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in vivo January 2014 | Issue 25


A new network of alliances for IRB Barcelona One of the strategic goals of a solid research

cating a significant effort to strengthen its bonds

institute with the ambition to grow stronger is to

by signing partnerships uniting basic and clinical

create a relevant network of alliances in areas of

research, confirming long-standing alliances, such

mutual scientific expertise and interests, both lo-

as the one with the Barcelona Supercomputing

cally and internationally.

Center, and creating new ones.

IRB Barcelona falls in this category and is dedi-

ERC’s Consolidator for Patrick Aloy The European Research Council has awarded ICREA researcher Patrick Aloy a 5-year ‘Consolidator Grant.’ His project seeks to monitor the onset

Read more about this on page 2.


“Crazy About Biomedicine” class of 2014 at the starting grid Twenty-four high schools students are ready to begin a new ‘crazy’ adventure at IRB Barce-


Alzheimer’s discover


disease new



targets. Read the news on page 6.

Foundation, took place on Saturday, 11 January at the Casa Milà, in Barcelona.

lona. They belong to the second “Crazy About

On the same day the veteran students of the

Biomedicine” class. The inauguration of the

2013 class received a diploma. This year, the ini-

new year of this successful initiative, organised

tiative has been extended to seven more science

in collaboration with the Catalunya-La Pedrera

institutes in Catalonia. On page 5.

CALLS OPEN FOR • Group Leaders in Structural Biology • ”la Caixa”—Severo Ochoa International PhD Programme

APPLY NOW! See for more Ready to begin a new adventure. This is the “Crazy About Biomedicine” class of 2014 with IRB Barcelona Director Joan J. Guinovart. (Photo L.T. Barone)


Friedreich’s Ataxia Patients alliance


3 conferences Meet the scientists


Bake-off A sweet story


Spotlight Join Postdoc Day in April

New strategic alliances


ver the past few months, IRB Barcelona Director Joan J. Guinovart’s fountain pen has been put to good use. He has been busy signing a long string of partner-

ships with centres and organisations in Barcelona and beyond. These

IRB Barcelona Director Joan J. Guinovart and VHIR Director Joan X. Comella sign an agreement to strengthen ties between the two institutes (Photo: S. Sherwood).

new collaborations, with organisations in areas of mutual interest and expertise, aim to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge, resources and technologies so critical to advancing the field of biomedicine. One major focus has been to unite basic and clinical researchers. Partnerships have been signed with the Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS and the Vall d’Hebron Institute for Research to strengthen activities related to specific diseases. Technology-based collaborations are also a priority area, and agreements have been established with the UB Scientific and Technology Centres for the provision of flow cytometer services, and with the Institut de Biologia Molecular de Barcelona (CSIC) to fortify our crystallography activities. We have

tutes with similar areas of activity and interests worldwide. In addition to our standing agreement with the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, new collaborations have been signed with the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS)/ Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bangalore, India, and we are finalising details for exchanges with the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw, Poland and the Nijmegen Centre for the Molecular Life Sciences in Nijmegen, Netherlands. “These partnerships allow for the exchange of knowledge and exper-


extended our long-standing collaboration with the Barcelona Super-

tise, and provide an important chance for researchers from each institute

computing Center to include the Centre for Genomic Regulation.

to spend periods of time at other centres,” affirms Guinovart, “and of-

We also went beyond borders, establishing formal links to insti-

fer a great opportunity for our young scientists. Take advantage.”(ss)

New members broaden scope of Board of Trustees



t its meeting in December, the Board of Trustees officially approved changes to IRB Barcelona’s statutes to incorporate a change in composition of the Board. Current members from the Ministries

of Economy and Knowledge and of Health of the Government of Catalonia, and from the UB, will now be joined by two eminent members of the international scientific community, as well as a representative from the private sector. Jerzy Duszynski, former Director of the Nencki Institute of Experimental én Biology in Warsaw, Poland, and Joan Modolell, researcher at the Institute of Cell Biology at the Centre for Molecular Biology in Madrid (who has served as member of IRB Barcelona’s External Advisory Board), together with Rafael Pardo, Director of the BBVA Foundation, will now sit on the Board which is the governing body of the Institute, responsible for overseeing research activities, approving operating funds and ensuring that annual goals are met.

