In Vivo - July 2016

INVIVO - Newsletter of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine - IRB Barcelona
Can't see this properly? Click here JULY 2016
Nostrum BioDiscovery, a company based on cutting-edge bioinformatics technologies to design drugs, is born
On 12 July, IRB Barcelona and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - National Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS) presented a new biotech company that applies computational simulation to help new drugs and biotech molecules to reach the market. The creation of this spin-off has been made possible also thanks to the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation of the University of Barcelona and the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), and was driven by the Botín Foundation, whose technology transfer programme has provided Modesto Orozco's group support and assessment over five years and invested half a million euros of start-up capital in the company through its Mind the Gap Programme. "Computational simulation can significantly reduce the drug development process,” says Orozco.
Two proteins safeguard skin stem cells
A study led by ICREA researcher and Group Leader Salvador Aznar Benitah has identified two proteins that are fundamental to conserve skin stem cells. The proteins Dnmt3a y Dnmt3b are crucial for the self-renewal of skin stem cells as they trigger the first step of their genetic programme. “Without them, the stem cells collapse and disappear from the tissue,” explains Aznar Benitah, who heads the Stem Cells and Cancer lab at the Institute. “Given that these proteins activate gene expression enhancers through DNA methylation, it would be of interest to study them in cancer cells to determine whether they participate in tumour development,” he concludes.
Microtubules drive the formation of axons
Group Leader Jens Lüders and scientists in his lab have described a new molecular mechanism that plays a key role in forming and maintaining axons, the cellular extensions that characterise neurons. Studying hippocampi in mice, the researchers observed that differentiated neurons use a molecular complex, which until now has only been known to play a role in cell division, to generate new microtubules within their axons. Understanding how microtubules form and how they are organised in a complex and structured network within neurons is key to making advances in neuroscience.
The absence of a protein spurs muscle aging in mice
Stimulating Mitofusin 2 activity could provide a good strategy to improve sarcopenia, a condition associated with old age, characterised by muscle weakening. A study has discovered that Mitofusin 2 is required to preserve healthy muscles in mice. Researchers indicate that this protein could serve as a therapeutic target to improve sarcopenia. "Sarcopenia prevents some elderly people from going about their everyday lives," explains Antonio Zorzano, head of IRB Barcelona's Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria lab and UB professor. "If we want to strengthen the health of the elderly, then this problem has to be addressed," he stresses.
Biophysical Journal
Discovery of molecular protection linked to Kennedy's disease
A self-protective mechanism that involves the androgen receptor, a protein activated by the hormone testosterone, delays the effects of Kennedy's disease. In this rare condition, the accumulation of androgen receptor fibers damages muscle cells and motor neurons, and they progressively die. Scientists have studied the protein in collaboration with one of the main Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facilities in Europe, at the University of Florence. "This is the first study in a series in which we can begin to explain how we think Kennedy’s disease develops and propose therapeutic solutions," declares Xavier Salvatella, ICREA researcher and head of the Molecular Biophysics Lab. (Androgen receptor structure animation by Busra Topal. In red, leucines induce the glutamine chain to form a helix, depicted in blue. The leucines protect against aggregation)
H2020 funding backs European future leaders in biomedicine
From July 2016 until 2020, four European cities, Barcelona (Spain), Copenhagen (Denmark), Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and Milan (Italy), will each host a yearly 3-day international symposium on biomedicine organised by and for young biomedical scientists. Entitled EuropeaN Academy for BiomedicaL SciencE (ENABLE) and coordinated by IRB Barcelona, this project has received a grant of €500,000 through the Science with and for Society, “Celebrating European Science” section of the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme.
“It is an exciting challenge for young researchers”
One of the faces behind Horizon 2020’s ENABLE project is that of Clara Caminal, Head of the Academic & International Scientific Affairs Office. She sees the coordination of this European project as “a great success” for the Institute and “a significant achievement” in her career. She is convinced that taking part in the organisation of scientific conferences, the focus of ENABLE, will be “a tremendous experience” for young researchers. “It'll be an opportunity for them to gain valuable experience in organising an international symposium with European partners,” she adds.
