Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology & Centre for Innovative Biomedicine and Biotechnology

CiBB – Centre for Innovative Biomedicine and Biotechnology, is a Research Center of excellence in the domains of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, which results from a consortium joining CNC-UC — Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology and iCBR – Coimbra Institute for Clinical and Biomedical Research. In 2024, the Teaming projects MIA-Portugal: Multidisciplinary Institute of Ageing and GeneT – Gene Therapy Center of Excellence have integrated the CiBB multidisciplinary structure.
With the largest critical mass of researchers in the Centre Region of Portugal, internationally recognized and linked to the Faculties of Pharmacy, Medicine, Sciences and Technology and Economics, as well as to the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research and to the Coimbra University Hospital, CiBB has a high-level of scientific production and attracts talent and funding at national and international levels.

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The CiBB stands as the flagship of Biomedical and Biotechnology Sciences at the University of Coimbra (UC). It is the largest R&D Unit in the center region of Portugal and the sole UC-coordinated Associate Laboratory (top 100% evaluation), welcoming circa 700 members.
CiBB comprises 37 dynamic and multidisciplinary research groups, dedicated to understanding how and why diseases develop, particularly those associated with aging, and translating this understanding into clinical applications and technological breakthroughs.
Structured around four thematic pillars, CIBB’s mission spans diverse areas:
1. Neuroscience and Disease: Delving into brain function and dysfunction in disorders such as neurodegenerative diseases, neuropsychiatric conditions, and vision impairments.
2. Metabolism, Aging, and Disease: Investigating the cellular and molecular underpinnings of metabolic dysfunction and aging, and their impact on age-related diseases.
3. Innovative Therapies: Harnessing the potential of stem cells, genetic interventions, and pharmaceuticals to pioneer new treatments for neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, oncological, and infectious conditions.
4. Healthcare Challenges: Tackling healthcare challenges by promoting evidence-based decision-making, engaging citizens, and finding innovative solutions for aging-related questions.
CiBB is committed to nurturing talent, through robust international training programs at the master’s and doctoral levels. Additionally, CiBB bridges the gap between research and society through effective communication and public engagement initiatives.
In collaboration with the Coimbra University Hospital and its Clinical Academic Center, CiBB leverages its strong ties to clinical practice, facilitating the translation of fundamental research findings into clinical benefits. Moreover, CiBB invests on the transformation of scientific breakthroughs into intellectual property, fostering technology transfer and the creation of economic value.


Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology

We dedicate our research to natural products from micro-organisms and the infection biology of pathogenic fungi. Microbial natural products serving as mediators in the biological communication are essential for our lives. However, they play an ambivalent role in this process: On the one hand, they are involved in the emergence of numerous infectious diseases; on the other hand, they belong to the most important sources of medicinal products like antibiotics.

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In order to examine microbial natural products and to understand infectious diseases better, we combine both areas of research. We aim to elucidate how microorganisms produce both pathogenic substances and pharmacologically relevant components. Beyond that, these substances of micro-organisms serve as instruments of communication among themselves. Another module of our research is the interaction of pathogenic microorganisms with their host. We are interested in investigating the methods and tricks that both parties use in this process.

Numerous individual joint projects enable us to acquire new knowledge in the field of biosynthesis and the function of natural products. We use this knowledge to develop innovative ingredients for the diagnosis and therapy of illnesses, including new anti-infectives. Implementing our research results and the models derived thereof, we contribute to the development of a systems biology of infections.

Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPS

The Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPS develops effective strategies for the prevention of chronic, non-communicable diseases. Supporting a healthy life-course early on is our primary goal. The focus of our research is therefore on factors beyond individual diseases, such as lifestyle and environment, biological and social factors, as well as early detection and drug safety. Our research spectrum covers methodological development, the identification of the causes of diseases, and intervention and implementation research. We also offer information to politicians and the general population and provide academic qualification to young scientists. BIPS thus covers the entire cycle of epidemiological research.