has a new Scientific Director. Joan Massagué, world leader in cancer and metastasis research, was appointed to the position in November, where he will oversee the activities of 120 research groups and 1,200

members with us,” confirms IRB Barcelona

scientists, and manage a bud-

Director Joan J. Guinovart. “Contributions

get of 400 million dollars.

from their different points of view will help

Though his new job is sure

us to increase our international projection,

to keep him busy, he'll be no


py, and provide a valuable new perspective for other members of the Board.” (ss)

Rafael Pardo joined IRB Barcelona's Board of Trustees in December.

ing Cancer Center in New York

“We are honoured to have these new

visibility and capacity to attract philanthro-

January 2014 |Joan Issue 25 and p2 in vivo Counter-clockwise from top: Jerzy Duszyński, Modolell

The Sloan Kettering Institute of the Memorial Sloan Ketter-

stranger to IRB Barcelona and will continue in his advisory capacity for the strategic development of the Institute.

A hitchhiker’s guide to the epigenome



tracheal cells as well. Group leader Jordi Casanova and postdoc Gaëlle

data around, your best choice is ChroGPS, new software

Lebreton have published a study in

that generates intuitive maps to visualise the association

the Journal of Cell Science in which

between genetic elements, with an emphasis on epigenetics.

they describe tracheal development

The article that describes this innovative tool in Nucleic

in the fly in vivo. They observed the

Acid Research emerged from conversations between Ferrán

morphological characteristics of the

Azorín’s group, through PhD student Joan Font-Burgada, and the bioinformatician Òscar Reina, a mem-

leading cell and provided molecular

ber of the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Unit, then managed by David Rossell.

details about how it can lead and bring

In the last 15 years, researchers worldwide have generated a large amount of information about the

the rest of the cells along with it. The

epigenome: proteins, factors and epigenetic markers which, when bound to DNA, regulate gene expres-

study gives new data about how cells

sion. In spite of these efforts, it is still hard to extract functional and relational information about the

organise themselves to achieve migra-

epigenome and to present the results in a visual manner, as ChroGPS does.

tion and form tubes in a process remi-

“With this tool we have been able to unify information in a single map instead of seeing it in hundreds

niscent of formation of new capillaries

of graphs and figures like in the past,” explains Azorín. Òscar Reina adds that “ChroGPS is based first on

(angiogenesis) to feed an expanding tu-


the generation of degrees of similarity between epigenetic components, and then on the representation of

mour. The scientists tracked a group of

these distances in the form of two- or three-dimensional maps to facilitate their interpretation, like maps from which distance between cities can be drawn up.”

seven cells that form a tracheal branch of the fly in its first seven hours of development. The leading cell is the only

Joining forces to fight Friedreich’s ataxia


e cannot afford to duplicate

tees the funding required for this purpose,” explains

efforts in research into rare

Juan Carlos Baiges, on behalf of the members of

diseases like Friedreich’s atax-

Some are

leaders and others are follow-

ers. This is true for D. melanogaster

f you want to make of sense of the flood of epigenetic

Group leader Ferrán Azorín (Photo: G. Battista/M. Minocri).

Leading cells

one that has receptors for the growth


factor FGF, which stimulates a cascade of reactions that turn that cell into the promoter of motility.


Unfolding urea

Urea is

not merely a passive spectator

ia,” states Jennifer Farmer, executive Director of

Giralt, with a long and recognised career in pep-

during the unfolding (or denaturation)

FARA, one of the main patients’ associations

tide design, and Díaz-Nido, an international expert

of a protein. In a high-throughput dy-

for Friedreich’s ataxia in the US. Fundraising

in gene therapy and ataxias, will work together on a

namic simulation study of the early

for a gene therapy project, launched by Genefa,

treatment. Patients with this disease inherit a mutat-

stages of this process, group leader

a Spanish platform for a cure for Friedreich’s

ed copy of the frataxin gene, which causes neurode-

ataxia, in collaboration with two other national

generation. The project seeks to replace this defec-

Modesto Orozco and PhD student

associations, Fedaes and BabelFAmily, has tran-

tive gene in the cells of the central nervous system.

scended borders. FARA has just approved fund-

Researcher Meritxell Teixidó explains that “the

ing of US$ 200,000, thus turning this project into

project is magnificent because it has come about

an international cooperation between patients’

from the patients. It reminds us that answers are


provided by basic research, the cornerstone of all

Started last November in the labs headed by Ernest Giralt at IRB Barcelona and

future applications.” (sa)

