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IRB Barcelona receives the backing of ”la Caixa” Foundation to bring scientific innovation closer to patients




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In the framework of the CaixaResearch Validate call, IRB Barcelona will be receiving financial support from ”la Caixa” Foundation for one of its projects, as well as specialised training in key areas such as technology transfer and marketing.

The grant will allow the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria lab (Prof. Antonio Zorzano) to develop a project to study a new treatment for fatty liver.

The projects awarded in this call aim to provide solutions to prevalent diseases in society.

Barcelona, 12 July 2022. A new molecule for the treatment of fatty liver: this is the goal of a project headed by Prof. Antonio Zorzano’s lab (Head of the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria Laboratory at IRB Barcelona) that has been awarded financial support from the ”La Caixa” Foundation. The project will be led by Dr. Deborah Paola Naon, postdoctoral researcher in the same research group.

This initiative is one of the 15 leading biomedical research projects in Spain and Portugal to receive funding in the call of the 2022 CaixaResearch Validate Programme. These grants seek to foster the development of new products and companies in the life sciences and health sectors, as well as facilitate the transfer of research results to society and the market.A panel of European experts and professionals in the field of life and health sciences has selected these 15 projects from among the 110 submitted to the call. The funding programme will provide each of the selected projects up to €100,000 to validate their technologies and design a roadmap for evaluation.

Apart from the financial support, the researchers have already begun to receive specialised training in key areas for the development of their project, which will continue over the coming months.In addition, they will be accompanied by mentors, who will advise them during the preparation of evaluation and marketing plans, as well as actively monitor the projects and guide their development throughout the development of the programme.

Since 2015, ”la Caixa” Foundation has allocated €17 M to 171 innovative projects through the CaixaResearch Validate and Consolidate calls. To date, 29 spin-offs have been set up and more than €10 M has been secured from other sources of funding. 


Towards a new treatment for fatty liver

Dr. Deborah Paola Naon, postdoctoral researcher with the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria lab, led by Prof. Antonio Zorzano (also Professor at the University of Barcelona and CIBERDEM), will head the CaixaResearch Validate project to develop a potential treatment for fatty liver.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver is a chronic liver disease caused by excessive accumulation of fat in hepatocytes (liver cells). It affects one in four people worldwide and its prevalence in developed countries is on the rise. This condition evolves toward serious liver diseases, such as fibrosis, cirrhosis, and finally liver cancer, and it is thus considered a major public health problem in developed countries. The onset of non-alcoholic fatty liver is usually related to obesity and lifestyle, as well as ageing.

There are no pharmacological treatments for this condition to date. In this regard, specialists often recommend that patients make changes to their lifestyles and diets, and give them medication for comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension, or combined treatments with pharmaceuticals that are specifically antidiabetic and antioxidant. However, all these strategies have a limited effect.

In this project, the researchers are targeting a new mechanism. The molecule they are developing could become a first-line treatment to effectively treat advanced forms of fatty liver and improve patients ’quality of life.

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).