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in vivo October 2011 | Issue 16

NEWSLETTER OF THE INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH IN BIOMEDICINE

IRB Barcelona one of eight centres awarded “Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence” distinction he Institute for Research in Biomedicine

T

The Severo Ochoa award will allow IRB Bar-

goal of the Met Project is ultimately to improve

is one of eight research centres in Spain

celona to launch the Metastasis Project, or “Met

biological understanding and treatment of metas-

to be granted recognition as a “Severo

Project,” a cross-disciplinary initiative that will

tasis in order to reduce patient suffering.

Ochoa Centre of Excellence.” This award brings

draw on and fortify IRB Barcelona’s strengths in

with it funding of € 4,000,000 over four years to

this important area for biomedical research. Over

each of the centres.

90% of cancer deaths are due to metastasis. The

“We are grateful to the MICINN for recognizing our project and for the opportunities that this will open up for us,” says IRB Barce-

On October 5, the Ministry of Science and

lona Director Joan J. Guinovart. “We have fought

Innovation (MICINN) announced the provi-

hard to get this distinction and much work has

sional decision of the awards corresponding to

been channelled into defining the future plan

the 2011 call, its first edition, which is part of

for the centre. This award of excellence has been

framework of the “Programa de Fortalecimiento

achieved thanks to constant dedication and hard

Institucional” of the National R+D+I Plan (2008-

work of the entire IRB Barcelona community

2011).

since the institute was set up six years ago.”

National Research Award to Giralt

A new spin off

fication and structure of peptides and proteins,

One of the parameters by which IRB Bar-

as well as his contributions to advancing the

celona measures its excellence is its capacity

study of the function of proteins involved in the

to launch successful technology transfer

development of Alzheimer’s disease and schizo-

endeavours.

Group Leader Ernest Giralt has received one of

phrenia, and more recently the use of peptides

Group Leader Roger Gomis has had a

in nanobiotechnology to create remote-con-

new idea. His goal is to translate his scien-

trolled drugs.

tific results into concrete improvements for

Spain’s highest honours: the National Research

The aim of the National Research Awards is

current breast cancer metastasis treatments

Award. The €100,000 prize, given by the Min-

to recognize the work of Spanish scientists and

- and so in July he founded Supragen, IRB

istry of Research, recognizes Ernest’s contribu-

their contributions to advancing science, knowl-

Barcelona’s third spin-off company. To find

tions to the design, synthesis, controlled modi-

ege of humankind, and human progress.

out more, see page 3.

02

Science for teachers

03

ERC Grant to Orozco

06

Building Alba

07

On the Spot: Tony Hunter


IN FOCUS

First colon stem cells grown in a dish pressing stem cells proliferate and move along

explains – data yielded from mouse model sys-

the vertical crypt axis while they differentiate

tems might not fully apply to human stem cell

into the mature lineages of the colon. As they

biology and human tissue homeostasis.”

do so, these cells progressively lose expression

IMAGE: BATTLE LAB

In a world where harvesting colorectal stem

of the EPHB2 receptor and start expressing

cells was not possible, a ‘recipe’ for isolating

Ephrin ligands. The team of researchers led by

and maintaining them ex vivo may provide a

Eduard Batlle has taken advantage of the greater

universal tool for gastrointestinal research in

presence of the EPHB2 receptor in stem cells to

general, and also for research into several bowel

purify them from human colon mucosa biop-

disorders, including colorectal cancer. Not in

sies. Afterwards, and using culture conditions

vain, researchers in the field have spent years

that simulate the intestinal stem cell niche, the

chieving colon stem cell growth in

attempting to grow intestinal tissue in vitro.

scientists have managed to grow these stem cells

vitro has been no easy feat and may

Until now, the wide range of growth media and

in vitro for more than five months.

Human colonic spheroids grown in a 3D in vitro tissue culture system.

