Official opening of the new ICN2 building in Bellaterra

The Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) inaugurated last Monday its new headquarters in the Bellaterra campus of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) is a private foundation with the objective of becoming a world-renowned centre for nanoscience and nanotechnology research. Its patrons are the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), the Government of Catalonia and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). It is part of CERCA, the network of Research Centres launched by the Catalan Government as a cornerstone of its long-term strategy to foster development of a knowledge-based economy. The inauguration was officiated by the Minister for Economy and Knowledge of the Generalitat of Catalunya and President of the Board of Patrons of ICN2, Andreu Mas-Colell, the Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, Carmen Vela, The President of CSIC, Emilio Lora-Tamayo, the Rector of the UAB, Ferran Sancho, the Secretary of Universities and Research of the Generalitat, Antoni Castellà, the Director General of Research of the Generalitat, Josep M. Martorell, the Institutional Coordinator of CSIC in Catalonia, Luís Calvo, and the Director of ICN2, Pablo Ordejón, and was well attended by other senior members of the scientific community.

The research activities of the Institute are focused on understanding the fundamental physical phenomena associated with state variables of matter and to investigate new properties that can be obtained by the creation of tailor-made nanostructures. The researchers at the Institute also work with new methods of fabricating at the nanoscale and the characterisation and manipulation of nanostructures, as well as the development of nanodevices and nanosensors for application in fields as diverse as health, food, environment, energy and electronics.


Angel Raya, the new director of the Barcelona Center of Regenerative Medicine

As we explained in a previous research new, Dr.  Juan Carlos Izpisúa left the management of the Barcelona Center of Regenerative Medicine  (CMRB), and the new director will be Dr. Angel Raya, a former post-doc of Dr. Izpisúa. Given the importance of CMRB in the current context of research in Catalonia, the bet for a person at charge of this center is not an easy task.

Dr. Angel Raya Chamorro was born in Argamasilla de Calatrava (Puertollano, Ciudad Real). He graduated (1990) and did his PhD (1995) at the University of Valencia. Then enjoyed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Cytological Research of Valencia (Príncipe Felipe Research Centre), and in 2000 began a postdoc in the lab of gene expression of Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. There he worked under Dr. Izpisúa’s supervision, with whom he has shared much of his research ever since. In 2006 he joined ICREA at the CMRB, leading the CIBER group Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine. Already in 2009, he joined Bioengineyeria Institute of Catalonia (IBEC), which until now has assumed leadership of the “Control of Stem Cell Potency” group.

He is currently the Main Investigator of the following research areas: heart regeneration in the zebrafish, Mechanisms of induced reprogramming to pluripotency and bioengineering approach to heart muscle differentiation the differentiation of myocardic cells.

Raya’s work aims to understand the tissue, the cellular and molecular mechanisms that determine the regenerative response in certain species of vertebrates, as well as genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that control cellular reprogramming. This provides a link between the traditional study of epimorphic regeneration and induced pluripotent strategies of regenerative medicine. His research was therefore focused to biomedical applications of induced pluripotent stem cells. In this way, he has currently obtained funds from four sources: the John Hopkins Institute, the Basque Foundation for Health Research and Innovation, the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the Institute of Health Carlos III. With these grants, Dr. Raya wants to continue his research on specific applications, like neurofibromatosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiomyopathy and hemophilia.

Additionally, he has contributed to a great number of publications in several scientific journals. Some to be mentioned: Stem Cells, EMBO, Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Protocols and Nature Biotechnology.

We are proud to have such a distinguished figure leading one of our best research institutions, and so we appreciate their commitment to the responsibility that entails. We honestly wish him all the success in his new workplace at the CMRB.

“The continuation of Ángel’s research line at IBEC, linked to the biomaterials and cell engineering activities, while he takes up his directorate duties at CMRB offers stability to the Catalan and Spanish research system, and will allow the consolidation of the research programme in regenerative medicine that it has been developing in recent years in different research centres,” says Josep Samitier, Director of IBEC.


Catalan researchers amongst the authors of a study on a hereditary type of cancer

Gabriel Capellá and Marta Pineda, from the Hereditary Cancer Programme of Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO-IDIBELL) are amongst the authors of an International study on hereditary sequence variants related to Lynch syndrome.