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Under the central theme of “population-based prevention research in the life-course,” the institute conducts interdisciplinary epidemiological health research on the national and international level. It develops innovative methods and utilizes diverse data sources to study significant health disorders and to evaluate preventive measures and strategies. In addition, BIPS significantly contributes to the establishment of research infrastructures of national and international importance. To this end, BIPS is also committed to the expansion of research data management and the FAIRification of research data as an important basis of Open Science and Open Data.

For many years, strengthening prevention has been a key scientific, social, and political objective. BIPS is dedicated to achieve this goal with high-quality research based upon methodological research investigating epidemiological questions with a focus on the development of epidemiological and statistical methods. The institute emphasizes the particular importance of the life-course perspective for the health of individuals and the population as a whole with its focus on long-term studies. Research at the institute provides important insights to ensure and improve health and well-being with measures that begin early and are related to transition periods within the life-course.

Leibniz Institute for Immunotherapy (LIT)

The Leibniz Institute for Immunotherapy (LIT) develops innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer, autoimmunity, and chronic inflammation. By reprogramming immune cells through synthetic and pharmacologic intervention, we build cells that save lives.

Our scientific activities are structured into three Research Areas: Discovery, Translation, and Clinical Application. All three work in synergy with one another. Our work starts with basic research into the areas of immune regulation, immune metabolism, cancer, and tissue homeostasis. It carries on with a focus on therapy development—spanning the creation of new formats of genetic and pharmacologic cell manipulation and drug-compliant manufacturing processes. Finally, we seek to apply our discoveries in early clinical trials on patients themselves.

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Discovery: This branch of research investigates the highly complex interactions of different immune cells—with each other and with the organism’s cells—to understand how the immune system maintains the health of the organism.
Translation: This area focuses specifically on the preclinical development of immune-cell therapeutics. This includes the identification, differentiation, expansion, and preclinical testing of therapeutically relevant immune cell populations.
Clinical Application: At the LIT, our core focus is on the clinical translation of scientific findings: We therefore place significant emphasis on the development and roll out of clinical trials and focus on the clinical implementation of the results.


Reinforcing under-utilised crops at the Portuguese living lab GPeaPort – The DIVINFOOD project

In Europe, an increasing number of consumers are embracing plant-based diets and reducing meat consumption. A 2021 survey found that around 30% of Europeans follow a flexitarian diet, focused on plant-base foods with occasional meat consumption. This dietary trend underscores the demand for improved, minimally processed, and nutrient-rich alternatives.
The DIVINFOOD project aims to develop food chains that value under-utilised agrobiodiversity, in order to act against the decline of biodiversity and meet the growing expectations of consumers for healthy, local products that contribute to sustainable food systems. DIVINFOOD operates holistically across the food chain, fostering collaboration among researchers, farmers, processors, market intermediaries, and consumers, to maximize cereals and legumes food chains, realizing their potential for diversified and healthy diets.

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Funded under the European Commission Horizon 2020 Sustainable Food Security call, DIVINFOOD boasts a consortium of 25 European institutions led by the Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement, in France, with four Portuguese partners: ITQB NOVA, Évora University, ADECA and Cooking lab. In Portugal, the project focuses on grass pea (Lathyrus sativus).
Carlota Vaz Patto coordinates the ITQB NOVA team engaged in DIVINFOOD, specifically the PlantX Lab. With a history of participatory research with local grass pea farmers in Alvaiázere, Portugal, the team has expanded its scope under DIVINFOOD to include a wider range of farmers and processors, establishing the Portuguese living lab, GPeaPort, under her coordination. Living labs are user-centric innovation systems that foster co-creation, integrating research and innovation within community contexts. GPeaPort aims to revitalize and value grass pea cultivation and use by enhancing varietal diversity and developing innovative food products with local food producers, consumers, chefs, cooks, small-scale processors, rural development associations, local authorities and researchers, using a citizen science approach.
At ITQB NOVA, the Genetics and Genomics of Plant Complex Traits (PlantX) Laboratory, led by Carlota Vaz Patto, specializes in molecular quantitative genetics applied to plant breeding. The lab focuses on identifying genes controlling complex interesting traits, such as disease/drought resistance or seed quality, to develop control models, scientific methods and molecular tools to assist precision breeding programs. Within the scope of DIVINFOOD, PlantX hopes to contribute to the diversification of grass pea production systems, through the improvement of its traditional varieties – boosting tolerance to drought, enhancing nutritional quality, and increasing production capacity. They hope to contribute, in collaboration with other Portuguese stakeholders, to diversify diets, by facilitating the implementation of alternative mild processing methods to obtain innovative food products.