A

alternative to the use of mouse tissue, since – he

bring the revolutionary paradigm of

lab conditions tested have not been successful,

Long before the use of colon stem cells to

regenerative medicine closer. By defining the

mainly because most cells in this tissue are ter-

create custom-made organs in clinical regenera-

growth requirements of colon stem cells, sci-

minally differentiated and thus have lost their

tive medicine, which is where all the hope and

entists with IRB Barcelona’s Colorectal Cancer

proliferative capacity.

some of the hype lie, Batlle’s study is a mile-

Lab have created a method to isolate these cells

When examined closely, the internal surface

stone. “We expect there to be many more ex-

from tissue and grow them as undifferentiated

of the colon is lined with millions of differen-

citing applications for this achievement, which

multipotent cells outside the human body.

tiated colon cells, which extract salt and water

will mark a step forward in scientists’ abilities

Peter Jung, first author of the study pub-

from solid waste to be eliminated. Surrounding

to innovate in colorectal cancer research,” con-

lished online on 4 September in Nature Medi-

these cells, the epithelium forms cavities, the

cludes Eduard.

cine, believes that the possibility of growing

so-called intestinal crypts. At the bottom of the

human colon stem cells in vitro is a “welcome

crypts, undifferentiated EPHB2 receptor-ex-

.

ITZIAR CASTANEDO

EMBL and IRB Barcelona join forces for teachers

O

ne of the biggest challenges facing

Each year they choose an institute within an

plemented by hands-on exercises in the lab, led

high school science teachers is to

EMBL member state in which to set up a course;

by Sofía Araujo and PhD student volunteers, as

keep up with the dizzying pace of

this year it’s IRB Barcelona’s turn.

well as a look at the latest microscopy techniques

discoveries being made in today’s research labs

The institutes will collaborate to hold a

our researchers use to do their work. Activities

and teach these topics in such a way that they

three-day workshop, called “On the Fly: A

will also include a tour of online resources and a

create a passion for science among their students.

practical course for teachers on development in

role-play discussion about the advantages of us-

It’s a daunting task and teachers often have to

Drosophila melanogaster,” on November 24-

ing animal models such as the fruitfly in today’s

do it with little or no help. Research institutes

26, which will give teachers

biomedical research.

are becoming increasingly aware of the vital role

from across Catalonia the

The ultimate goal is to arm

they can play in bridging the gap between science

chance to work alongside

the teachers with the knowledge

and schools, and are launching teacher training

our scientists to explore

and tools to take today’s research

initiatives. IRB Barcelona has now joined forces

the latest discoveries and

back to their schools, and to set up

with the European Molecular Biology Labo-

techniques in fruit fly

a network of teachers and scientists

ratory (EMBL) to do just that. Through their

research. Talks by Cay-

who can stay in contact to help

highly successful European LearningLab for the

etano González, Jordi

identify and implement successful

Life Sciences (ELLS) programme, EMBL offers

Casanova and Marco

approaches in the classroom.

hands-on workshops for teachers across Europe.

Milán will be com-

02

in vivo

October 2011

| Issue 16

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Supragen, a new spin-off for metastasis

T

here are two key questions that Roger Gomis, ICREA researcher and head of the Growth Control and Cancer Metas-

tasis Laboratory at IRB Barcelona, asked himself

before setting up Supragen, the third biotech PHOTO: L.T. BARONE

company to come from IRB Barcelona laboratory benches. After identifying a gene that can predict the

Group Leader Roger Gomis launched Supragen, a spin-off dedicated to metastasis research, in July.

risk of metastasis of breast cancer to the bone, he wondered: “are these results strong enough

at the same time,” explains Roger. First, it will

Technology transfer and the generation of

develop a series of tools to diagnose breast cancer

wealth and well-being is one of the main ob-

patients with a high risk of suffering metastasis

jectives of IRB Barcelona, as expressed in the

to the bone, the most common kind of metastasis

institute’s statutes, and it can also be seen as

for this type of tumour. This will allow doctors

an obligation that researchers have to society.

