Five BIST Ignite call winners announced at Founding Conference yesterday

The five winning projects of the first BIST Ignite call will receive 20,000€ each to develop their proposals.

The BIST Founding Conference took place yesterday at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. The event brought together research experts from Catalonia and worldwide to discuss strategic research lines, have an open conversation about collaboration, and celebrate the founding of BIST.

In the framework of the conference, we announced the five winning proposals for the first BIST Ignite call, an initiative to promote multidisciplinary research through the collaboration of diverse teams from multiple research institutes, including BIST centres and external ones. The 200,000 € initiative takes place in two phases: in the first phase, the five selected projects that have been announced will receive 20,000 € each and by the end of 2017, the two projects with the highest potential will be selected to receive additional funding of 50,000 € each.

The panel of evaluators highlighted the quality of the unselected proposals and has encouraged the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology to find additional funding to support more projects.

The five winning projects announced yesterday were:
• Transport of small molecules and ions across lipid bilayers using synthetic carriers (CALIX4TRANS), a collaboration of Pau Ballester (ICIQ) and Manuel Palacín (IRB Barcelona)
• Near-Infrared Graphene Optoelectronic Devices with Atomically Controlled Nanostructures (Nirgraph), a collaboration of Aitor Mugarza (ICN2), Francisco Javier García de Abajo (ICFO) and Valerio Pruneri (ICFO)
• Pushing the Tumor’s Detection Limits in Positron Emission Tomography (PET): Developing Novel Materials with High-Z Value (ZPro), a collaboration of Federico Sánchez (IFAE) and Emilio Palomares (ICIQ)
• Towards the implementation of a multi-electrode array for retinal prosthesis (THEIA), a collaboration of David Merino (ICFO), Jose A. Garrido (ICN2), Mokhtar Chmeissani (IFAE) and Jeroni Nadal (Barraquer Ophthalmological Center)
• GenStorm: an integrated approach to visualize and model the spatial conformation of genes at the nanoscale level, a collaboration of Marie Victoire Neguembor (CRG) and Pablo Dans Puiggros (IRB Barcelona)

Project summaries:
CALIX4TRANS will focus on research on the frontiers of chemistry and biology, specifically on synthetic materials capable of transporting amino acids and small molecules through lipid barriers. Advances in this area may have applications in new methods for the controlled release of drugs at the cellular level and in the treatment of diseases such as cystic fibrosis and diabetes.

Nirgraph intends to apply a new manufacturing technique that would reduce the size of graphene nanostructures up to 1-2 nanometers – current techniques do not allow lowering beyond 5 nm – and their assembly at the atomic scale, thus facilitating their use in optoelectronic devices (with applications, for example, in the field of telecommunications).

ZPro will explore the application of a new material -perovskite- in the manufacture of high-precision tomography (PET), which is used in medicine for the detection of tumors and metastases, but also in the study of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, in cardiology, and in the research of the pharmacokinetics of drugs. Previous data suggest that this new material could increase detection accuracy by reducing the cost of current technologies.

THEIA combines the expertise and experience of BIST centers in microscopy, graphene and medical instrumentation to develop a new generation of retinal prostheses based on MEA (multi-electrode array) graphene devices. The high photosensitivity the material will allow great improvements to the vision of people treated with this type of technology, now very limited by the small number of electrodes that can be implanted in one of the current retinal chips. Graphene also offers advantages such as flexibility, biocompatibility, and transparency. The project, in which the Barraquer Ophthalmological Center is participating, aims to have a proof of concept ready for this new chip in three years.

GENSTORM combines high resolution microscopy with molecular modeling techniques to investigate how genes are physically organized within the cell nucleus and how this affects their function. This is the first super-resolution study of how some genes of great interest are organized during the process of cell differentiation. STORM images can provide new three-dimensional and quantitative information that will allow the integration of genomic and epigenomic data available to provide a new view of DNA and genes.

BIST congratulates all winners of this Ignite call and is excited to see how the projects develop.