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in vivo July 2012 | Issue 19


An IRB Barcelona spin-off obtains important funding

Prestigious recognition awarded


The Catalan government, following a proposal by Catalan Minister of Economy and

sios Capital and Inbiomotion SL,

Ysios Capital has invested in a company

a spin-off company based on IRB

that has arisen from basic research.

Barcelona research, have just signed

Knowledge Andreu Mas-Colell, announced

an important agreement that will result in the

that the prestigious 2012 Narcís Monturiol

injection of two million euro in the company,

Plaque will go to IRB Barcelona.

which was founded by IRB Barcelona Group

First created by the Catalan Government

Leader Roger Gomis.

in 1982, these awards recognize significant

it represents

sations toward the advance of science and

give a solution to unmet medical needs, especially regarding cancer diagnosis and prognosis.”

The deal was signed in June and

contributions made by people and organi-

According to Gomis, this confirms that “cutting-edge innovation and science help

More on the agreement on page 2.

a “significant

technology in Catalonia.

milestone in

Two other institutions, the Obra Social

the promotion

”la Caixa” and the Fundació Fero, likewise

of Inbiomo-

received the award in 2012.

tion,” declares

The presentation ceremony will be held in

the researcher.

October in the Palau de la Generalitat, seat

It is the

of the Catalan Government.

first time that


ERC President praises excellence at ISE Conference The Initiative for Sci-

to flourish?’. European Research Council (ERC) President Helga Nowot-

ence in Europe (ISE) held

ny considers excellence and independence the most important assets that

its second conference in

guarantee that ERC maintains its reputation among scientists throughout

Barcelona last May.


The theme of the threeOctavi Quintana Trias, Director of the ERA, with ERC President Helga Nowotny


Exchanges A. Dyaschenko back from Israel




‘What does science need


The coordination of the initiatives and research programmes in the European Research Area (ERA) is one of the key issues that scientists and policy makers have to face. More on this on page 4.

Interview John Petrini BioMed Conference


Mischa Dohler cheers up scientists’ spirit


Nature Genetics’ editor suggestions for researchers


Two-million euro cash injection for IRB Barcelona spin-off, Inbiomotion SL

Good neighbours make good business partners: Ysios Capital’s Joël Jean- Mairet and IRB Barcelona’s Roger Gomis seal the deal for a two-million euro round of financing for Inbiomotion SL, based on research developed at IRB Barcelona.


hoever said that you shouldn’t stick

this marker in various clinical studies in Barce-

your nose into your neighbours’

lona and England and to advance its development

business might have a thing or two

in order to achieve official approval.

to learn from recent goings on at the Barcelona Science Park.

“This financing round marks a significant milestone in the promotion of Inbiomotion be-

Two of its prominent tenants, IRB Barcelona

cause it involves risk capital enterprises devoted

and Ysios Capital – whose offices are across the

to the life sciences sector,” says Gomis. “In ad-

corridor from one another – have just tightened

dition to providing capital, however, these in-

their links whereby Ysios will lead a 2-million

vestors bring essential know-how for business

euro round of financing for Inbiomotion SL, a

development and immediate visibility in the

spin-off company founded in October 2011 by


IRB Barcelona and ICREA researcher Roger Gomis. The collaboration with Ysios Capital, together with additional investments from the Fundació Vila Casas and JVRisk Technologies, will support Inbiomotion in its efforts to develop biomarkers to predict whether

“Inbiomotion has arisen from one of the leading laboratories in metastasis research. Its technology confirms that cutting-edge innova-

❝This achievement indicates

that at IRB Barcelona we are performing cutting-edge science that is attractive to investors and that has the capacity to improve patients’ quality of life.❞

tumours from breast cancer patients will metastasize to the bone.