to design and modify current treatments to adapt

IRB Barcelona’s Head of Innovation Cristina

to the risk of each

Horcajada explains that “Roger Gomis’ spin-

patient, thereby im-

off is an example of how top-class research can

proving their quality

reach patients to increase their well-being and

of life. In addition,

also how it can generate economic wealth for

the company will

society.” Supragen joins the biotech companies

develop new thera-

Omnia Molecular, founded in 2005 by Lluís

peutic molecules that

Ribas de Pouplana (IRB Barcelona-ICREA), and

inhibit the gene whose activity is required for

Iproteos, founded in 2011 by Ernest Giralt (IRB

metastasis to bone. Supragen is supported by base

Barcelona-University of Barcelona) and Teresa

Supragen seeks to develop a diagnostic kit

capital from the founding partners and expects to

Tarragó (IRB Barcelona).

and new treatments for breast cancer metastasis.

close the first round of negotiations for capital

“It is directed toward two market opportunities

risk funding this October.

to change or improve current strategies for treating cancer metastasis?” The answer was a definite, ‘yes’. “What’s the fastest way, then, to translate these results into real treatments for patients?” After consulting with experts from biotech companies and pharma, discussions with the Innovation Department at IRB Barcelona – and negotiations between

❝Are

these results strong enough to change or improve current strategies for treating cancer metastasis?❞ Roger Gomis, IRB Barcelona

the two institutions involved, IRB Barcelona and ICREA – Roger took the plunge to set up Supragen in mid July.

.

SONIA ARMENGOU

ERC Advanced Grant to Orozco

More to come...

M

T

ore good news for IRB Barcelona

researchers who wish to pursue frontier re-

researchers this autumn. On 14

search in Europe. The ERC encourages pro-

October, Modesto Orozco, Mo-

posals that cross disciplinary boundaries, pio-

.

he newly-founded spin-off company Iproteos, launched in June by IRB Barcelona researcher Teresa Tarragó, and

Ernest Giralt, coordinator of the Chemistry and

lecular Modelling and Bioinformatics Group

neering ideas that address new and emerging

Leader, and director of the Joint Research

fields and applications that introduce uncon-

Molecular Pharmacology Programme, is already

Programme in Computational Biology with

ventional, innovative approaches.

reaping the fruits of its innovation-based science.

the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, was

The company has been awarded a €1000

awarded an Advanced Grant from the Euro-

accesit (special mention) Young Entrepreneur

pean Research Council (ERC). Modesto was

Prize from ASEBIO, Genoma España, SEBiot

selected from a pool of 2284 applicants, and

and SEBBM. Teresa collected the award at the

was chosen in the category of Physical Sci-

Entrepreneur Forum held in September.

ences and Engineering, a domain to which

Iproteos develops a new generation of drugs,

usually around 45% of the budget is destined.

based on peptides. Traditional, small size drugs

His proposal focused on advanced multiscale

often show important side-effects, whereas pro-

simulation of DNA, and will be funded up to

tein-based drugs are more difficoult to handle.

€ 3,000,000 for the next five years.

Peptides, on the contrary, are more adequate, due

Since 2007, ERC grants support individual

.

to their lower toxicity and higher specificity.

in vivo

October 2011

| Issue 16

03


Excellence awarded again by ”La Caixa” Foundation

O

n 18 July, forty budding and some-

our ten awardees actually joined the institute in

Garmendia, she thanked IRB Barcelona and ”la

what nervous young scientists took

September 2010, after an intense selection proc-

Caixa” for providing her and her fellow stu-

part in an award ceremony in the

ess involving about 250 applicants. Recruited

dents with the opportunity to spend the next

presence of Science Minister Cristina Garmen-

from eight countries, these rookies have settled

four years working towards a PhD in a highly

dia to celebrate their admission into the ”la

well into the institute and have further contrib-

stimulating and vibrant environment. She ac-

Caixa” International PhD Programme in Bio-

uted to its already considerable international

knowledged the social responsibility of this fi-

medicine.

