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Monday, 20 May 2019

The ICN2 co-leads 3 multidisciplinary projects awarded BIST Ignite Grants

The programme intends to encourage collaborations among the BIST researchers. The winners receive 20,000€ to develop their projects in 8 months. Among the five awarded projects, MOFtors, ElectroSensBioBots and BioVac are projects awarded with ICN2 co-leadership.

The BIST Ignite Programme seeks to promote the initiation of new collaborations among the BIST researchers, facilitating the exchange of knowledge among different scientific fields and exploring new approaches to address complex questions. The 2018 Programme has awarded five projects from within the BIST Community for their multidisciplinarity and scientific excellence. The winners will have 20,000€ to develop their projects in eight months, at which point they will be eligible to apply for additional funding through the second phase of the 2018 Ignite Programme.

MOFtors is one of the projects awarded. The acronym MOF stands for metal-organic frameworks, a kind of porous materials that have been studied over the last 20 years. Dr Vincent Guillerm, from the ICN2 Supramolecular NanoChemistry and Materials Group, co-leads the project and explains that they want “to create different types of these MOF materials, with different porosities, and to study how to use some of these pores to encapsulate the enzymes that, when reacting with the substrates in the environment, generate engine motion." The other co-leader is Dr Tania Patiño, from IBEC.

ElectroSensBioBots is another project in which the tandem IBEC - ICN2 has proved successful. Dr Maria Guix (IBEC) and Dr Steven Walston (ICN2 Advanced Electronic Materials and Devices Group) will dive in the field of biobots, or bio-robots. In particular, they will build a 3D biological structure with undifferenciated cells. Then, by electrical stimuli, cells can mature and become muscular fibres, able to contract and relax in a controlled manner. An idea for the future is that these electrical stimuli inducing the development and motion of these structures might be programmed, resulting in a completely automatized biobot.

Finally, the last awarded project involving an ICN2 team is BioVac. Group Leader Prof. Daniel Ruiz Molina (ICN2 Nanostructured Functional Materials Group) and Dr Eduard Torrents (IBEC) want to develop a new kind of vaccines, based on biocompatible polymers. The idea is to incorporate the antigens into these polymers, so that when injected in the body, the immune system can be activated without a real contact with the bacteria. In this way, secondary effects can be avoided and bacteria cannot evolve to beat the defences of the host. Thus, this research shows a novel approach to fight multidrug resistant bacteria, one of the great challenges in global health these days.

The other awarded projects are BIOSPAD (IFAE and ICFO), and ORGANSENS (ICFO and IBEC). The first one aims to explore the usage of a new generation of sensors to detect photons generated with diffuse correlation spectroscopy, a non-invasive technique used to measure blood flow in deep tissues. The second will focus on developing an organ-on-a-chip integrated device composed of engineered pancreatic islets and develop the necessary biosensor to study metabolic diseases. We would like to congratulate all the awardees for their excellent projects, from which we will undoubtedly be hearing in the future.