State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart

The aim of SMNS research is to comprehensively understand changes in biodiversity at all levels – from genetic diversity to the diversity of species and communities to the level of ecosystems – over geological timescales. SMNS investigates how the diversity of organisms, species communities and interactions has developed in the course of evolution, discerning patterns of change over time and which biotic and abiotic environmental drivers are responsible for this. The SMNS investigates both evolutionary and anthropogenic influences on biodiversity across different temporal and spatial scales.

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Our expertise encompasses a wide variety of organisms, from charismatic Indonesian tarsiers under threat of extinction to thermophilic neophytes that have spread rapidly and conquered new habitats in the past decades in response to rising temperatures. From giant fossil marine reptiles that were dreaded top predators of the Jurassic Sea to millimeter-sized parasitoid wasps that lay their eggs in other insect larvae, preventing agricultural pests. With more than 12 million specimens in our collection and cutting-edge facilities, we investigate this diversity to unravel the uniqueness of each specimen. It is the fascinating stories behind each specimen that we convey not only in scientific articles but also to our visitors in the exhibition. Be it the first evidence of cancer from 240 million years ago, the predation among giant marine reptiles, as evidenced by bite marks or how the evolution of mouthparts contributed to the diversity we see in some hyperdiverse insect groups.
Through close collaborations, such as with the particle accelerator at KIT, we are able to use synchrotron radiation to create three-dimensional models of insects trapped in amber millions of years ago or visualize the behavior of live parasitoid wasps moving in their host.
We regularly carry out expeditions and paleontological excavations. Both in the vicinity, where many world-famous fossil deposits are easily accessible and also worldwide, with many highly important findings. They range from small, such as the oldest fossil hummingbird to the probably heaviest animal that ever lived on earth: Perucetus colossus. Our scientists describe new species from the meadows and forests in the area where most people would not expect to find the unknown. But also from remote areas such as cave systems across Europe, tropical rainforests or the islands of New Caledonia. We do this together with institutions and researchers from the area and maintain close collaborations that allow for capacity building and vice versa knowledge exchange on an eye level. We are active members in several networks, through which we are able to join forces with other natural history museums, universities and research institutions of all kinds to conduct large-scale projects, such as the German Barcode of Life.

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)

The IZW conducts wildlife research for conservation from a multidisciplinary perspective. We aim to understand key species’ evolutionary equipment, genetics, reproduction capacity, health and interaction with humans in the context of biodiversity loss and develop effective strategies for these species to cope with the massive and rapid environmental change of our time. We focus on wildlife biology and veterinary science, but also include data modelling, biostatistics, social sciences and other disciplines into our holistic approach for evidence-based species conservation. We conduct fundamental and applied research – from the molecular to the landscape level – in close dialogue with the public and stakeholders. Additionally, we are committed to unique and high-quality services for the scientific community.

Champalimaud Foundation

The Champalimaud Foundation (CF) was established in 2005 as a worldwide reference for scientific research and clinical practice. Located in a beautiful setting by the Tagus river in the city of Lisbon, Portugal, the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (CCU) is a vibrant scientific and clinical institution where hundreds of national and international (+40 EU and non-EU nationalities) scientists, support staff, physicians, and other healthcare professionals work together to investigate fundamental biological processes and search for effective solutions to alleviate the burden of oncological and neurological diseases, while providing state-of-the-art care to patients.

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Research, developed within the Champalimaud Research (CR) programmes, is primarily focused on the fields of neuroscience, cancer and physiology. More specifically, 31 groups are dedicated to fundamental and clinical research on topics that range from Brain-wide control of Behaviour and its impacts in Artificial Intelligence /Machine Learning, to the Immune System and the interaction between Neural and Immune Systems and Disease Progression. With a community of ~500 members distributed in two big open labs (somehow similar to big media newsrooms), with access to several technical and scientific facilities, the aspiration of CR is to help scientists reach their full creative potential and to promote collective achievements beyond those reachable by individual scientists or laboratory groups. The legacy of CR will not only be advances in scientific knowledge but advances in the scientific process itself.