dimension.

nancial institution by making these fellowships

The ”la Caixa” Foundation has funded PhD

Constanze Braasch, one of the awardees,

fellowships at IRB Barcelona since 2008, in rec-

was the voice of the new recruits. Speaking in

ognition of the institute’s excellence in research,

front of a packed audience and in the presence

the internationality of its scientific teams, the

of dignitaries from ”la Caixa” and Minister

quality of its technical equipment, and the inter-

possible. Constanze’s enthusiastic reception of this recognition reflects the conviction of these young people that they have stepped onto an exceptional launch pad for their future in biomedicine.

disciplinarity of its projects.

IRB Barcelona and ”la Caixa” have recently

IRB Barcelona receives ten four-year fel-

extended the programme to include a new call

lowships through this programme and is one of

for the 2012-2013 academic year, an agreement

four centres to benefit from this accolade. The

welcomed by the scientific community as an

other scientific institutions to share the award

example of support from the banking sector to

“Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas” and the “Centre de Regulació Genòmica.” Although the ceremony was held recently,

PHOTO: N. NORIEGA

are the “Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia,” the

.

allow future talent to blossom in benefit of society. PhD student Elisa Montagni accepts her award from Science Minister Cristina Garmendia.

TANYA YATES

Viewpoint: What is the most valuable thing a student has taught you about science? An old proverb says, “By learning you will teach, and by teaching you

down their paths to discovery, we asked the Group Leaders who will

will learn.” As the new class of PhD students arrives at IRB Barcelona,

mentor them to reflect not only on what they can teach, but also on

bringing with them fresh minds and endless curiosity as they start

what they can learn from their students.

Miquel Pons

Ramon Eritja

“T

he most valuable thing students have taught me is to

“S

cience flourishes when you meet a fresh mind. Good

Antoni Riera

“T

hroughout

Xavier Salvatella

my

career

I’ve learned a lot from

“S

tudents keep reminding me that there is no such thing

reconsider why we do what we do students, such as many I have had

my students. Maybe the most im-

as a stupid question... If only they

in the lab. We are often focused on a the luck to collaborate with, have

portant thing is to be more self-

remembered this when they attend

narrow subject, consumed by small enlightened me by forcing answers

inquiring and non-conformist in

seminars!”

technical problems. When a fresh, to unexpected questions and by

our daily activity.”

inquisitive mind comes to the lab, providing naïve, bright, innovative it’s like starting from zero. It helps views to old problems. I just have us see things that we might not have to keep my mind open and enjoy thought about.”

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in vivo

science with them.”

October 2011

| Issue 16

Check out the IRB Barcelona Annual Report online: www.irbbarcelona.org/ annualreport2010/


Life in motion attracts top scientists to Spain The invited speakers are preparing to join the 2nd IRB Barcelona International PhD Student Symposium. Clockwise from top: Aaron Ciechanover (Israel), Julius Brennecke (Austria), Sarah A. Teichmann (UK), Anne-Claude Gavin (Germany), Conly Rieder (USA), Piet Gros (Netherlands), Mónica Bettencourt Dias (Portugal), Christian Griesinger (Germany), Erik Sahai (UK). More info: www.irbphdsymposium.org.

