IRB Barcelona sponsors the first symposium of leading Spanish scientists who use Drosophila in their biomedical studies


More than 40 scientists from 11 centres bear out the strength of the science performed with the fruit fly in Spain

Scientists from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), Jordi Casanova and Cayetano González, CSIC and ICREA research professors respectively, have for the first time brought together more than 40 leading Spanish scientists of international standing that use Drosophila melanogaster to further biomedicine. The 1st Spanish Conference Series on the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology of Drosophila is being held in Aiguablava, Girona, until Friday 28 September.

Drosophila melanogaster, popularly known as the fruit fly or vinegar fly, has been used to determine the bases of biology. This tiny insect lies behind the work of six Nobel laureates in medicine and is now one of the key models in biomedical labs throughout the world. For historical reasons, the Drosophila fly has made a fundamental contribution to the progress of science in Spain and international recognition of the same. “In spite of this strength, never before has an event been organised to bring together all the experts in this field in Spain. We are covering a historical gap and show the international dimension of our research”, explains Dr. González, head of the Cell Division Laboratory at IRB Barcelona, which is developing the “FliesCan” project, an initiative that has received funding of 2 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC) to further our understanding of cancer using the Drosophila fly.

The symposium seeks to identify synergies and boost opportunities for collaboration between research groups belonging to 11 centres, of which five are in Barcelona (IRB Barcelona, Center for Genomic Regulation, Institut de Biologia Molecular de Barcelona, Institut de Biologia Evolutiva and Universitat de Barcelona), three in Madrid (Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CBM), Instituto Cajal and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), plus Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante, Centro Andaluz de Biología del Desarrollo, in Seville, and CICbioGUNE, in Bilbao.

The congress involves expert groups in cutting-edge fields such as epigenetics and genomics, proliferation and tumour formation, and cell migration and cancer metastasis. Until only a few years ago, almost all research in Spain was undertaken in the CBM, thanks to Antonio García Bellido, who, in 1969, started pioneering studies with this insect. “There are now groups all around Spain and IRB Barcelona has amassed several Drosophila labs that cover a wide variety of biomedical fields” explains Dr. Casanova. Casanova heads the Morphogenesis in Drosophila group, which studies the development of this insect, with special attention on cell migration and its relation with metastatic processes in cancer.

The researchers aim to hold the Spanish Conference Series on the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology of Drosophila periodically. The conferences are part of an ambitious project at IRB Barcelona headed by Jordi Casanova, Cayetano González and Marco Milán, called the FlyCenter. This interdisciplinary initiative aims to optimize technical resources and scientific platforms for groups working with Drosophila, to organise international meetings, and to perform projects in collaboration with centres worldwide to model human diseases in Drosophila.