Lynch syndrome, often called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer, particularly cancers of the colon and endometrium, being responsible of 2-5% of cases. This study, published in Nature Genetics, focused in the genetic causes of Lynch’s syndrome. Researchers compiled data on thousands of genetic variants that could be associated to Lynch syndrome. Finally, they developed a classification scheme to a number of unknown variants in this syndrome. This will facilitate the consistent management of families suspected to have Lynch syndrome.  


Science in Catalan

Catalan language in scientific publications is almost non-existent, as in most cases researchers write in English and publish in scientific journals written in this Language. As David Jou says in its article «Science in Catalan: a perspective», 85% of scientific papers are published in English. However, in some areas, such as botany, geology, zoology ecology and marine sciences, the use of Catalan as a scientific language has been more intense. We cannot forget scientific works from pre-and post-graduate students, as well as doctoral theses written in Catalan, which are fairly numerous despite they are conditioned by the composition of the committees.

However, when we try to write science in Catalan with high quality, we frequently have terminological doubts. The task of TERMCAT is key to solve these doubts. TERMCAT is a consortium of the Catalan Studies Institute and the Government of Catalonia, which elaborates terminological dictionaries, offers terminology resources and provides advice to write dictionaries and textbooks.

A recent initiative is a webpage elaborated by the Language Services of the University of Barcelona (UB) with the support of the commission of language policy of the School of Pharmacy. This webpage, termed «Rebotiga lingüística de farmàcia» (which could be translated as linguistic back room of pharmacy), aims to improve the quality of texts written in Catalan in the area of Pharmacy, and is specially addressed to students who must deliver written or oral works belonging to this academic ambit.

It is organized in several parts which are named using pharmaceutical terms such as «generic» (links to resources elaborated by the Language Services of the UB through webpage Vocabulària), «active ingredients» (about diverse text styles used in the academic domain), «magistral formulae» (brief comments on controversial points), «concordia» (resources such as on-line TERMCAT dictionaries), and «excipients» (links to similar webpages of other related faculties).

Initiatives such as this undoubtedly facilitate the use of Catalan in science.  To quote David Jou, science is a very efficient means to consolidate the international prestige of Catalan language.


Barcelona, the world’s 18 best city for higher education

Barcelona has three institutions in the World University Rankings top 400, according the Times Higher Education (THE). Catalonia has 12 universities in total, with a student population of around 235,000. Of these, eight are situated in Barcelona, with three making the top 250 of the latest World University

  • University de Barcelona (UB)
  • University Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)
  • University Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)
  • University Pompeu Fabra (UPF)
  • University Ramon Llull (URL)
  • University Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)
  • University Internacional de Catalunya (UIC)
  • University Abat Oliba (UAO-CEU)

And other four in catalan provinces:

  • University de Vic (UVIC)
  • University de Lleida (UdL)
  • University de Girona (UdG)
  • University Rovira i Virgili (URV)

The THE are the only global university performance tables to judge world-class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook

Look at the european cities that host the most universities that appear in the latest THE:

London. With nine institutions placed in our World University Rankings top 400, four of which place in the top 40 (Imperial College of London, University College of London, London School of Economics and Political Science, King’s College of London). London is a formidable hub of higher education. A quarter of the city’s 400,000 university students come from outside the UK.

Vienna. Today the city has a thriving higher education sector, with three institutions in this year’s World University Rankings top 400, with the University of Vienna the pick of the crop (ranked 170th).

Milan. This city boasts three universities in the top 300 of this ranking. The University of Milan – Bicocca reached the 226-250 bracket.

Stockholm. It’s also one of Europe’s leading centres for higher education, with three institutions ranking in the top 200. Karolinska Institute also registers in the top 50 of this year’s World University Rankings

París It is a global centre for science and business, and boasts six of the world’s top 400 universities. Of these, the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, École Polytechnique and École Normale Supérieure all make the prestigious top 100.

Outside of Europe are: Istanbul, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, New York, Boston (Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the second and fifth place, respectively), Sydney, Melbourne, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong.

In addition, according to a study done last year by ESADE, Barcelona is the 5th city in the world and 2nd in Europe in attracting international talent to study an MBA (Master in Business Administration), which means that, as a city​​, this raise about 60 billion euros annually due to host nearly a thousand participants from these masters.

However these data contrast with the preference of Erasmus students. According to the European Commission, two universities of Valencia and two of Catalonia are in the top twenty European universities that host Erasmus students: the University of Valencia in fifth place, the Polytechnic University of Valencia in sixth position, the University of Barcelona in sixteenth position and the Technical University of Catalonia in seventeenth position. However, UAB and UB are well positioned in the ranking THE, but the two Valencian universities occupy the last positions (397 and 398 respectively).