First CancerTec call launched IRB Barcelona’s Innovation Department has launched the first call for project proposals included in the CancerTec Programme, a seed fund scheme promoted by IRB Barcelona and supported by the Obra Social ”la Caixa”.

tion and science can

CancerTec is a new platform

effectively give a solu-

which aims to fulfill the potential of

tion to unmet medical

research into early-stage cancer of the

needs, especially re-

type conducted at the Institute.

garding cancer diagnosis and prognosis, thus helping to determine the most efficient treat-

ments to prevent metastasis. Ysios will provide

The programme will support scientists as they try to develop future diagnostic tools and therapies for cancer and get them into the market. CancerTec will allow to boost the

Currently, no diagnostic tools are available

the experience and industrial contacts to build a

to specifically predict bone metastasis in early

reference company, together with the founders

transfer of selected promising results

stage patients. The basis of Inbiomotion is a bio-

of Inbiomotion,” says Joël Jean-Mairet at Ysios

to the market, thereby increasing the

marker, discovered in Gomis’ Growth Control


quality of life of cancer patients.

and Cancer Metastasis group, that codes for a nuclear protein that is able to determine which patients will relapse to the bone. It is a powerful tool and a step beyond what is currently available clinically. With it, physicians will be able to classify their patients according to their risk for bone metastasis, better helping them to mark the patients’ course of therapy. The proceeds of the financing will be used to fund the validation of


in vivo

July 2012

| Issue 19

“This is the first time that Ysios Capital has

This represents an important new

invested in a biotech company that has arisen

step in a long-standing collaboration

from basic research. This achievement indicates

with the Obra Social ”la Caixa” that

that at IRB Barcelona we are performing cutting-

continues to produce excellent, inno-

edge science that is attractive to investors and

vative research.


that has the capacity to improve patients’ quality of life,” explains Joan J. Guinovart, Director of the institute.



Harmful consequences of glycogen accumulation in neurons


ells store glucose as glycogen (a poly-

lán, ICREA researcher and a specialist in Dro-

provides in vivo confirmation of the theory in

mer of glucose), which is produced

sophila, has led to a publication in the journal

another animal model; flies show the same de-

by the enzyme glycogen synthase. In

EMBO Molecular Medicine which documents

generative symptoms as mice when glycogen ac-

the brain, glycogen is almost exclusively found

the toxic effects of the accumulation of glyco-

cumulates in neurons.

in cells called astrocytes.

gen in fly and mouse neurons. These two ani-

The Drosophila model will speed up the

IRB Barcelona scientists propose that, under

mal models will allow scientists to address the

process of obtaining genetic data and screening

specific circumstances, neurons synthesize gly-

genes involved in this harmful process and to

for therapeutic molecules. “Soon we will be able

cogen and that it is essential for the functions of

find pharmacological solutions that break down

to perform a massive search for genes involved

these cells, but that excessive accumulation in-

glycogen accumulations or limit glycogen pro-

in the pathological process and to better under-

duces apoptosis and neurodegeneration. Lafora

duction. Advances in this direction would sig-

stand it at the molecular level,” emphasizes Mi-

Disease (LD), a progressive myoclonic epilepsy,

nificantly contribute to studies of LD and other

lán. “But the flies will also be useful to identify

and Adult Polyglucosan Body Disease (APGB)


pharmacological molecules that can cure,” he

are the most striking examples of the unhealthy

“Our data clearly indicate that glycogen ac-

consequences of glycogen accumulation in neu-

cumulation suffices to kill neurons and thus dra-

The IRB Barcelona teams are designing sev-

rons. The process has also been described in

matically reduces lifespan,” explains Guinovart,

eral experiments to identify therapeutic targets

Alzheimer’s disease, diabetic neuropathy and

an expert in glycogen metabolism. “In the study

that may be useful to prevent glycogen accumu-


the only manipulation we made in the neurons

lation in neurons.

An IRB Barcelona collaborative research line headed by Joan J. Guinovart and Marco Mi-



was to increase their production of glycogen.”