Interview with bibliometrician IGNASI LABASTIDA
IRB Barcelona goes full on open access
Open access is the future of scientific publications. H2020 funding and the 2011 Spanish Science Law require scientists to make their research freely available. In May, the Institute signed an agreement with the University of Barcelona (UB) that gives IRB Barcelona access to their repository. Ignasi Labastida, a physicist by training, works at the Learning and Research Resources Centre (CRAI) at the UB and is in charge of the publication storehouse. He explains the importance of the initiative and what to do to make sure researchers' scientific production is freely accessible.
15 years of ICREA excellence
The Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) is celebrating 15 years of existence. Created to make it easier for top research centres to attract talent to Catalonia, ICREA has become a reference in Europe and a seal of quality. In vivo asked Group Leaders Maria Macias, Roger Gomis, Xavier Salvatella, and Lluís Ribas de Pouplana what ICREA means to them and how it has helped them pursue their research. Listen to the podcast.
Discover IRB Barcelonas's best hits of 2015
IRB Barcelona's 2015 Annual Report is now online. The time to summarise the Institute's main achivements of the year has arrived. With stories and videos on a range of scientific developments, explore and discover the science and events that have marked our tenth year.
“In the future, each lab will have its own biostatistician”
Core Facility Manager Camille Stephan-Otto Attolini has no doubt. Biostatistics is here to stay. And in the near future, she thinks, each lab will have its own expert in biostatistics or bioinformatics, because “they are in charge of bridging experimental data, statistical methodology and biology,” she explains. In the fifth installment of the series Meet Our Scientists, you will meet this Mexican mathematician who spent part of her career in the US and Germany before landing at IRB Barcelona in 2010.
Andreu Mas-Colell assumes presidency of BIST
The Board of Trustees of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), a joint interdisciplinary scientific initiative comprising six major research centres in Catalonia, agreed in June to appoint Andreu Mas-Colell, Professor of Economics at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, as their president. The outgoing president, Rolf Tarrach, is stepping down from the position after leading the institute through its first year. In July, BIST executives also presented the first lines of research the centres will focus on together, which are characterised by a strong multidisciplinary approach. Read more about them here.
“If you want to be successful in obtaining a grant, broaden your portfolio when you are a PhD student”
One of young scientists’ main worries is how to obtain funding to continue their research as postdocs. IRB Barcelona’s Research and Academic Administration Department is here to help them. In the most recent workshop they organised, “How to be successful in your postdoctoral fellowship application”, held on 12 July, in vivo approached the Irish chemist Eimer Tuite, Senior Lecturer in Biophysical Chemistry at Newcastle University (UK), and evaluator of Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) to learn some tricks that might be useful for young researchers interested in applying for one of these grants.
“An enriching, formative and constructive exprience,” students say
The students enrolled in the second edition of A Future in Biomedicine have just completed their academic year at IRB Barcelona. On 7 June, the 5 scientists presented the research projects they carried out at IRB Barcelona during their 8-month internships. While pipetting in the lab, they continued to study for their last year of their degree at their respective universities. Enric Ros, who worked in Xavier Salvatella's lab, and Anna Ferrer, who joined Raúl Méndez's lab, talk to in vivo about their journey.
La Caixa-Severo Ochoa / IRB Barcelona International PhD Programme
Marta Frigolé and Diana Domínguez receive their certificates
On 28 June, the ”la Caixa” Foundation held a ceremony at the Caixaforum in Barcelona to award certificates to the beneficiaries of the 2015 “La Caixa-Severo Ochoa/IRB Barcelona International PhD Programme” call. This year's recipients were Marta Frigolé, from Antoni Riera's Research Unit on Asymmetric Synthesis, and Diana Domínguez, from Salva Aznar's Stem Cells and Cancer lab. Check out some pictures of the day here.
Youth & Science
BIYSC attracts 66 European teenagers
The Barcelona International Youth Science Challenge (BIYSC), a new programme run by the Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation, brought together students with a passion for science in research centres across Catalonia. IRB Barcelona offered them the project “From DNA to protein related diseases”, which saw the participation of Group Leader Modesto Orozco, Sanja Zivanovic, Manuel Cañete, Raquel García, Joan Pous and Maria Carretero.