Nine of the best scientists in their fields, including Nobel Prize winner Aaron Ciechanover, are ready to fly to the Catalan capital for the symposium Life in Motion: Dynamics of Molecules and Systems, which is organized by the IRB Barcelona PhD students and will be held on November 17 and 18. The first edition of these international events took place in 2009. Young scientists were given the opportunity to participate in all the aspects of organizing a scientific event and faced all the complex logistical and scientific issues. In a stimulating and open atmosphere, as they explain, they hope to exchange experiences and knowledge. “We expect the speakers to engage an audience with diverse backgrounds,” says Andrey Dyachenko, one of the twelve organizers. “The most important aspect is the discussion. Here in Spain often people are not used to raising their hands: we are going to encourage people to participate as much as we can,” says the Russian-born scientist. One of the parameters of success has been fulfilled: 170 were seats available for the event, and more than 230 scientists (55% from Spain) applied, most of them with scientific contributions. Next stop, the Barcelona Aquàrium.

Run, Roman, Run!

IN BRIEF A new European Academic

Recognizing young talent

October has proven to be a great month for

IRB Barcelona Director Joan J. Guinovart

Albert Escobedo, a PhD student in Maria Ma-

IRB Barcelona runners. First, on October

was invited to join the Academia Europaea,

cias’ Protein NMR Spectroscopy lab work-

3, Roman Kessler, a PhD student in Ferran

a European Academy of Humanities, Letters

ing on HECT-type ubiquitin ligases, received

Azorín’s lab, won the Collserola marathon -

and Sciences founded in Cambridge in 1988.

a ‘special mention’ in the National Prizes for

a grueling 42.195 km through the mountains

Its nearly 2000 members are scientists

Excellence in University Performance awarded

surrounding Barcelona. Then, a week later, a

and scholars who collectively aim to pro-

by Spain’s Ministry of Education. He received

group of ten runners from the Institute par-

mote learning, education and research.

the honour in July in acknowledgement of his

ticipated in the Vencer el Cáncer 4km char-

Among its members are leading experts from

undergraduate work on biotechnology at the

ity run along the Barcelona beachfront....

the physical sciences and technology, bio-

University of Lleida, in Catalonia. These prizes

and Roman won again! This time he was in

logical sciences and medicine, mathematics,

are awarded by the Ministry in recognition of

good company, as IRB Barcelona alumna

letters and humanities, social and cognitive

outstanding curricular merits throughout the

Adelaida Díaz took third place in the wom-

sciences, economics and law.

academic career of young individuals.

en’s category.

in vivo

October 2011

| Issue 16

05


SCIENCE BITES

On sugar, mice and models

Brain cells, with the exception of astrocytes, do not accumulate glycogen for energy storage. But when they do, it might lead to cell death, thus to disease. Lafora disease, a fatal form of epilepsy caused by mutations in either the laforin or malin gene, is one of these disorders. Researchers led by Joan J. Guinovart at IRB Barcelona have developed a malin knockout mouse model that mimics the abnormal glycogen accumulation and the progressive loss of neuronal cells. The study, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, highlights abnormal glycogen accumulation as the key element underlying neurodegeneration in Lafora disease.

.

Lessons from the gut

More than 20 years after the discovery of the Eph/ephrin signalling system, scientists led by Eduard Batlle at IRB Barcelona have found how Eph/ephrins direct the positioning of cells in the intestinal epithelium. At the boundary where undifferentiated Eph receptorexpressing stem cells meet differentiated epithelial cells, which express Ephrin ligands, the metalloproteinase ADAM10 destroys the E-cadherin-based adhesions between cells, thus creating two functional compartments. These results, reported in Nature Cell Biology, point to cell communication and adhesion as the basis for compartmentalization.

.

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Coordinated protein dance

Parts of the protein model ubiquitin, whose key function in cells degradation was discovered by 2004 Nobel Prize winner Aaron Ciechanover, move in a coordinated way. Using computational and experimental methods, Xavier Salvatella and his international collaborators have shown that at least four of the five beta-strands of the protein move in a finely tuned choreography. These correlated motions among distant parts of the protein might have implications for molecular recognition, as they can cause all atoms involved in protein binding to move in a concerted way. Their findings appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in June.

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in vivo

October 2011

D

awn, ‘Alba’ for the locals, the resonant name chosen for the Spanish synchrotron, evokes the concept of light – a key tool for this giant laboratory, a few kilometres away from the Catalan capital Barce-

lona.

