The ERC supports the “SpaceClones” project to understand the clonal evolution of tumors

Xavier Rovira Clavé, currently a researcher at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, has been awarded the “Starting Grant” from the European Research Council (ERC) to carry out his project “SpaceClones” at the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC). This project aims to delve deeper into the understanding of tumor clonal evolution and its impact on cancer development, as well as its response to therapies. 

Tumor clonal evolution is a highly complex biological process that pertains to how cancer cells progress and transform within a tumor over time. These cancerous tumors primarily originate from genetic mutations that convert normal cells into cancer cells. As these cancer cells replicate and proliferate, they have the ability to accumulate new genetic mutations over time, leading to the diversification of cells within the tumor. Understanding this clonal evolution is crucial for designing more effective cancer therapies and predictive tools for assessing clinical outcomes. 

Dr. Xavier Rovira Clavé
Dr. Xavier Rovira Clavé

The “SpaceClones” project, proposed by Dr. Xavier Rovira Clavé for development at IBEC, has been granted an extraordinary allocation of 2.5 million euros over five years. Its objective is to develop high-throughput and spatial perturbation assays to obtain causal understanding on how cancer cell clones spatially organize to drive solid tumour development, 

To address the challenges in understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms behind clonal behaviors in tumors, the “SpaceClones” project employs an innovative approach that combines highly-multiplexed imaging, in vitro and in vivo tumour models, cell engineering, super-resolution microscopy, combinatorial low-volume liquid handling, and algorithms for deconstruction of spatial patterns. 

The project’s originality and novelty have enabled it to secure extraordinary funding of an additional €1 million, in addition to the standard €1.5 million from the call, to acquire a state-of-the-art Multiplexed Ion Beam Imaging microscope system at the international forefront. This acquisition will enable IBEC, in collaboration with other planned additions, to establish a unique high-resolution platform for the analysis and characterization of metabolites at the single-cell level. 

Dr. Xavier Rovira Clavé, with extensive experience in the development and application of high-throughput, single-cell, and multiplexed imaging assays, as well as data analysis tools to elucidate molecular pathways contributing to cancer and infectious diseases, leads this ambitious project promising to shed light on the complexity of tumor evolution. 

The ERC’s “Starting Grant” is a prestigious grant aimed at young and talented researchers in the early stages of their independent scientific careers. It is designed to fund innovative and ambitious research projects addressing cutting-edge scientific questions. Beneficiaries receive substantial funding to establish their own research groups and conduct high-level research for a period of up to five years. This grant is awarded based on scientific excellence and the originality of the proposed project and is highly competitive in the European arena.