Including the fly Drosophila in the study


“A fantastic opportunity for my scientific career”


idding colleagues farewell is

assist in the correct folding of other pro-

in a foreign country was very stimulating.

commonplace at IRB Barcelona.

teins, with the ATP molecule, commonly

“Twenty percent of Israel’s population is

Many students travel to institu-

tions abroad to conduct part of their research in another lab as an important stage

referred to as the “cellular energy source.” “One GroEL molecule can bind 14 ATP molecules, get energy from this proc-

of Russian origin, and even I have part of my family there,” he says. “In general, it was really easy to make friends. People there say that since Jews were guests in

in their training. Andrey Dyachenko, a ”la Caixa” PhD

other places for such a long time, today

fellow in Ernest Giralt’s Design, Synthe-

they want to be good hosts. I guess it must

sis and Structure of Peptides and Proteins

be true.” Israel also gave Andrey the oppor-

stay at the Structure and Function Analysis

tunity to practice his favorite sport, rock

of the Protein Degradation Machinery Lab at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. “Dr. Michal Sharon is a world expert in biological mass spectroscopy,” explains the young Russian scientist. “She studied with Carol Robinson, the pioneer in the field in Oxford. To be in her lab was an invaluable opportunity for me.” During his stay, Andrey studied the interaction between GroEL, a protein member of the chaperonin family, proteins that

climbing. And when his family joined him, Andrey Dyachenko with his daughter Alisa at an excursion to the Sinai peninsula next to the Red Sea

ess and use it to develop its functions,” says Andrey. “This is a very complex process because each of 14 molecules binds with a different strength, or ‘affinity.’ And study-

they all went to explore the country. “Ernest Giralt gives all his students the opportunity to go abroad to further their research,” concludes Andrey. “I believe this is a fantastic opportunity for the


ing the process with mass spectrometry can

career of a scientist. And for the lab it is

be tricky. This is why it was so important

an excellent way to foster long-lasting col-

to gain first-class experience in Sharon’s


lab.” Besides the scientific benefits, living


in vivo

July 2012

| Issue 19



Lab, got back in May from a five-month

“Excellence and independence,our most precious assets,” declares ERC President


he issue of “What does science need

who can rec-

to flourish?,” the title of ISE’s (Initia-

ognize it. Independence


3-4 May at the Institut d’Estudis Catalans and



co-organized by IRB Barcelona, is central at a

our most pre-

time of declining investment in research and



development, especially in countries like Spain.



Helga Nowotny, President of the Euro-

otny. Another

pean Research Council (ERC), was one of the guests of a meeting that involved other


distinguished speakers, such as the Director


of the European Research Area, Octavi Quin-

ERC has to do

tana Trias, the current President of ISE, Maria

with the hu-

Leptin, who is also Director of the European

man side of this

Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO),

even and deter-

Pär Omling, President of the European Sci-

mined woman. “I read and reply to every mail,

ence Foundation (ESF), Iain Mattaj, Director

and I take the complaints that I get - not many,

General of the European Molecular Biology

actually - very seriously. Sometimes the com-

Laboratory (EMBL), and Peter Tindemans,

plaints are unfounded, but I always go and find

Secretary General of Euroscience. Others who

out what happened, and then decide what can

took part in the discussion were the Catalan

be done to improve the situation if improve-

Minister of Economy and Knowledge, Andreu

ment is needed. This is very important. We live

Mas-Colell, and Catalan Secretary of Univer-

in different parts of Europe and we have differ-

sity and Knowledge, Antoni Castellà.

ent scientific communities to which we belong,

During the debate, the ERC emerged as a reference funding institution. Since its foundation within the 7th Framework Programme in 2007,


Helga Nowotny, heads the European Research Council since 2010. She took part in the ISE meeting in Barcelona last May

so it’s very important to listen and respond to their needs.” Although the rejection rate for ERC grant proposals stands at around 88%,



most European scientists are still


happy with the way ERC man-



ages its funds. “I think this is

as a model

because we try to give applicants



useful feedback,” says Nowotny.