Michela Candotti observed that urea actively selects and stabilises microscopic unfolding events with exposed


hydrophobic regions. The discovery, published in Plos Computational Biology, clarifies the molecular mechanism that has made urea one of the most

Javier Díaz-Nido at the Centre for

widely used denaturants and helps

Molecular Biology in Madrid, the

us understand its effects on protein

three-year project is funded exclu-

structure. The researchers believe that

sively through donations. The US

concepts such as ‘folded’ and ‘unfold-

organisation has given half of the

ed’ states or ‘folding’ and ‘unfolding’

funding provided by Genefa to per-

pathways need to be revisited and re-

form the project. “We are all workthe collaboration of FARA guaran-


formulated considering the nature of

ing hard towards finding a cure and

the denaturant used.

2014 | Issue 25 p3 in vivo January in vivo January 2014 | Issue 25 p3

Ernest Giralt, second from the bottom right, and Meritxell Teixidó, top left, are part of the teams who joined to combat ataxia (Photo L.T. Barone).


3rd PhD Student Symposium tackles ageing ❝The best organised


oleen Murphy is an expert on ageing in C. elegans. She was

conference I have been to in a long time. I truly felt adopted by you❞ Coleen Murphy

one of nine speakers invited for the third edition of the IRB Barcelona PhD student Symposium held on 14-15 Novem-

ber. “I have zero interest in expanding a worm’s life span,” she jokes. The fact is that the (exactly) 959 cells forming this little creature are very

useful for humans — and once created, they are never replaced. The ‘aged’ worm just makes them work the whole time. “Ageing is an interesting biological problem, it has diseases associated with it, but it also has a philosophical edge. It impinges on many different processes. 80% of the worm genes are conserved in humans, so what we find is likely applicable to us. Worms are a nice system because you can make genetic and drug tests really fast.” Murphy’s group is working especially on memory, with the neurodegenerative diseases in mind. Early ageing is something that characterises both Moments from The Clock of Life. The round table with invited speakers (Coleen Murphy, second from right); the Organising Committee with speakers; lively interactions from the public (Photos S. Klischies; L.T. Barone).

worms and humans, and Murphy’s intuition was that the first could be a good model for the latter. “Once you start finding that the same genes are regulated in the same way in worms and mammalian systems, you know that the same processes are going

Gene translation unites experts from far fields

on,” she says. Another process Murphy is concentrating on is mechanical decline,


the third edition of the symposium organised entirely by 13 PhD students was “fan-

Barcelona BioMed Conference (2-4 December) to present

variety of the themes was also great.” (ltb)

rom Mars to tRNA. Paul Fox, mathematician by training and PhD in molecular biology for fascination,

was at the Gene Translation: Fidelity and Quality Control

because, yes, even worms have aches and pains. “Their skin and muscles change. It’s a pity they have no knees to study!” In short, “worms are ideal models for early ageing phenotypes.” She thinks that

one of the speakers with a student made her “feel adopted. The

what he calls “a new form of the most important angiogenic factor, VEGF.” And he’s got quite a story to tell. His scientific career began with the famous astronomer Carl Sagan in the 1970s. “I simulated the wind-blown dust on Mars during the Viking space probes mission. My claim to fame is that I was the first to see a sunset on another planet; I had Viking take the first two photos of a Martian twilight.” At first he believed biology was “science for non-scientists,” until he discovered its beauty (and yes, “thinking quantitatively is an important skill for a biologist”). “I keep jumping from one field to the other, I love to learn from younger colleagues,” says this exuberant scientist from the Cleveland Clinic. He has worked on tRNA synthetase for


ten years. One of the discoveries he’s most proud of? “That of a novel translational control mechanism in ceruloplasmin — the actual reason why I am here.” (ltb)


tastic and really well organised, the best in a long time.” Coupling each

Best biosimulators meet in Barcelona


odelling and simulations of molecular systems have become the rule in biomedical research — so

much so that the discipline received the latest Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Physicist Michele Parrinello (ETH Zurich) was among the 150 selected participants of the 22nd Barcelona BioMed Conference, organised in collaboration with the BBVA Foundation, on the Frontiers in Dynamics Simulations of Biological Molecules (4-6 November). “Computer simulations are becoming so accurately realistic that we can learn a lot about the behaviour of matter,” he says. Parrinello emphasises that “simulations play two roles: one is to better understand inevitably limited experimental results. And second to predict or guide an experiment to optimise its results.” The Car-Parrinello method is used in molecular dynamics. The reasons for its success are “historical and sociological,” he explains. “Computer technology 30 years ago was on the verge of a radical change with the first supercomputers. And we were able to look at an old problem with fresh eyes. We found something that deeply affected computer science and chemistry. Of course, luck also played a role.” Ideas on the future of the discipline? “As