The word ‘synchrotron’ refers to a machine the size of a football field that accelerates beams of particles (electrons) in a circular path to nearly the speed of light. Deflection of the particles by powerful magnets makes them emit light at various wavelengths, which is then channelled into a number of experiments. Alba has the potential to host up to 33 experimental stations. Seven are currently being implemented. Three of these stations, or so-called beamlines, will be dedicated to biomedical research. The proposal and outline of one of them, dedicated to macromolecular crystallography, was prepared by a panel of structural biologists coordinated by Miquel Coll, head of the Structural and Computational Biology Programme at IRB Barcelona. Following the tradition of evocative names, the beamline experiment has been baptized Xaloc, the wind that blows from the Sahara. “Xaloc will have the most advanced instrumentation in the field and it may allow scientists to collect data even from very large macromolecular complexes. Many Spanish researchers are looking forward to the beginning of the activities of this outstanding laboratory. Until now, we all had to travel to facilities in France, Germany or Switzerland. As you can imagine, having one in Barcelona

1 + 1 is more than 2

The interaction of the proteins p38a and p38b could lead researchers to discover new unexpected secundary effects of some drugs that inhibit the action of these two proteins. Iván del Barco Barrantes, research associate in Ángel R. Nebreda’s Lab, studied for the first time their role in vivo as a whole, rather than individually. He discovered that the combined deletion of p38a and p38b expression leads to severe and fatal alterations in embryonic development. These effects have not been observed in the absence of the individual proteins. The paper was published in PNAS in July.

“Biomedical research now has a powerful tool nearby”

| Issue 16

will be a great opportunity for all scientists in Southern Europe and will allow us to speed up our scientific output,” explains Coll, who heads the Structural Biology of Proteins and Nucleic Acids Group at IRB Barcelona. Like its twins Soleil, in France, and Diamond, in the United Kingdom, Alba will have a power of 3 Gev – enough for most biological applications, but orders of magnitude less than the 7 Tev of the famous Swiss LHC (Large Hadron Collider), recently in the news for the faster-than-light neutrinos querelle. Unlike the LHC, whose ambition is to create extremely high energy particle collisions to study the fundamental forces of the universe, the 140m diameter Alba has the goal to study matter at a molecular level. “Biology plays an important role in today’s synchrotron science,” affirms Coll. “Thanks to the X-rays produced by Alba, we will be able to study the atomic structure of proteins, nucleic acids, and large macromolecular complexes

.

and particles, including viruses.” The first beamlines in Alba are expected to be fully operational for users by next spring.

LUCA TANCREDI BARONE


Taking stock at the IRB retreat

ON THE SPOT to have an open mind ❝toYougethave a result you don’t expect❞

B

ritish-born Tony Hunter (Kent, 1943) is

the collection of all 518 kinase proteins in hu-

credited for one of the most significant

mans. Can they be used as targets in cancer

discoveries in cancer research, namely

research? Kinases make good drug targets because as

cells to synthesize proteins) phosphorylation.

enzymes they are easy to assay and they have a

Phosphorylation is the chemical process that ac-

particularly deep cleft into which to fit a drug-

tivates or deactivates proteins and enzymes and

like molecule. The problem is that they are very

is crucial for cell development.

closely related in sequence and structure. One

Hunter moved to California in 1973 to

of the challenges is whether to aim for high in-

follow his then wife. But when he returned to

hibitor specificity or develop drugs that target

the UK, he realized California was the place to

more than one kinase.

be. He has been

Can we expect

working at the

a cure for cancer?