“Several applicants have told me


according to the prin-

IRB Barcelona Director Joan J. Guinovart discussing with ISE President Maria Leptin

ciples of excellence only,” says Nowotny.

that even if they don’t succeed, the exercise in itself is a valuable

one. This is the right spirit.”

“Every scientist aspires to be excellent, it’s in

One of the results of the discussions within

their blood. I think our procedures, our whole

the scientific community, discussions to which

philosophy is geared to emphasise excellence.

ERC is very receptive, is the creation of a new

We also try to give young scientists early sci-

type of grant: the Synergy Grant.

“Among scientists, there is a genuine desire to collaborate,” explains the ERC President. “But they want to do so under conditions they set themselves, that arise from their needs rather than from the abstract principles of funding agencies or of the commission. Synergy Grants cover collaborations of up to four individuals. Of course, the idea has to be an exceptionally good one. Scientists have to prove to the evaluators that a project can be carried out only in the particular configuration that they have designed. We have money for only up to 15 grants for this and the coming year, but we received 710 applications. So we hit a nerve, we identified a real need. For the future, depending on the budget for Horizon 2020, the next Framework programme, which is currently under discussion, we will have more money.” Nowotny does not forget to praise IRB Barcelona for its stunning number of ERC Advanced Grants obtained a few months ago. “Three out of 15 in Spain is a great result, it lifts the scientific standing, and it boosts moral. on getting them. This is my best wish for IRB Barcelona.”


entific independence, something badly needed in Europe. We have to give them the possibility to follow their own ideas, to put together their teams.” Especially praised by the scientists is the independence shown by the Council. “This is very important for us. From day one, we insisted to the European Commission that we alone select the panel members who evaluate,” points out the Austrian-born sociologist. “In order to fund according to excellence, you need excellent panel members and evaluators


in vivo

July 2012

| Issue 19


Once you start getting ERC grants, you keep

Méndez new PhD chair IRB Barcelona’s Internal Scientific Com-

interface to mediate with the Institute. The

mittee nominated Group Leader Raúl Méndez

new Chair will sit on the Internal Scientific

as Chair of graduate training. These functions


were previously held by IRB Barcelona Director Joan J. Guinovart. Méndez’s tasks will be to supervise graduate training activities and act as the students’s

Clara Caminal and Patricia Nadal keep their functions of interlocution with the students, working in coordination with Raúl in those issues requiring his advice or action.


tive for Science in Europe) Conference held on

DNA damage response and human Deconstructing health appraised in the last cancer Barcelona Biomed Conference The 28th edition of the Barcelona BioMed Conference series, sponsored by the BBVA


cientist Travis H. Stracker in the Genomic Instability and Cancer Lab is trying to “deconstruct cancer:” to

Foundation, was chaired by Travis Stracker of IRB Barcelona and John H. J. Petrini, of the

identify the combinations of defects in the

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (USA). Travis used to work as Re-

DNA damage response that trigger tumori-

search Associate in John Petrini’s lab. They investigated damage response proteins and their

genesis in general or that are sufficient for the

influence on genome stability and tumorigenesis. In vivo asked Dr. Petrini few questions.

development of specific types of cancer. His group has approached this theme


ow did you select the speakers

acquire changes that internally become malig-

for this conference?

nant. But primarily, cells become more prone

by studying mutations in DNA damage response proteins that are involved in cell cycle checkpoints, apoptosis and senescence.

We combined two types of

to die. When we created a mutation in one

In particular, they investigated the complex

expertise. On one hand, we chose a group

of the central regulators of the DNA damage

system that should prevent mistakes during

of scientists who are doing very basic re-

response, the animals had fertility problems.

