MIT-Spain grant for IBEC project, Bioengineering Against Cancer

IBEC is the recipient of one of twelve MIT-Spain ”la Caixa” Foundation Seed Fund grants under a brand new funding programme in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The media presentation of the grants at Palau Macaya took place this morning, when IBEC Director Josep Samitier took part in a press conference. During the presentation Angel Font, Corporate Director of Research and Strategy at the ”la Caixa” Banking Foundation, remarked particularly on IBEC’s strong capacity for gaining competitive funding.

The ”la Caixa” and MIT grants will aim to support research projects carried out jointly between Spanish universities and research groups and MIT research groups, boosting cooperation between faculty, researchers and students. The inititative is part of the MISTI Global Seed Funds programme, which promotes collaborations between MIT faculty and researchers and their counterparts abroad.

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For the first round in 2017, the awarded projects are all in the fields of health, energy or the global economy, and went to researchers at institutions all over the country, including CSIC in Madrid and Valencia and the University of Alicante, and other Barcelona-based centres such as the Universidad Ramon Llull, Barcelona Supercomputing Center, ICMAB-CSIC and the UPC.

IBEC’s project, Bioengineering Against Cancer, will aim to shed light on the molecular basis of cancer. It will harness mechanobiology – specifically the expertise of the IBEC group of Xavier Trepat and MIT-based ISC member Roger Kamm – to understand and measure mechanical tumor properties to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival. Cancer biologists are realizing that biochemical signaling pathways on their own are not sufficient to understand cancer progression. Not only that, but better approaches for drug discovery and testing are needed, as the conventional 2D culture conditions that are currently used are a poor reflection of real patient physiology.

By combining molecular biology and advanced biophysical techniques, Bioengineering Against Cancer will first unravel the molecular mechanisms by which cells detect and respond to tissue stiffness. Secondly, it will determine how mechanical factors govern cancer invasion. Thirdly, it will analyze patient samples and data to shed light on how mechanical factors, cancer diagnosis, and treatments interfere or interact with each other. This will lead to the discovery of new biomarkers and develop targeted drug delivery strategies with maximum efficiency.