Niels Bohr said, prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. Certainly one of the goals will be to describe complex model Lluís Ribas pictured at the Barcelona BioMed Conference on Gene Translation, which he cohosted with Peter Dedon. In the circle, Michele Parrinello at the Barcelona BioMed Conference on Dynamics by Modesto OrozcoIssue and Charles January 2014 25 Laughton. Both conferences p4 Simulation, hosted were organised in collaboration with the BBVA Foundation (Photos L.T. Barone).

in vivo


systems with all the data we can now count on.” (ltb)

One more year! T

he time has come for the 24 pioneering

lona and the Foundation on behalf of the group for

be at IRB Barcelona 18 Saturdays during the year.

students who took part in the “Crazy

the “unforgettable opportunity” they were given

Chosen from among the 430 applications received

About Biomedicine” programme 2013

to work with first-class scientists for a year. Pepe

from schools throughout Catalonia, these stu-

to spread their wings and fly towards new land-

has just been accepted at Harvard and plans to ma-

dents, truly passionate about biomedicine, have

scapes. In an emotional ceremony held at the Casa

jor in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

made it through a difficult selection process based

Milà, they were handed a diploma in recognition

The audience also included the 24 new students

of the their efforts by Joan J. Guinovart and Lluís

of the class of 2014 (15 girls and 9 boys) who will


on academic grades, motivation, and a personal interview. Welcome on board! (ltb)

Farrés, Director of IRB Barcelona and Director of Knowledge and Research of the Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation respectively, the two promoters of this ground-breaking initiative. Last year, the initiative proved to be successful. So much so, that it has been extended to five disciplines and it now involves eight research centres across Catalonia. As IRB Barcelona Director Joan Guinovart noted, “it is highly satisfying to see the Crazy initiative being extended and this passion for biomedicine spreading to other scientific disciplines. It guarantees the future of science in the country.” Before an attentive audience of more than 150 high school students ready to start their new “Crazy about Science” programme and the Directors of eight Catalan science institutes, the veteran Crazy student Pepe Amich thanked IRB Barce-

“Thanks for igniting my spark”


ou have given me the opportunity to reaffirm my passion for research. You allowed me to explore some of the most fascinating discoveries in the life sciences. I worked with profes-

sionals who truly love what they do: this is a precious gift. They were not merely our teachers, they have acted as our mentors. It has been a privilege to get to know researchers from all over the world. They have taught us the real meaning of education, based on passion, exchange and disruptive innovation. And the best of all is that I have genuinely enjoyed the entire journey, from the very first day to the last. We lived the joy of great science. Yes, we are all crazy and hungry. Hungry to discover new approaches to challenging problems, sharing them and making them real. We formed a tight group of friends ready to take on the world. Because interests become passions when you share them, because there is nothing better than inspiring others and being inspired by the best. I’ve met extraordinary people, who are not


only brilliant students but also committed, hilarious and sensitive people.

Crazy about Biomedicine has been a turning point in my life. Thanks for igniting the spark of our dreams. (Martí Jiménez, Crazy About Biomedicine class of 2013)

Teaching science teachers science


cience is a high-speed train that can leave you behind if you do not stay alert. With this in mind, IRB Barcelona organised for the third consecutive year a science training workshop for school teachers in collaboration with the Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation.

The course, held on 29-30 November, brought 15 enthusiastic science teachers to the Institute.