The question of “YesYes” a century after the approval of the Mancomunitat de Catalunya

The Mancomunitat de Catalunya was officially constituted on 6 April 1914, as a result of the application of the Ley de Mancomunidades Provinciales (Provincial Federations Law), approved by the Spanish Cortes and the Eduardo Dato’s government in December 1913, one century ago. The Mancomunitat was a federation of the four provincial Catalan councils and, although it was a strictly administrative institution, it was a recognition by the Spanish state of the character and unity of Catalonia. It was the first self-governing body since 1714. With it, the Catalan language returned to an official sphere of influence. Its first President was Enric Prat de la Riba and afterwards the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, both of the Lliga Regionalista. The Mancomunitat was disbanded and outlawed during Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship.

The Institution established the bases of modern Catalonia. It carried out the important task of creating an efficient infrastructure of telephones, extending the charities and health provision. The Mancomunitat also undertook initiatives to increase agricultural and forest yields, introducing technological improvements, the improvement of services and education, and promoting education in technologies necessary for Catalan industry. The Mancomunitat worked hard in the Catalan countryside to provide a solution to the crisis in farming and to promote co-operatives. The School of Agriculture and similar initiatives gave farmers and their laborers a solid training. Various departments of the Mancomunitat (Highways, Ports, Hydraulic and Railway Works, Agriculture and Forestry) improved the infrastructure of the countryside.

Another important milestone of the Mancomunitat was the promotion of the work of Pompeu Fabra, who was chiefly responsible for the current Catalan writing system and linguistic standard. The Mancomunitat de Catalunya carried out valuable work in the fields of culture, public education and social action. It set up a network of libraries around the country and promoted museums and archaeological research. It built and improved schools for primary education and vocational and professional training.

In a framework of the monografics course of High Studies and Exchange (organized by the Mancomunitat de Catalunya in order to promote and modernize the scientific renewal in our country), Albert Einstein visits the city, invited by the scientist Esteban Terradas, from 22 to 28 February 1923. Albert Einstein’s visit to Barcelona expected creating a modern scientific community in Catalonia.

2014 will be a century since the creation of one of the most important institutions that have taken place in Catalonia. But even taking our appreciation, we must ensure that 2014 goes down in history as the moment the Catalans said YesYes.

(Català) Enquesta sobre la recerca catalana

Entre els diferents projectes de la sectorial de Recerca per la Independència de cara als propers i decisius mesos, hi ha la preparació i difusió d’una enquesta que té com a objectiu principal conèixer els dubtes i les pors que genera la independència en el col•lectiu de persones que treballem en el món de la recerca, així com recollir idees sobre com pensem que hauria de ser la política científica en el nou estat.

L’enquesta es contesta de forma molt ràpida i és confidencial. Us preguem que la contesteu al abans possible i que la difongueu entre els companys. Interessa l’opinió de tothom: no només investigadors sinó també estudiants, gestors, administratius, tècnics…

Respon l’enquesta



A worm which broods the eggs like hens

Researchers from the University of Barcelona and the Institute of Research in Biodiversity (IRBio) discovered a new species of marine worm in Antarctica, Antarctonemertes riesgoae, which broods the eggs like hens. The scientific finding, recently published in the journal Polar Biology, was developed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Alcalá, the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, and Harvard University.

In marine Antarctic waters, UB experts found that during reproduction, females of the nemertean A. riesgoae secrete a very dense mucous substance through its body wall that solidifies in contact with seawater creating an elastic layer. Once the cocoon is created, females lay eggs on it and brood them. Brooding behaviour is not uncommon but it is remarkable in marine worms that in addition energetically defend their eggs from external threats. To date, only two nemertean species were known to brood their eggs.

The research is a part of the Actiquim-II project. We informed about this project in a post in our blog on 17th September, about the discovery of Osedax deceptionensis, a new species of marine invertebrate that feeds on bones.


World AIDS Day and research on HIV in Catalonia

Today, December 1st, we celebrate the World AIDS Day. Related to this event, it is interesting to know the research that is being carried out on vaccines against HIV in Catalonia through the HIVACAT program.