Salk Institute in

We have been

San Diego ever

promising

since.

have

a

we’d cure

for

We met him

cancer for a long

when he visited

time. There are new

Catalonia a few

drugs, some of them

weeks ago to at-

very useful, but in

tend the “Signal

terms of curing can-

rewiring and ad-

cer we are still some

diction in can-

time away. The era

cer”

of molecular per-

Barcelona

Biomed Conference. His relationship Spain,

with and

Tony Hunter has been studying cancer cells for the last forty years. He came to Barcelona in October to take part in the 16th Barcelona Biomed Conference. PHOTO: L.T. BARONE

es-

sonalized treatment for cancer is coming, if we can afford it. As we understand

pecially with IRB Barcelona Adjunct Director

the molecular defects and changes in individual

Joan Massagué, is long-standing: in recognition

cancers, we may be able to do a much better job

of their breakthrough research in cancer, they

in treating this disease.

both received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award in 2004.

Any suggestions about how to become a successful researcher?

“Addiction – one of themes of the confer-

First of all, design experiments that can pro-

ence – is a term that was coined in this field of

vide specific answers to an important scientific

research in 2002 and it accurately describes how

question. Secondly, if you get a result you don’t

we believe cancer cells work,” says Hunter. “It

expect, have an open mind and never dismiss

is the idea that cancer cells depend on a single

an anomalous result. Finally, I have learnt that

pathway that is usually activated by a mutation,

you have to run at least three projects in your

even though the cells have accumulated many

lab: two must be based on relatively safe sci-

changes over their years of development. The

ence, planned to confirm and extend established

hope is that we can deduce these pathways,

knowledge and get funding. The third one has

and thus learn about the vulnerability of can-

to take some risk. And thus discover the unex-

cer cells, and develop a drug that can target that

pected!

particular weakness.” In 2002, you invented the word kineome,

.

PHOTO: L.T. BARONE

tyrosine (one of the twenty aminoacids used by

Researchers compare notes at the annual IRB Barcelona retreat, held in October.

Every now and again, it’s good to take stock, see what’s new, and catch up on recent developments. This is especially true for researchers at institutes like IRB Barcelona, whose work often depends on knowing what neighbouring labs are up to, and finding ways to create synergies with them to tackle new problems. The IRB Barcelona annual retreat, held on October 13-14, provided a welcome opportunity for more than 100 researchers to hear the latest science from a selec-

.

tion of group leaders, as well as catch up on one another’s latest discoveries during the breaks.

A fond farewell to three In Vivo collaborators IRB Barcelona’s Office of Communications and External Affairs said goodbye in September to three members of the team who have moved on to new adventures. Núria Noriega, Nahia Barbería and Itziar Castanedo spent several months learning the ropes of institutional scientific communications (including writing for the In Vivo newsletter!) as part of their practical work toward a Masters degree in Scientific, Environmental and Medical Communications. Núria and Itziar have gone to explore greener pastures abroad, in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Tromsø, Norway, respectively, while Nahia

.

is staying a little closer to home to set up her LUCA TANCREDI BARONE NAHIA BARBERÍA

own communications enterprise. We wish them well!

in vivo

October 2011

| Issue 16

07


NEW AT IRB BARCELONA

SPOTLIGHT

“A good cover letter is important to publish with us” - Bryan Ray, editor at Science

Bahareh Eftekharzadeh (Tehran, 1985) joined IRB Barcelona in September as one of the new ”La Caixa” PhD Fellowship students. Originally trained in pharmacy in Iran, Bahareh has already completed nearly two years of her PhD at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research in Tübingen, Germany, where she worked on clinical aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, as part of Xavier Salvatella’s group, she will continue to work on neurodegenerative diseases, but from a structural biology perspective. Her goal is to help understand how protein ag-

E

nding up in the publishing world is not nec-

gregates form and the role they play in Kennedy’s disease. Ultimately, she hopes to

essarily a common professional outcome for

combine her experience as a pharmacist, clinical researcher and structural biologist to

someone with a PhD in biology and who spe-

help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

cialized on the insulin signalling system at the Univer-

sity of Virginia. But when Bryan Ray (USA, 1956) saw that Science advertised a position with his profile, he