They were trained in cancer, metastasis and personalised medicine by ten scientists led by Elena Sancho. Eduard Batlle and Roger Gomis explained their latest discoveries, while the group worked hand-in-hand with PhD students and postdocs to see how crucial questions in cancer research are


investigated, including why some patients develop metastasis while others do not, who is at risk, which cancers tend to reproduce in certain organs, the function of cancer stem cells, and how we can determine what kind of chemotherapy is the best for any given patient. (jl)

Teachers in the cell culture room (Photo: O. Martorell). January 2014 | Issue 25 p5 in vivo Top, Crazy About Biomedicine class of 2013 at the La Pedrera. (Photo L.T. Barone)

Laura and Joan visit IRB Barcelona labs



he magic-power-bearing protago-

storybook, destined to a public of young kids

nists of the collection of research-

interested in science, is fully downloadable on

focussed books published by the

IRB Barcelona’s web page.

Catalan Government have finally visited IRB Barcelona. Their ‘mission’ was to

1.3M euro for Alzeheimer’s research


he European Research Council has awarded Group Leader Patrick Aloy a ‘Consolidator Grant’ for his project

SysPharmAD (“A systems pharmacology approach to the discovery of novel therapeutics

help researchers uncover the mys-

in Alzheimer’s disease”), which aims to identify

teries of cancer and metastasis, us-

new biomarkers for the disease.

ing the fruit fly as a tool.

“It is clear that we will not find a solution

The “Laura and Joan” series

by concentrating on modifying a single gene and

centers on the efforts of two class-

that we should move away from this genocentric

mates, who, because of their spe-

perspective towards a more realistic therapeutic

cial problem-solving powers, are called upon by investigators at re-

strategy based on networks of interconnected

search institutes across Catalonia

genes, what we refer to as systems pharmacolo-

to help them with their research.

gy,” says Aloy. The researchers want to focus on

This the 20th edition of the series.

the stages prior to the appearance of the symp-

“Laura and Joan pursue ma-

toms, before irreversible brain damage, and to

lignant cells” was written by Jo-

identify new molecular biomarkers to monitor

sep M. López Madrid and illus-

patient response.

trated by Montse Español. The

In this call, ERC awarded 312 grants, with funding totalling 575 million euros. Spain has received

Learning to communicate

20 of the grants, 9 of which


searchers in Catalonia.

have been given to re-

n 9-10 December, twenty young researchers used the Fèlix Serratosa room for an unusual course, sponsored by Esteve Foundation: Scientific Communication, Getting Started and


Six scientists at IRB

Speaking. Instructors Brian McCarthy and John Giba guided the students through the most com-

Barcelona are cur-

mon mistakes in English. But also gave them some tricks to improve their presentation skills.

rently financed

Pulling faces and throwing each other balls included. (Photo L.T. Barone)

by the ERC, for a total funding of


than 13.5


million euros. (sa)

Group Leader Patrick Aloy (Photo: G. Battista/M. Minocri).

IN BRIEF Innovation Day Speed-dating and one-

was one of the 40 students to take part in 3DS, a

the University of Salamanca. The recognition

to-one quick meetings are a great way to find new

3-day initiative held in Barcelona on 15-17 No-

aims to promote and reward the work of young

business partners. With this philosophy, the PCB

vember to promote start-ups and entrepreneurial

Spanish scientists in oncology research.

organised the Networking & Innovation Day on

philosophy. His project is on scaffold biomimet-

Cancer grant The Instituto de Salud Car-

28 November. The Innovation Department and

ics for 3D cell culture suitable for drug screening, the topic of his thesis.

los III awarded Montserrat Terrazas, a research

many students were there to foster new collabo-

Cancer prize Group Leader Eduard


associate in Modesto Orozco’s lab, a Miguel Servet grant, a 5-year contract for her project on

Entrepreneur to be PhD student Juan

Batlle received on 28 January the National Can-

the design, synthesis and biological evaluation of

Pablo Aguilar (from Fernando Albericio’s lab)

cer Research Prize “Doctores Diz Pintado” from

novel biostable small interfering RNA delivery


in vivo

January 2014

| Issue 25

Home-baked goodness


he traditional holiday party IRB Barcelona holds in December for its employees to celebrate a year of hard work had a sweet addition to it this time.

Thanks to a suggestion by PhD student Sabine Klischies, in addition

Researchers from the Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Programme are proud of their cookies. (Photo L.T. Barone)

to the customary lottery, this year’s party included a bake-off competition. All programmes, core facilities and administration were challenged

Federica Battistini prepared on-the-spot pizzas, while Michitaka Isoda

to bake and sell as much cake as possible — ­ with the same objective as

prepared Matcha Daifuku, a Japanese green tea-based sweet that was so

always: to collect money for the Casal dels Infants del Raval, a non-

successful that it disappeared within a quarter of hour.

profit institution in the centre of Barcelona dedicated to helping children, young people and family at risk of social exclusion.

