of international research in the life sciences, and made vital contributions to the health and well-being of society. Visit the special page we have prepared to celebrate.
Launch of a new series
Scientists are the hearts and souls of research. In this new initiative, IRB Barcelona's researchers give a brief description of the science that they do and explain what motivates them and the impact their work may have. “Meet Our Scientists” comprises a series of 3-minute videos in an interview format produced in English and with subtitles available in Catalan and Spanish. Enjoy the first one with Roger Gomis!
24 new future scientists
For the fourth year in a row, hundreds of high school students applied for an intense programme that will make them spend their Saturdays at IRB Barcelona learning about biomedicine. The course began on 16 January with a class on cancer and chromatin. The day before, the Fundació Catalunya - La Pedrera welcomed the new inductees in an inauguration ceremony at Món San Benet. Welcome again, "crazy" students!
Dancing scientists honoured  
“Scientists dance for cancer, Alzheimer and diabetes research” won the 2015 Prisma Prize in science communication for "doing away with the stereotypes of scientists, and for its originality and bravery." These awards are considered among the most prestigious in Spain. The video has received more than a million views from more than 200 countries, and raised thousands of euros for research.
This year's winner is group leader at the CECAD in Cologne, David Vílchez
The first recipient of the Alumni Award, a prize that was announced upon the launch of the Alumni Network at the end of October 2015 is this young scientist from Barcelona who is now working in Germany. The jury, formed by a multidisciplinary panel of IRB Barcelona scientists, selected David “for his great aptitude for ground-breaking science throughout his career, making significant contributions to several fields, such as neurodegeneration, proteostasis, ageing, and stem cell biology.” They also highlighted his engagement in science communication activities, noting his proactive approach to participate in conferences and interviews to disseminate science.
Benjamí Oller wins one of the Premis Pioner 2015
The young chemist, who prepared his thesis in Ernest Giralt’s lab, has been awarded one of the five “Premis Pioner 2015” (Pioneer Prizes 2015), which are presented by CERCA, an organisation belonging to the Catalan Government. Entitled "From bee venom to blood-brain barrier shuttles. Development of minimized apamin derivatives for brain delivery of antibodies and other cargoes," his thesis addressed the use of derivatives of apamin - bee venom - as shuttle peptides to overcome the blood-brain barrier.
5th 'Vi per vida' wine tasting raises money for IRB Barcelona research
On 28 November, the Llobet-Guri Factory in Calella hosted around 400 people for a charity wine-tasting event to raise funds for metastasis research conducted at IRB Barcelona. Xavier Ayala founded the charity organisation “Vi per Vida” in May 2014 in memory of his father, who died of cancer. The charity holds wine-tasting events, and participates in many enology-related activities. These are “are great experiences because not only do we have fun and learn about good Catalan products but these gatherings also support cutting-edge research,” said Joan J. Guinovart.
IRB Barcelona researchers supported Movember Foundation
Once again, this past November IRB Barcelona scientific community participated to help the Movember Foundation, a global charity that collects almost 100 millions dollars every year and finances programmes focused on men related disease, such as prostate, testicular cancer, or diverse mental illnesses. Between IRB Barcelona and CRG moustaches they collected almost 250€. In the picture, some of the hairy protagonists the last day of the initiative, during the November Cool-off session.
IRB Barcelona helps
IRB Barcelona Holiday party raffle and bake-off raised 2400€ for charity
IRB Barcelona staff gathered in December to celebrate 2015's successful research. This year the proceeds coming from the traditional raffle and bake-off went to Casal dels Infants del Raval and to Arrels, the charity selected by our community. Thanks to the providers, who generously contributed prizes and to the students and teachers from the Mare de Déu de Montserrat School (Cornellá), our partner in the Escola Tandem Project. They joined the IRB Barcelona choir to sing songs they had prepared for the party.
Juan Miguel Cejalvo
Juan Miguel Cejalvo
He is an oncologist trained at the Hospital Clínico Universitario de Valencia, and has been selected to do his thesis at IRB Barcelona under the PhD for Medical Doctors (PhD4MD) programme in Roger Gomis’ Growth Control and Cancer Metastasis group. “Questions are raised when dealing with patients, but they are answered in the laboratory,” he says.
Emre Güney
Turkish-born Emre Güney joined IRB Barcelona in October 2015 as a Beatriu de Pinós Postodoctoral Fellow in Patrick Aloy’s Structural Bioinformatics and Network Biology lab. He has a challenging project. “My idea is to find a ‘magic drug’ that can cure Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.” And this is less exotic than it may sound to some.
Laura Nevola
After 7 intense years in Ernest Giralt’s lab, Laura is ready to undertake a new challenge in her career. “It’s time to fly on my own,” she says. Laura moved on to become Chief Scientific Officer at IDP Pharma, a drug discovery company, which develops medicines that use intrinsically disordered proteins (IDP), a very special class of proteins, as therapeutic targets.
Cell control by protein synthesis
Barcelona BioMed Seminars
Speaker: Lluis Ribas de Pouplana, IRB Barcelona
10-11 FEB
Scientific Communication: Getting Started Writing & Speaking
Barcelona BioMed Workshop
This training seminar aims to help students to improve their scientific English. The course introduces some basic concepts underlying the oral and written communication of science. To participate, please send an email to
19 FEB
Modelling the DNA Damage Response in mice
Barcelona BioMed Seminars
Speaker: Andrés López-Contreras, PhD, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
26 FEB
Developmental regulation of tissue morphogenesis and patterning in tubular organs
Barcelona BioMed Seminars
Speaker: Fernando Martin-Belmonte, Dept. Development and Regeneration Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CSIC-UAM) Madrid, Spain
3-5 OCT
Epithelial transitions and cell migration;
Learning from development to tackle disease
Chairs: Jordi Casanova, IRB Barcelona/IBMB-CSIC (Barcelona, Spain) Jean Paul Thiery, National University of Singapore (Singapore, Singapore). Deadline: 5 June 2016.
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