DNA replication and cell division and safe-

search into fundamental mechanisms of how

They were also unable to respond to insults

guard cell integrity.

genetic material is transmitted from genera-

from the environment, but they never got

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stracker,

tion to generation, for example

together with

through the process of matu-


ration of eggs and sperm, and


the lab of John

how that translates into inheri-

H. J. Petrini

tance of genetic traits. On the

in the Memo-

other hand, we invited people

rial Sloan Ket-

who are actively studying the

tering Cancer

mechanisms by which cancer

Center in New

therapies work. Meetings like


this are extremely valuable to

points some of

both ends of the spectrum. We

these combinations.

learn a lot about the pathways

or not a tumor

we see the way that the thera-

develops, they

peutic agents work. Conversely,

show, depends

scientists that are interested in

on the phase of the cell cycle

John Petrini and Travis Stracker co-chaired the last Barcelona BioMed Conference

learn a lot about what might

in which the

work because they can better understand the

tumours. The reason is that the cells died at

damage occurs, which repair pathway com-

underpinning mechanisms.

a much greater rate when they acquired mu-

ponents are affected, and the status of genes

tations that allow them to become tumours.

that trigger apoptosis and cell cycle arrest.

Is unstable DNA sufficient to lead to cancer?

“This study shows that genomic instabil-

So it’s just a question of statistics?

Cancers are indeed genetically unstable.

There is another layer of complexity. Our

ity per se is not sufficient to initiate a tumour

Chromosomes are unstable, pathways that

cells are built from stem cells, so not very

and that we cannot generalize. We need to

normally respond to DNA damage are often

many cells in our body are particularly old.

impaired. But the facile assumption that if you

If you combine a mutation in the DNA repair

inhibit those pathways you predispose malig-

mechanism with a mutation that disrupts the

nancy is wrong. DNA damage response mech-

ability of cells to undergo programmed cell

anisms evolved to ensure faithful inheritance

death, a very important aspect of how cells

of genetic material, and on the other hand

deal with damage, an aggressive cancer devel-

to ensure the survival of cells in the face of

ops rapidly. Cell death pathways are a critical

design of new diagnostic tools and specific

endogenous stresses. When you have defects

component of the pathways that need to be


in this response, you lose fertility, but also,

inactivated for cells to become malignant.

excruciatingly important, you allow cells to


study the origin of different kinds of cancer in much greater depth. Although it is as difficult as trying to find a needle in a haystack, we are slowly identifying the parts that we should focus on,” explains Stracker. The detection of the main players that cause different kinds


of cancer could be of great interest for the



in vivo

July 2012

| Issue 19




that underlie malignancies when

designing therapeutic agents


Welcome to the new COFUND postdocs The selection of the new group of postdoctoral fellows supported by EU Marie Curie Actions has taken place and a new set of postdocs will begin to work at IRB Barcelona next fall. From a pool of more than one hundred applicants, 22 candidates were short-listed and interviewed on 1617 July by a ten-member evaluation committee. The selection panel was made up of five female and five male scientists; four were non-Spanish nationals, and one came from the private sector. The new postdoctoral fellows represent eight nationalities and each will work on a project in one of the Institute’s labs. Their fellowships will be cofunded by EU and IRB Barcelona. The programme will continue in the future. The proposal that the Institute presented for the 2012 Call for the new Marie Curie Fellowships has been positively evaluated and in the next months negotiations will be held to finalize the agreement.



We say tomato The Tomato Genome Consortium has sequenced and assembled the genomic DNA of this fruit species using a domesticated variety, Heinz 1706. Scientists from several European centres, including Group Leader Modesto Orozco and other researchers from the joint programme between the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and IRB Barcelona have joined forces to obtain and analyze the sequence of this fruit, which belongs to the family Solanaceae. The work has been published in the journal Nature.


Neuron mitochondria trafficking A team headed

by Group Leader Eduardo Soriano has published a study in Nature Communications describing a new family of six genes whose function regulates the movement and position of mitochondria in neurons. Many neurological conditions are caused by alterations of genes that control mitochondrial transport, a process that provides the energy required for cell functions. The new genes are highly expressed in the nervous system and have specific functions in the activity and viability of this system.