The trophy was claimed by the Oncology Programme, who outsold the other teams. They earned an extra portion of chocolate and cava to


The challenge was taken seriously as researchers prepared cookies,

celebrate. The total amount raised this year was of 1,873 euros. Thanks

cakes, and sweets of all shapes and flavours, as well as many national

to all the participants and providers who donated the gifts for the lottery

dishes of the 36 nationalities currently represented at IRB Barcelona.

for their generosity. (ltb)

‘Marathon’ for IRB Barcelona researchers


nce again, the Marató de TV3 has recognised research performed at IRB Barce-


Salvador Aznar Benitah, Ángel R. Nebreda,

Boehringer pays a visit to the Functional Genomics facility


oland Varecka met Herbert Auer at a con-

“I’m here to learn ChIP-Seq,” he says. This

ference some time ago. “His lab has estab-

cutting-edge technique combines a state-of-the-

lished a special protocol for genomic analysis,”

art method to measure how proteins regulate

explains Varecka, who works at the Genomics

our genome (Chromatin Immuno Precipita-

Facility at Boehringer Ingelheim, in Austria. So

tion) with massively parallel DNA-sequencing

he decided to pay a visit to IRB Barcelona.

to identify the binding sites of DNA-associated

Modesto Orozco, and Manuel Palacín are ben-

proteins (Next Gen-

eficiaries of the funds raised in the 2013 edition

eration Sequencing).

of La Marató destined to fight cancer. Of the

“It takes a long

11 million euros collected, the highest amount

time to establish a

raised in the 21 campaigns to date, the projects

new protocol,” ex-

involving scientists at IRB Barcelona have been

plains Varecka, “and

allotted 1.2 million euros.

it is important to learn


The addition of these four scientists brings

from people who have

the total of researchers at IRB Barcelona con-

already gained experi-

ducting projects funded by Marató to six. IRB

ence.” (ltb)


Barcelona researchers have participated in a total of 17 projects throughout the years.

systems that can target cancer cells selectively.

Roland Varecka, José Ignacio Pons and Herbert Auer. (Photo L.T. Barone)

of them on page 8.

Pub Quiz The predoctoral communities

New postdoc A new group of postdoc-

Top scientists According to the yearly

of IRB Barcelona and the Center for Genomic

toral fellows supported by EU Marie Curie Ac-

ranking prepared by the Spanish newspaper El

Regulation organised the first joint Pub Quiz on

tions has just been selected and the eight new

mundo, three scientists from the IRB Barcelona

28 November. After a round of ‘power-point ka-

postdocs, representing six nationalities, are ready

community are among the best 25 in Spain. They

raoke’ on the two institutes, 80 students had to

to start. Nearly all of them will carry out their

are Joan J. Guinovart, Ernest Giralt and Joan

answer Trivial Pursuit-like questions on science

research in two different lab to foster interdisci-

Massagué. The three were all listed in this ranking

and their daily lives in the labs. The PhD students

plinarity within the Institute. They will join the

also in 2013.

of the two institutes plan to organise more events

Institute in the coming months. You can meet two

like this to promote interaction.

in vivo vivo in

January 2014 2014 | | Issue Issue 25 25 January

p7 p7




Salvatella’s and Án-

Irene Amata (Genzano, Italy, 1978) came to Bar-

lows are the first

gel Nebreda’s labs,

tute. In January Ana Terriente (Granada,

Claudio Di Sanza (Rome, Italy, 1981) is another COFUND postdoctoral fel-

celona “to learn mo-

from this year’s call

Spain, 1978) was welcomed by Marco Milán’s

low who has recently joined the Institute. With

EMBL in Heidelberg, where she became an ex-

and Ángel Nebreda’s labs. An expert in Dro-

a degree in cell and molecular biology from

pert in NMR spectroscopy. Her focus of study

sophila developmental biology, after working

La Sapienza University in Rome and doctoral

at IRB Barcelona was intrinsically disordered

at the Centre for Molecular Biology in Madrid,

studies on metabolism, ageing and low caloric

proteins. “They have been neglected for many

Ana went to Cambridge for her postdoc. “I

diets at the Italian National Institute of Health

years but are interesting because they do not

investigated a GRN downstream of Notch in

(ISS), he moved to Utrecht, where he worked

need an exact 3D structure to perform their

Drosophila blood cell differentiation,” she recalls.