According to the latest European Research Council (ERC) dashboard, which comprehensively overviews ERC-funded projects, Portugal has secured funding for 165 projects since 2007 and CF leads the list of institutions in Portugal for ERC funding, both in terms of total number of grants and of overall funding. Most of our ERC grants are in Life Sciences but we also have secured grants in Social Sciences and Humanities and in Physical Sciences and Engineering.

Biology of Ageing

The Max-Planck-Institute for Biology of Ageing (MPI-AGE) aims to unravel the molecular, physiological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying the ageing process. As we age, many of our body functions decline, often accompanied by the development of complex and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases. Our mission is to understand how we can intervene to mitigate or even prevent these age-related diseases and pave the way for a healthier ageing. Currently, much of the research at the institute focuses on three topics: the molecular genetics of ageing, the study of the ageing brain, and the role of mitochondria in ageing processes. In addition, research groups are investigating how DNA repair and nutrient sensing influence ageing.

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To understand these processes, the institute currently conducts work on four different model organisms: worms, fruit flies, turquoise killifish and mice. The studies on model organisms are in the long term to be linked with comparative studies in humans. To this end, we are examining samples from patients in the clinic and conducting studies on long-lived families.
Host researcher Joris Deelen focuses on the identification of the genetic mechanisms underlying healthy ageing and extended lifespan in humans. Moreover, the Deelen group aims to establish novel human ageing studies in Cologne to identify and validate biomarkers of healthy ageing.


Sustainability at the Frontier: Unveiling Nature’s Potential for Health and Food Innovations

Over 50% of the cork produced worldwide comes from Portugal. This material, used for products that range from wine stoppers to the isolation of spaceships, is at the heart of two ERC research grants developed at ITQB NOVA over the last years. The reason is that half of cork’s weight is made up of suberin, a plant polymer with remarkable antimicrobial, anti-biofouling and hydrophobic properties. Suberin can mimic natural processes and offer sustainable alternatives for combating fungal infections, as explored in the project MIMESIS – “Development of biomaterials through mimesis of plant defensive interfaces to fight wound infections”, but also for encapsulation technologies in the food and drug industries, as investigated in SNAIL – “High-performance hydrophobic suberin nanoparticles for the generation of liquid-air biphasic droplets with application in food and therapeutics”. Both projects were led by ERC Grantee Cristina Silva Pereira, head of the Applied and Environmental Mycology lab of ITQB NOVA.

ITQB NOVA is a scientific research and advanced training institute of NOVA University Lisbon. The institute is located in Oeiras, a seaside town with the highest GDP/capita and the most educated population in the country. The institution excels in Molecular Biosciences across diverse disciplines, contributing to societal challenges focused on the well-being of human societies and on the environment.

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The vision for the ERC-funded MIMESIS project was to develop wound dressing biomaterials that combine antimicrobial and skin regeneration properties. The research team successfully developed a biocompatible extraction method that preserves the plant polyesters’ antimicrobial capabilities. Building on this success, the team secured an ERC Proof of Concept Grant in 2024, for potential applications in food and therapeutics. This new project, SNAIL, explores the potential of suberin in encapsulation technologies, envisioning a sustainable shield for functional ingredients, such as probiotics and proteins. By transforming plant polyesters into purposeful biomaterials, this work represents a shift away from energy-intensive synthetic production methods, focusing instead on “closing the loop”, supported by the principles of green chemistry and biorefinery.
During the residency, the science journalist is invited to discover this research, which is not only advancing scientific frontiers but also actively contributing to a more sustainable future by having a clear focus and commitment on the translation into tangible innovations. In addition to delving into the project’s intricacies, supported by ITQB NOVA’s cutting-edge facilities, including the largest Portuguese NMR facility, CERMAX, the science journalist will have the opportunity to experience all the intricacies atmosphere of scientific exploration. This encompasses the dynamic journey of discovery, comprising both highs and lows, where breakthroughs are not confined to “Eureka” moments.