Carles Bonet Costa, Marta Vilaseca, Ernest Giralt, Fernando Azorín and colleagues have characterized the post-translational modifications of linker Histone H1 in Drosophila. Through a combination of two mass spectrometry methods, they illustrated the high structural heterogeneity of the protein, the hierarchical phosphorylation of several non-CDK sites at the N-terminal domain of the protein and its contribution to heterochromatin organization and function during mitosis. The results were published in the Journal of Proteomics in July.


Alzheimer’s biomarker

The protein ECSIT (evolutionarily conserved signalling intermediate in Toll pathway), a signal transduction mediator, might act as a molecular sensor in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. The model, developed by Patrick Aloy, Montse Soler and other colleagues at IRB Barcelona, integrates seemingly controversial hypotheses for familial and sporadic forms of the disease and envisions ECSIT as a biomarker to guide future therapies to halt or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists proposed this hypothesis in BioEssays in July and the article comes with a video abstract.



Dohler:“We should leverage more on our potential as sc


it was a good place for telecoms,” he says. There, he did a PhD in Tele-

reer Progression in Science - options beyond the bench” took

communications at King’s College, where he was also offered a lecture-

place June 7th, and among the guests who shared their success stories was

ship position. After some years at King’s, his relentlessness took him to

Mischa Dohler. A polyglot fluent in six languages, with a German father

France, where he worked in a R&D departament in France Telecom,

and Russian mother, he comes from Jena, an East German city famous

and finally moved to Barcelona, where he lives with his wife. She is a

for its philosophers and “for the oldest planetarium in the world,” as

famous chemist working at the Alba synchrotron. He holds a position

he notes. He has had an adventurous life, and he shares it with In vivo.

at the Centre Tecnològic de Telecomunicacions de Catalunya (CTTC).

very year, IRB Barcelona and the Scientific Park hold a career

After becoming bored with Dresden, he moved to London “because

opportunities event for students and young researchers. “Ca-

“Originally, I wanted to study piano,” he recalls. “So I enrolled in

There he leads a group dealing with intelligent energy and smart grids.

the conservatory in Moscow, where my mom was from. But two weeks

But Mischa combines his scientific, albeit unconventional, facette

before beginning, my mom talked me out of it. Every year there are 400

with his extraordinary entrepreneurship. Three and a half years ago,

good pianists, she told me, and only one makes it.” Mischa turned his

he founded his own company, Worldsensing, dealing with sensors and

passion to physics, but when he went back to Germany in 1995 his exams

sensor networking.

could not be recognized, so he began a new career studying telecommunication engineering in Dresden.

“We have different product lines. One has to do with smart cities, so for example we produce sensors for parking lots: we put sensors in each parking space, so we know whether and where something is free. This


in vivo

July 2012

| Issue 19

Mischa for the“ ben

IN BRIEF New EMBO member Group

of the projects.

Leader Raúl Méndez was nominated new EMBO member last May. EMBO elects new members annually on the basis of scientific excellence. Currently, almost 1,550 life scientists can boast this

Alba’s dawn

Scientists from

Miquel Coll’s group had the privilege to inaugurate the new macromolecular crystallography beamline Xaloc in the

exclusive membership.

Alba synchrotron this month. The prox-

New ICREA Academia awardee The 2011 edition of the

is very promising for the future, say the

ICREA Academia award, an initiative

the Italian-born physicist Caterina Bis-

to foster excellence in research among

cari, has just been appointed.

imity and accessibility of the new facility

teaching and research staff of state universities in Catalonia, has recognized the scientific career of Group Leader Modesto Orozco, full professor of the

scientists. A new Director of the facility,

European Foundation for the study of diabetes The project “The role of glycogen metabo-

University of Barcelona.

lism in the pancreatic beta-cell” in Joan

Two projects awarded in rare diseases Manuel Palacín’s

from the European Foundation for the

and Joan J. Guinovart’s projects on rare

pharmaceutical company Novo Nord-

diseases received funding from the Fun-

isk. The eight projects awarded in this

dación Ramon Areces. Palacín’s research

year’s edition will begin in September.