on metabolism and diabetes for four years.

functions,” she says. “They broke a ‘dogma,’

The choice of IRB Barcelona was straightforward

“The Netherlands is also going through a dif-

that the structure of a protein is necessary to

for her. “This Institute's international reputation

ficult funding crisis,” explains Claudio. “I had to

function. NMR is the best technique to char-

is very solid. Plus, the Drosophila community

leave and look for a better place,” he says. “At

acterise them at the highest resolution.” After

here and in Barcelona is strong. If you want to

IRB Barcelona I found a solid scientific proj-

nearly 3 years at the Institute, Irene, whose

work on cutting-edge research, this is the place

ect, and the opportunity to ‘contaminate’ my-

second love after biophysics is music (she sings

to be,” she says convincingly. “I am also very

self working with biophysicists. The solvency of

with her own bossanova group), is heading to

happy to have a chance to work in collabora-

the Institute, the competitiveness of the science,

Paris for another postdoc. “I’m going back to

tion with two groups whose scientific focus is

together with the unparallelled quality of life

my first passion, RNA and proteins,” she ex-

cancer.” Her topic will be p38 in tumourogenesis

of the city convinced me that this was the best

plains. IRB Barcelona was a positive experience

in the fly. Even if her arrival is very recent, Ana

choice for my career.” Too bad he will have to

for her: “What I liked the most was that I had

has already jumped into IRB Barcelona activi-

get used to a different type of soccer fan. “Seeing

the opportunity to experience a lot of inter-

ties. “I’m helping out with the organisation of

my beloved Fiorentina play here will be hard,”

disciplinarity. Choosing Barcelona was a very

Postdoc Day,” she says. “Join us!”

sighs Claudio.

good decision, I would do it all over again.”










to join the Insti-

time Xavier

lecular biology.” A physicist by training, she was also a COFUND fellow coming from


“Join us for Postdoc Day”


aced with the difficult decision at the age of 18 to opt for university studies in the arts or sciences, Laura Nevola, research associate in Ernest Giralt’s lab, chose the latter; however, in 2008 and on

the verge of completing her PhD in Pharmaceutical Science at Rome University, she was seriously doubting a future in this discipline. What happened to change your mind?

Tim Hunt and other inspiring scientists will be among our invited speakers

During the last year of my PhD, I went to Yale University. That was a

Laura Nevola in her lab. (Photo L.T. Barone)

decisive experience because I was thinking of abandoning science... things were not looking good for a science career in Europe at that time. This year refuelled my passion for protein-protein interactions. Why is light such an important part of your research? UV light can be used to activate proteins with pharmacological applications. We are now focusing on new protein targets that are involved in cancer and apoptosis. Current cancer therapies are highly toxic and this line of research may open up avenues to more selective treatments for this disease. You were a founding member of the Postdoc Council. What is the objective of the first Postdoc Day on 3 April?

Events like this allow people to learn about hot topics in other fields and can lead to collaborations, and they also show the postdoc community success stories. We have a great keynote speaker, Tim Hunt. Talks will also be given by Melike Lakadamyali (ICFO) and Guillaume Filion (CRG), two outstanding young researchers who will inspire our community. After hours in the lab activating proteins, how do you “deactivate” yourself in your free time?


I didn’t abandon my artistic inclinations. I write screenplays in Italian and I am now starting a course in Spanish. Maybe one day one of my pieces will get produced! (ty)

In vivo, issue 25. Published by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine. Office of Communications & External Relations. Barcelona Science Park. c/Baldiri Reixac, 10. 08028 Barcelona, Spain.  Web: - Facebook: - Twitter: @IRBBarcelona Editorial committee: Luca Tancredi Barone (ltb), Sarah Sherwood (ss) (editors), Sònia Armengou (sa). Contributors: Jordi Lanuza (jl), Tanya Yates (ty). Graphic Production: La Trama. Legal deposit: MU-29-2012. This document has been printed on recycled paper. To subscribe or unsubscribe from in vivo, e-mail: info@ © IRB Barcelona 2013.