With this programme, the “la Caixa” Foundation takes another step forward in its firm commitment to ensuring health research is transferred to society. For more than 30 years the institution has been committed to research excellence, convinced that promoting health research means investing in people’s wellbeing. Thus, support for research programmes and innovation is essential to promoting an ecosystem that fosters the search for new solutions and provides answers to major current and future challenges in the field of health,” says Àngel Font, Corporate Director of Research and Health at the “la Caixa” Foundation.Dr. Irene Marco-Rius explains that her group will focus on developing innovative molecular imaging technologies to diagnose diseases and assess early response to treatment. “The cells in our body adapt rapidly to their environment and change the way they get nutrients and energy needed to survive. My group works with technology that allows us to study these chemical reactions inside our bodies (or using tissue bioengineering), and to find markers of disease or drug responses before anatomical changes occur. For example, we can distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells inside the body using a magnetic resonance imaging device without any pain and without the need for a biopsy.” Dr. Marco-Rius adds that “biomedical research is very multidisciplinary, and a hub of excellence that fosters collaboration and the exchange of knowledge is needed to support scientific breakthroughs. In this respect, Barcelona as a city, and the “la Caixa” Foundation – BIST programme are key elements for us to continue our cutting-edge research“. Dr. Mayor-Ruiz stresses that “chemical biology has great translational potential, especially for the production of new drugs. Promoting a powerful hub focused on this discipline in an environment like Barcelona, which has a strong pharmaceutical presence, is therefore especially interesting.” Cristina Mayor-Ruiz’s new lab works on targeted protein degradation, an innovative technique with therapeutic applications. “What we do is use chemical entities (drugs) to reprogramme mechanisms that our cells naturally employ to degrade proteins. We redirect these mechanisms towards proteins that are of therapeutic interest. Examples include the treatment of cancer, specifically pancreatic cancer, for which there is currently practically no treatment available.”
The “la Caixa” Foundation and the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) are launching the “la Caixa” Foundation – BIST Chemical Biology Programme to advance research in chemical biology, and to develop new medicines. Two centres – the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, join the initiative with the incorporation of two new group leaders: Dr. Irene Marco-Rius (IBEC) and Dr. Cristina Mayor-Ruiz (IRB Barcelona). The researchers will lead their own chemical biology groups at their respective centres, establishing a framework for multidisciplinary research collaboration. The main objectives of the project are to launch a powerful research programme in chemical biology, and to attract talent through the creation of a hub in Barcelona focused on this discipline. With the collaboration of the two leading centres, IBEC and IRB Barcelona, multidisciplinary research and the establishment of an important hub in the city will be encouraged, opening the door to new chemical biology collaborations and projects.