As we discussed in a recent entry (14-10-13) on occasion of the World Congress on AIDS vaccine, AIDS Vaccine 2013, Catalonia has a large critical mass of researchers who do quality research in this area. Among the leaders , the public-private consortium HIVACAT integrates two prestigious research centers , the IrsiCaixa Institute for Research on AIDS and the Infectious Diseases and AIDS IDIBAPS / Hospital Clinic of Barcelona team, in collaboration with Esteve and supported by Obra Social “La Caixa”, the Government of Catalonia and the Clínic Foundation. The program is co-directed by Dr. Bonaventura Clotet (IrsiCaixa) and by Dr. Josep Maria Gatell  (Hospital Clínic).

The HIVACAT research programme is structured around 8 areas of research, including the description of markers related to the control of the infection, the study of HIV diversity and its effects on immune response, the analysis of HIV entry mechanisms in target cells, and the development of new substances capable of acting as vaccines. Some of them are therapeutic vaccines, they induce an immune response in infected individuals to control virus replication. In recent years, researchers have found some therapeutic vaccine candidates that have been already tested in humans, with promising results. But researchers at HIVACAT are also working on prophylactic vaccines, which could be used to prevent infection.

Despite these success, research on HIV is in danger if funding is lacking, as Dr. Clotet warned yesterday in statements made to El Punt/Avui . According to Dr. Clotet “3.5 million euro will be required to advance in the most promising projects”. Where will these funds come from? Probably, public investment will not be sufficient. This is why HIVACAT encourages civil society to make donations. From one euro, one can to contribute to finance the development of a low cost HIV vaccine, easily accessible to all sectors of the population.


How will research be funded in an independent Scotland?

Yesterday the Scottish Government issued the document “Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland”, which sets out the gains of independence for Scotland – whichever party is in government – and the vision and priorities for action if they are the first government of an independent Scotland. It consists of five parts, one of which contains 650 questions and answers about independence. We transcribed some of these issues related to research funding if Scotland becomes an independent country (questions 247 to 249 ). As in many other aspects, such as currency or even the monarchy, the current Scottish government is in favor of sharing structures and financial systems with the UK. Possibly there are differences with the situation that an independent Catalonia would live in relation to Spain. However, it is clear that researchers are conscious of the benefits of collaboration across borders, and of sharing certain infrastructures. Maybe these questions and answers could become a starting point for discussion, we invite you to share your feedback.


How will research be supported in an independent Scotland?

The excellence of Scottish universities is recognised internationally and they are highly successful in winning competitive funding grants. Building on their reputation our universities will continue to compete for substantial funding for their research on the same competitive basis as they do currently.


Will an independent Scotland set up its own research councils?

There are a number of options for research funding in an independent Scotland including establishing a Scottish Research Council for the allocation of research monies or as a mechanism for directing funding into existing pan-UK research councils. We recognise the benefits – for the academic community, business and research charities across the UK – of maintaining long-term stability in research funding and systems that support initiatives of scale and researchers working together across boundaries. With independence we will seek to maintain a common research area with the rest of the UK including existing shared Research Councils.


Why would UK research councils continue to fund research in an independent Scotland?

Scotland already contributes to funding of the UK Research Councils through the tax base and this Government intends that it should continue to contribute as an independent country. The excellence of Scottish universities’ research is reflected in their success in winning competitive UK Research Council grant funding.

The rest of the UK benefits from Scotland’s high quality research and our centres of excellence and shared infrastructure are used by researchers from across the UK including: five Medical Research Council research centres; five Isotope facilities; the All-Waters Combined Current and Wave Test Facility; and the Roslin Institute.

Successful research depends on collaboration across boundaries, whether disciplinary, institutional or national. Research collaboration contributes directly to the competitiveness of the Scottish and UK economies through knowledge creation and exchange and direct collaboration with business, as well as supporting intellectual life and the academic aspirations of institutions and researchers.

It is in both Scotland’s and the UK’s interests to minimise any barriers to research collaboration and to maintain a common research area.


How would the research councils be funded?

Scotland already contributes to the funding of the Research Councils through the tax base. Following independence, Scotland would contribute directly from the Scottish Government budget giving us a clearer role in setting the strategic objectives of these bodies. With independence, we would intend to negotiate with Westminster a fair funding formula for Scotland’s contribution based on population share but taking reasonable account of the fact that the amount of research funding received by Scottish institutions from the Research Councils may reflect higher or lower levels of funding.