Luca Tancredi Barone (Rome, 1974) is IRB Barcelona’s new

went straight for it. And has been working there for the

content manager. An astronomer by training, Luca left research to

last twenty years, becoming Senior Editor (he later also

delve into the world of science communications. A specialist in ra-

founded Science Signalling).

dio journalism, he spent several years working for Italy’s RAI and

He came to town to attend the Barcelona BioMed Conference in September, and took the opportunity to give a very successful lecture with some useful pieces of advice to young IRB Barcelona scientists on how to be a victorious Science-publishing researcher. “There are a few questions to answer before submit-

numerous magazines and newspapers, and more recently at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands, where he helped with communications efforts for the Human Spaceflight and Operations Directorate. At IRB Barcelona, he will put his journalism skills to good use – he’ll be in charge of writing, editing and producing IRB Barcelona official publications, and will take over as editor of the In Vivo newsletter.

ting,” he explained. “Is this my best work? Will it have a major impact? Will it interest scientists in other fields?

Splitting himself between Travis Stracker’s Genomic Instability

Does it overturn conventional wisdom? If all the an-

and Cancer Lab and Jens Lüder’s Microtubule Organization Lab,

swers to these questions are ‘Yes!’, there is a good chance

Marko Marjanovic (Zagreb, 1978) “will be the fittest scientist

that your paper will be published in Science.” Not being

at IRB.” As he explains, exactly 150 steps separate the two labs (he

published in this journal is not, however, a failure – not

counted). CEP63 gene (and the corresponding centrosomal protein)

in the least. Bryan and his fellow editors receive around 250 papers per week, for a total of about 13,000 per year – and only around 1000 are finally accepted.

are at the centre of his Marie Curie postdoc research project. Using knock-out mice, he will study the functional role of the gene and its impact on neurogenic development. “Working in these two labs is an ideal match and will allow me to get

“Writing a good abstract and an engaging cover let-

the best expertise in both fields involving my protein.” Compared to his native Croatia,

ter is also an important step,” he defended. Sometimes

work at IRB Barcelona is better organized (“The equipment is available day and night”)

it is hard for the editors to get a good sense of the pro-

and more international. When asked about it, he admits that the first word he ever heard

posed article, or of its implications. And while in the

in Spanish was embarazada. “There were too many Mexican telenovelas on Croatian TV

article itself a good scientist needs to be cautious, in a

when I was young,” he explains.

cover letter speculation is allowed. To keep updated, a good editor also

ON THE MOVE During her PhD in Cayetano González’s laboratory, Ana Janic

has to attend conferences. “The Barcelona

(Nis, 1978) investigated the molecular basis of cancer by using

BioMed series is an

Drosophila as a model organism. She is now at Andreas Strasser’s

excellent opportunity

laboratory, at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, in Melbourne,

to get the gist of new

Australia. She is going to examine the mechanisms that control

.

cell death and how their malfunctioning is connected to cancer

promising fields,” he concluded.

Bryan Ray, Science editor.

L. T. BARONE

development. “My past and future research is interconnected by an interest in the mechanisms for tumour cell growth and survival,” she says. “At IRB Barcelona I have learnt the most important things that a PhD student needs for a successful scientific career.”

In vivo, issue 16. Published by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine. Office of Communications & External Relations. Barcelona Science Park. Baldiri Reixac, 10. 08028 Barcelona, Spain. www.irbbarcelona.org. Editors: Luca Tancredi Barone and Sarah Sherwood. Contributors: Sonia Armengou, Nahia Barbería, Itziar Castanedo, Núria Noriega, Tanya Yates. Graphic Production: La Trama. Legal deposit: MU-1296-2011. This document has been printed on recycled paper. To subscribe or unsubscribe from In Vivo e-mail info@irbbarcelona.org. © IRB Barcelona 2011.


In Vivo 16