Five BIST researchers win prestigious ERC Advanced Grants

By March 31, 2020January 4th, 2021BIST, CRG, IBEC, ICIQ, ICN2, IRB Barcelona, Media

• Ben Lehner (CRG), Xavier Trepat (IBEC), Rubén Martín (ICIQ), Clivia Sotomayor-Torres (ICN2) and Eduard Batlle (IRB Barcelona) will collectively receive 12.5 million euros to advance their frontier research in areas such as health and sustainability

• BIST researchers have obtained 50% of the grants awarded in this call to Catalonia (5 of 10) and 35% of all grants in Spain (5 of 14)

• With those awarded today, BIST researchers have received a total of 133 ERC Grants since the program was created (2007)

Five researchers from the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) have been awarded the prestigious ERC’s Advanced Grants to allow them to advance their frontier research projects in the next five years. Professors Ben Lehner, from the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Xavier Trepat, from the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), Rubén Martín, from the Catalan Institute of Chemical Research (ICIQ), Clivia Sotomayor-Torres, from the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) and Eduard Batlle, from the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona (IRB Barcelona), will collectively receive 12.5 million euros —€ 2.5M each— to advance their research in health, energy, and environmental sustainability topics.

This is the third ERC Grant awarded to Ben Lehner, ICREA professor and leader of the Genetic Systems group, at the CRG. With this latest grant, Lehner will develop the MUTANOMICS project to advance research on the 3D structure of proteins. The structure of macromolecules, although poorly understood, is known to be closely linked to their functions. To overcome the limitations of available technologies, Professor Lehner’s group has developed a new method to obtain data on the 3D structure of proteins by measuring the activity of various genetic mutations of molecules.

At IBEC, Xavier Trepat, ICREA professor and leader of the Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics group, today receives his fourth ERC Grant to allow him to develop the EpiFold project. This project focuses on the study of the mechanical properties of the epithelial tissue (skin) 3D structure, the foundations for a pioneering technology called “epifluidics”, which will allow the design of biological robots. The project aims to reveal the mechanical principles by which the epithelial tissue adopts and sustains its shape, in order to reproduce and use its properties —especially the self-regenerating properties of the epithelium— to design biohybrid devices. (More information)

Rubén Martín, ICREA professor and group leader at ICIQ, has also been awarded three previous ERC Grants. The one he received today will support the NOVOFLAT project, whose objective is to create a new and general method to forge saturated carbon-carbon bonds through a triple catalytic cascade. The new method will allow the forging of carbon-carbon bonds with improved flexibility, practicality, predictable site-selectivity, preparative utility, stereocontrol and nearly zero waste generation. The assembly of carbon atoms is requiered in many drug production processes, which this new technique will help improve. (More information)

ICREA Professor Clivia Sotomayor-Torres, leader of the Phonic and Photonic Nanostructures group, at ICN2, received today her first ERC Grant to develop the LEIT project, which aims to use the properties of phonons to transmit information using small amounts of energy . Phonons are quanta of lattice vibration that can be used as information carriers and their transmission requires a lower amount of energy than present systems using electrons and/or light as carriers. The drawback is that phonons suffer phonon-phonon scattering and losses in waveguides. In the LEIT project, Professor Sotomayor and her group will design new crystalline structures that, thanks to a unique combination of characteristics, will allow filtering, reflection and confinement of phonons, reducing losses and extending the useful life of the phonons to transmit signals. (More information)

This is the fifth ERC Grant received by Eduard Batlle, ICREA professor and leader of the IRB Barcelona Colorectal Cancer Laboratory. With the Residual CRC project, Batlle and his team will study the processes that allow hidden cells from a primary colorectal cancer tumor to remain inactive and undetectable for months or years, spread throughout the body before patients undergo surgical excision, and cause up to 40% relapse. The IRB Barcelona Colorectal Cancer Laboratory has a pioneering study model based on organoids, which are cultivable “mini-cancers”, allowing the study of the different mechanisms these cells use to dislodge the primary tumor, evade the immune system, invade another organ and generate a new tumor. (More information)

In this call for ERC Advanced Grants, 185 projects were selected from among 1,881, which together will receive more than 450 million euros. Among those selected, 14 researchers working in Spain, and out of them them 10 pursuing their research in Catalonia, including the five BIST awardees.

With the grants awarded today, 74 BIST researchers have received a total of 133 ERC Grants of the various categories (Starting, Advanced, Consolidator, Synergy and Proof of Concept).


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