Crazy Club meets CRISPR
Participants of the four editions of the Crazy About Biomedicine programme met on 8 July in a 'Crazy Club' session. These meetings have the objective of maintaining connections among the ‘crazies’ throughout the years. Elena Sancho spoke about the hot topic of CRISPR, and a selection of students discussed what steps they took after their crazy experience. The session wrapped up with a brainstorming exercise to identify future initiatives. Check out these photos of the event.
Scientists on the street
On 18 and 19 June, the 10th edition of the Barcelona Science Fair opened its doors to thousands of citizens. IRB Barcelona's Ignacio Castrillón and Sara Cano offered a workshop to explain how new medicines to treat obesity and diabetes type II are discovered; Lada Murcia and Celia Santos presented an activity on “Women and science”, and a workshop called “Create your own monster”, to explain how the genetic code works.
111-kilometers worth of sweat for science
IRB Barcelona scientists are sporty folk. Travis Stracker, and his lab members Cristina Jauset, Pablo Pérez, Berta Terré, Sandra Segura and Enric Ros from Xavier Salvatella's lab joined Carlos Romero (the founder of the charity initiative Swim Against the Current) in a team that collectively swam and biked for 12 hours. The event took place on 11 June at the Club Natación Granollers. Of the 14 teams that participated, IRB Barcelona's athletes arrived third, having swam and spun a total of 111.2 km. Their objective was to raise awareness about cancer and metastasis research at IRB Barcelona.
eduard Batlle
“In 5 years’ time we will have treatments for colon metastasis”
On 14 June, the Lilly Foundation presented group leader and ICREA scientist Eduard Batlle with the 2016 Preclinical Research Prize. The second recipient of the prize was Luis Alberto Moreno Aznar, full professor at the University of Zaragoza (right in the picture). Chaired by the Secretary of State for Research, Develop-ment and Innovation, Carmen Vela, the official ceremony was held at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Madrid on 14 June.
Macarena Sánchez
The Catalan network in biotechnology rewards Gate2Brain platform
On 8 July, Marcarena Sánchez from Ernest Giralt's lab, presented Gate2Brain, a platform to produce Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) peptide shuttles. This technology, which Macarena developed together with Meritxell Teixidó, consists of peptide shuttles that can carry therapeutic cargoes across the BBB. The Catalan Reference Network in Biotechnology (XRB) chose the project as one of the finalists in its "Can of ideas" prize.
joan massagué
Triple honours for the president of IRB Barcelona's EAB
Director of the Sloan Kettering Institute and President of IRB Barcelona's External Advisory Board, Joan Massagué, has received 3 awards in the last few weeks. The Catalan Biology Society (SCB) recognised him for his professional trajectory; the Gresol Foundation acknow-ledged him for his ground-breaking contributions to research on cancer and metastasis; and the Catalan Government awarded him with the International Catalan Prize for "spectacular advances" in cancer studies.
Eva Novoa
“Multidisciplinary training is the best asset I took with me from IRB Barcelona”
Just few days ago, Eva received yet another prize in her young but promising career. The Catalan Society of Biology presented her with the Young Researchers Award for her PhD thesis, which she defended in December 2012. She was one of the first students to complete a PhD as part of the ”la Caixa”/IRB Barcelona International PhD Programme in Biomedicine. Six months ago, she moved to Sydney, Australia to join the Garvan Institute of Medical Research as a Senior Research Officer.
Peter Jung
“No matter how experienced you are, what you don’t know is more than what you do know”
He was Postdoctoral Fellow in Eduard Batlle’s Colorectal Cancer lab from 2009 until the end of last year. Now he is Principal Investigator at the Institute of Pathology Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. This institute is a partner site of the DKTK Cancer Consortium, coordinated by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). “Life and science are an on-going learning process with new challenges to encounter with every new project,” he says.
16 SEP
Alumni of Excellence Award 2016 ceremony
Recipient: David Vilchez, CECAD-Cluster of Excellence in Cologne (Germany)
4-11-18 OCT
IRB Barcelona's new PhD students induction course
This 3-part course introduces new students to IRB Barcelona, including an overview of facilities and resources and services provided by the admin team.
3-5 OCT
Epithelial transitions and cell migration; Learning from development to tackle disease
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.
Subscribe Contact us View online Unsubscribe