Some of the scientists’ fingers at the Institute are not just dexterous with tubes and pipettes. Salvatore Bongarzone, from Miquel Coll’s lab, and Suvi Aivio from Travis Stracker’s lab have another passion outside IRB Barcelona: music. So they decided to find out if others shared their love for playing an instrument. And they found out that music was in the veins of many colleagues at IRB Barcelona. All together, they decided to constitute the IRB Big Band. The group is now ready to start and practise. The group is open to all who want to join. Musica, maestro!


J. Guinovart’s lab will receive funding Study of Diabetes and from the Danish

addresses lysinuric protein intolerance, one of the rarest aminoacidurias that, according to the literature, has killed about 200 people. The second project works cumulation is the root cause of Lafora disease, a rare type of epilepsy that affects adolescents and has no cure. The Foundation will award 100,000€ to each

Jose Tormo prize


Fenwick will be awarded by the Spanish Association for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SEBBM) the 1,000€ Jose Tormo prize in its next session in September. The research that earned the important recognition was performed in Xavier Salvatella’s lab.

Three of the members of the IRB Big Band pose in the newly inaugurated cafeteria of the Park. From left to right, Nareg Djabrayan, saxphone; Jesús Herraiz, drums; Salvatore Bongarzone,trumpet.

information in real time is

is not about money, life is about a lot of money! It means: be generous

useful for the drivers and

on a daily basis, but have high aims. As scientists, we have an enormous

for the city. We also produce

knowledge potential to leverage on and make money, and we are often

sensors for buildings. For

not even aware of it. Many of the rich and successful people in the world

example, in the new harbor

don’t even have 10% of the know-how my guys at CTTC have!”

of Barcelona, they use our

A previous attempt to set up a company in London failed. “It’s a

sensors to monitor possible

bit like an unfinished business. I still have a challenge to show that this


is doable. We do not know how Worldsensing will end up, but we are

The company has been

trying. This is what makes me sleep four hours a night.”

affected by the construc-

A person with this extensive experience has suggestions for young

tion crisis, but it has broken

scientists at IRB Barcelona. “First of all, if you do something, do it be-

even. “This field is growing

cause you like it. If you don’t like it, just don’t do it,” he recommends.

like computers 30 years ago,

“Secondly, I always advise people not to collect title after title: master

and there is a lot of competition. Sensors will be everywhere, including

after master, postdoc after postoc, just to kill time. It does not bring

in your toilets to monitor your health or in your plants to tell you when

anything. I know postdocs who have been ‘postdocking’ until the age

it’s time to water them.”

of 35-40. They suffer a lot , you have the stress of finding a new position

Mischa Dohler was one of the invited speakers in June for the“Career Progression in Science - options beyond the bench” event. This picture was taken in Shanghai.


What drives a successful scientist to dive into the world of entrepre-

in a new city with a new life all the time. I say: take all the stress once at

neurship? “Money clearly plays a role,” answers Mischa honestly. “The

the beginning, but then try to find a permanent position. Maybe not in

prospect of having an easy life one day, and being able to do things which

Spain, but just do it, and look for new challenges in life.”

before were merely a hobby, is attractive. I always tell my people, life


in vivo

July 2012

| Issue 19



with the hypothesis that glycogen ac-

s scientists”

IRB Barcelona, hit it!

