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Thursday, 20 February 2020

The research project BioVac (ICN2 / IBEC) wins one BIST Ignite Award

The project aims to populate nanoparticles with antigens to create a new generation of vaccines against untreatable infections and multi-resistant bacteria. The other award-winning project is BioSpad (ICFO / IFAE).

The BioVac project is a collaboration of the ICN2’s Nanostructured Functional Materials group, led by Prof. Daniel Ruiz, and the IBEC’s Bacterial Infections: Antimicrobial Therapies group, led by Prof. Eduard Torrents. They are working in the development of a new kind of vaccines to address some of the current challenges in the field of infectious diseases. Their efforts have just been acknowledged with one BIST Ignite Award.

The experts believe that about 12 million people will die in 2050 because of infectious diseases. Two main facts explain this prevision. First, antibiotics are becoming less effective due to the resistance developed by the bacteria. Second, there are still several infectious diseases for which an effective vaccine is missing.

The hypothesis behind the awarded project is that polymeric particles that mimic the size and shape of the target bacteria, and incorporate antigens from this pathogen, could cause the immune system to produce an immune reaction better than by administering the antigens alone, and without the risks and limitations of introducing attenuated bacteria.

“The first phase of the project demonstrated, through in vitro and in vivo experiments, that functionalized biomimetic nanoparticles achieve an immune response superior to the administration of free antigens and allowed us to identify the most efficient combinations of antigens”, explains Prof. Daniel Ruiz. “The BIST Ignite Award will allow us, during the second phase of the project, to investigate the optimization of antigen combinations and test the concept with new bacterial cells for which there is currently no vaccine available”, adds Dr Claudio Roscini, postdoctoral researcher at the same ICN2 group.

The evaluation panel valued that the project features a simple and elegant concept with a clear short-term biomedical application. It also underscored the highly productive first phase and the clarity of the objectives and work plan for the second phase, as well as the potential of the project to raise funds from public administrations and private foundations to allow the project to reach a clinical phase.

On the other hand, the other award-winning project is BioSpad, which is co-led by the IFAE’s ATLAS Píxels group (Prof. Sebastian Grinstein) and the ICFO’s Medical Optics group (Prof. Turgut Durduran). They will try to develop more affordable brain diagnostic tests.

The BIST Ignite Awards 2020, endowed with 50,000 euros each, will be delivered during the ceremony to be held next 11 March, at 6.00PM, at the La Pedrera Auditorium. At the event, BIST will announce the five projects selected in the BIST Ignite programme 2019 call. These projects will receive 20,000 euros each to fund an initial eight-month development phase, and will compete for one of two BIST Ignite Awards 2021 based on their results.

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