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IRB Barcelona endorses young talent in the launch of the "la Caixa" Foundation-BIST Chemical Biology Programme




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The programme seeks to enhance the production of new drugs through a powerful research programme in Chemical Biology that will allow the creation of a chemical biology hub in Barcelona.

By supporting the appointment of two new Junior Group Leaders, the programme has facilitated the setup of two new research groups, one at IRB Barcelona and the other at IBEC.

IRB Barcelona's commitment to talented young female scientists takes shape with the appointment of Dr. Cristina Mayor-Ruiz, who will be leading a scientific project with wide applications in patients devoted to the innovative technique of targeted protein degradation.

Barcelona, 2 March  2021. Supported by "la Caixa" Foundation and the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), a new research programme on Chemical Biology aimed at developing new medicines was presented today.

The importance of the "la Caixa" Foundation-BIST Chemical Biology Programme lies in its mission to enhance research in Chemical Biology in Barcelona, a city with a powerful biopharmaceutical sector and the infrastructure necessary to become an international hub in this line of research, which has strong therapeutic potential.



Combining the quantitative techniques of chemistry with the medical relevance of biology, chemical biology is the science that studies the behaviour of small molecules in living systems. One of its main goals is to develop new treatments. 

 "Through this programme, "la Caixa" Foundation takes a step further in its firm commitment to ensuring that the results of health research are transferred to society. The institution has been supporting research of excellence for more than 30 years, with the conviction that promoting medical research is investing in people’s well-being," explains Mr. àngel Font, Corporate Director of Research and Health at "la Caixa" Foundation.

IRB Barcelona will play a leading role in the development of this programme thanks to the appointment of Dr. Cristina Mayor-Ruiz, whose new group (Targeted Protein Degradation and Drug Discovery Lab) will guide its research towards targeted protein degradation, an innovative technique with important therapeutic applications. 

Dr. Cristina Mayor-Ruiz holds a degree in Biotechnology from the University of Salamanca. She carried out her doctoral studies in Molecular Biology in Dr. Oscar Fernández-Capetillo’s lab at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), where she focused on mechanisms of resistance to cancer therapies. She then joined Dr. Georg Winter's lab as a postdoctoral fellow at the Research Center for Molecular Medicine (CeMM) in Vienna, Austria. Her work has given rise to eight scientific articles—in five of which she is first author—published in journals such as Nature Chemical Biology and Molecular Cell.

"Chemical biology has enormous transfer potential, especially for the production of new drugs, so it’s especially interesting to promote a powerful hub of this discipline in an environment like Barcelona. We redirect mechanisms against proteins that are of therapeutic interest, for example, in the treatment of cancer and, in particular, of the pancreas, for which there is virtually no treatment currently available," says Dr. Cristina Mayor-Ruiz.   

Dr. Irene Marco-Rius (Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC)) is also joining this programme. She will be leading her own research group in biology, establishing a collaborative framework in multidisciplinary research that will allow IRB Barcelona and IBEC to engage in close collaboration.

Dr. Irene Marco-Rius explains that her group will focus on the development of innovative molecular imaging technologies for the early diagnosis of diseases: "our body's cells adapt rapidly to their environment and change the way they get the nutrients and energy they need to survive. My group works on a technology that allows us to study these reactions."  

At IRB Barcelona we are most grateful to the "la Caixa" Foundation and BIST for their firm commitment to biomedical research of excellence, and we are especially happy to collaborate with IBEC in furthering this promising research programme and in promoting young talented female scientists.



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).