NEW AT IRB BARCELONA Petra Mikolcevic (Zagreb, Croatia, 1982) just joined IRB Barcelona from Innsbruck, Austria, where she worked on her PhD in molecular biology. She joins Ángel R. Nebreda’s Signalling and Cell Cycle Lab as a fresh Marie Curie COFUND postdoctoral fellow. Her research so far was focused on a protein belonging to the cyclin-dependent kinase, CDK16. “I biochemically characterized and studied the CDK16 mouse knockout phenotype,” she explains. CDK16 is essential for mouse spermatogenesis. In her new laboratory, she will follow the same pattern of research, this time studying the RINGO A protein, a cyclin dependent kinase regulator. “What brought me to Barcelona was the finger of destiny,” says Petra jokingly. “I wanted to study this protein, and I knew how good was Ángel’s research. When I found out he had just moved to Barcelona, the city I really wanted to move to, I thought it was inevitable for me to come to IRB Barcelona.”


Jordi Silvestre-Ryan (Sacramento, CA, USA) is about to fly back to the West Coast of the United States. After one year as Research Assistant in Xavier Salvatella’s Molecular Biophysics Lab, this half American, and half Catalan young bioengineer is about to head to the University of California in San Francisco to obtain a PhD in biophysics. “This year has been especially good for me,” he declares. “In the lab, my work was strictly computational. I have been developing a method to calculate the structure of disordered proteins.” Both personal and scientific reasons lead him to choose IRB Barcelona. “After my undergraduate in Berkeley, I wanted to spend a year in Barcelona because this is where part of my family comes from. The Institute was the best choice because it offered the best biophysics programme, and this is what I was looking for.” Jordi will begin his PhD in September. After five years first as a PhD student in Llluís Ribas’ lab studying the epigenetics of the malaria parasite, Valerie Margarita

Crowley (Toronto, Canada, 1981) is ready for a leap forward in her career. She is about to leave for Princeton, USA, for a postdoc. “I like my topic of research because there’s a lot of basic biology we still don’t understand,” she says, “and at the same time malaria is a major worry for society.” The focus of Valerie’s research is the ingenious way the parasite uses to adapt to different environments. “Ten percent of its genome is epigenetically regulated,” she explains, and “this is a common survival strategy used by many pathogens. I studied in particular the way three genes are expressed and how their expression affects the survival of the Plasmodium.” Valerie was impressed by Barcelona. “It was actually much better than I expected,” she mantains. Maybe less money is spent for research in Europe than in North America. “But for good science you don’t necessarily need big money,” she affirms.


amela Feliciano, senior editor at Nature Genetics, visited IRB Barcelona scientists last May. In the seminar she to students, she presented useful suggestions and tips for publishing with her journal. Nature Genetics receives around 1500 papers per

year. Of those, 83% are returned without review, and only 13% get accepted, which, in 2011,

Pamela Feliciano joined Nature Genetics in 2009

amounted to 196 papers. “I usually summarize the type of papers we accept for publication with a motto: Science that changes the way many researchers think,” explains Feliciano. “This comes from a combination of three factors: scientific advance, validity, breadth. In other words, we look for papers that bring the field a big step forward, that are technically very sound, keeping in mind the state of the art, and that are wide-reaching, so that many types of scientists will be interested.” Feliciano is happy to be on the other side of the bench after a PhD from Stanford University on evolutionary genetics of natural variation in three-spine stickleback fish, and a postdoc fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she worked on planar cell polarity in the ventral epidermis of Drosophila embryos. “I like my job, but sometimes it can be tricky. Once I very reluctantly returned a paper that I liked, but the reviewers didn’t. I had the impression


that we might have picked the wrong reviewers. I could have gone against all three referees and published anyway, but I felt uncomfortable. What ended up happening was that the author appealed, something that a scientist can always do. I finally took the paper back – and we overruled the referees. I think in that case the referees were setting the bar too high.”


In vivo, issue 18. Published by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine. Office of Communications & External Relations. Barcelona Science Park. Baldiri Reixac, 10. 08028 Barcelona, Spain. Editor: Luca Tancredi Barone. Contributors: Sònia Armengou, Sarah Sherwood. Legal deposit: MU-29-2012. This document has been printed on recycled paper. To subscribe or unsubscribe from In Vivo, send an e-mail: © IRB Barcelona 2012.


“To publish with us, your science has to change the way researchers think”

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