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.

Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (IBB)

The Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (IBB) was created 52 years ago and was the pioneer of Spanish research institutes within a University. The IBB is located on the campus of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and was previously known as the Institute of Fundamental Biology. In 2000, the Institute’s approach evolved towards a multidisciplinary and cooperative research in the area of biotechnological applications in biomedicine and consequently the name was changed. In addition, the strategic objectives of the entire unit were also reformulated, in favour of potentiating translational projects aimed at understanding the molecular bases of diseases and generating instruments, mainly drugs and vaccines, to fight them.

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Currently, the IBB hosts about 150 researchers, including tenured professors from the UAB, senior scientists, postdoctoral and doctoral fellows, master students and technicians. We host 17 research groups organized in 3 scientific programs that cover multiple scientific areas, but with a shared multidisciplinary character. This configuration allows a broad approach to biological problems and facilitates the transfer of scientific results towards the improvement of the well-being of our society. These three main research umbrella topics are: (1) Applied Proteomics and Protein Engineering, (2) Genomics in Evolution and Disease and (3) Response Mechanisms to Stress and Disease
The senior PIs of the IBB are Dr. Ventura, Villaverde, Ruiz-Herrera, Roig, Corchero, Ferrer, Ariño, Pallarès, Barbadilla, Martí, Gibert, Reverter, Yero, Cerdà, Jaraquemada, JM. Lluch, Piñol, Quijada, Cáceres, Daura, Lorenzo, Pividori, M. Lluch and Roher (Director of the IBB), offering experience in Bioinformatics, Cellular and Structural Biology, Genomics, Immunology, Microbiology, Synthetic Biology, Nanobiotechnology and Proteomics. Some areas in which our researchers work are within the fields of diagnostic tools and theragnostics, vaccine development, neurodegenerative disease detection and new treatments, immune disorders, cancer and targeted drug delivery, bacterial virulence and antibiotic resistances, biotherapeutics for several diseases, etc.

Barcelona Institute for Global Health – ISGlobal

ISGlobal addresses key global health challenges related to infectious diseases, chronic non-communicable diseases, and environmental factors, including climate. We aim to go beyond state-of-the-art by strengthening research within and across our 5 research programmes and promoting innovation and collaboration on methodological issues through cross-faculty knowledge hubs.

The Global Viral and Bacterial Infections Programme aims to reduce the relevant viral and bacterial disease burden by generating knowledge that translates into novel tools and strategies for their prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It has a multidisciplinary and translational research portfolio ranging from basic science to clinical, epidemiological, and public health-oriented research. It works at various steps of the prevention-treatment cascade for pathogens such as M. tuberculosis, non-tuberculous Mycobacteria, antimicrobial resistant bacteria, other bacteria of public health relevance (pneumococcus, group B streptococcus, etc.), CMV, HIV, arboviruses, and viral hepatitis.

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The Environment and Health over the Life-course programme conducts high-quality integrative research to expand knowledge on the causes and mechanisms of NCDs. The programme focuses on environmental, radiation, occupational, lifestyle, social, infectious, and genetic risk factors throughout life, from prenatal to late adulthood. Key topics include respiratory, immune, and cardiovascular health, neurodevelopment, and cancer.

The Climate, Air Pollution, Nature and Urban Health programme aims to strengthen evidence related to the health effects of climate change and exposures in urban and natural environments and to assess the health co-benefits of climate action. It focuses on factors such as temperature, noise, air pollution, and green spaces, and their effect on a spectrum of health outcomes, including premature mortality, cardiovascular and respiratory health, and cognitive function. Their main methods consist of the assessment of exposure and health impact, epidemiological modelling, and intervention evaluation, complemented by computational modelling of global climate variations, tipping points, and their impact on health.

The Malaria and Neglected Parasitic Diseases programme aims to generate valuable knowledge and expand, through a multidisciplinary approach, the current scientific understanding of malaria, Chagas, and other neglected parasitic diseases (NPD) affecting humans, and their interactions with human and animal hosts and/or vectors.

The Maternal, Child and Reproductive Health programme aims to bridge the know-do gap and support the global efforts to ensure that all women and children, regardless of where they live or are born, have access to quality healthcare services. Its research focuses on developing and assessing the efficacy and effectiveness of maternal and reproductive health interventions through relevant clinical trials and implementation science.

Frontiers of Infectious Diseases 

The profound impact of infectious diseases on society, notably underscored during the COVID-19 pandemic, accentuates the imperative for in-depth research to comprehend the intricate dynamics of infectious agents. This includes understanding their modes of transmission, the factors within hosts that influence disease outcomes, and the identification of effective intervention strategies. The urgency of this research has been particularly evident during the pandemic, highlighting the pivotal role of scientific investigation in addressing global health challenges.

The Infectious Diseases Research Program at CIC bioGUNE stands as a vanguard in scientific exploration, pioneering an initiative committed to unraveling the complex and dynamic molecular foundations of infectious diseases. 

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The profound impact of infectious diseases on society, notably underscored during the COVID-19 pandemic, accentuates the imperative for in-depth research to comprehend the intricate dynamics of infectious agents. This includes understanding their modes of transmission, the factors within hosts that influence disease outcomes, and the identification of effective intervention strategies. The urgency of this research has been particularly evident during the pandemic, highlighting the pivotal role of scientific investigation in addressing global health challenges.

The Infectious Diseases Research Program at CIC bioGUNE stands as a vanguard in scientific exploration, pioneering an initiative committed to unraveling the complex and dynamic molecular foundations of infectious diseases.

Molecular Frontiers of Cancer

Cancer, a complex group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell growth, poses a formidable challenge worldwide. Its impact on society is profound, affecting millions of lives and presenting a substantial burden on healthcare systems. The need for comprehensive research to unravel the intricacies of cancer biology and develop advanced strategies for diagnosis and treatment has never been more crucial.

The Cancer Research Program at CIC bioGUNE is a multidimensional exploration focused on unraveling the complexities of cancer, specifically targeting Prostate, Breast, Colorectal, and Liver cancers. 

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This program encompasses several crucial research areas:

• Molecular Basis of Cancer Progression: Investigating the molecular signatures and signaling pathways that drive the progression of Prostate, Breast, Colorectal, and Liver cancers. Our goal is to identify potential targets for precision medicine and advance the development of tailored therapeutic interventions.

• Precision Medicine in Cancer Treatment: Applying precision medicine approaches to develop targeted therapies for different cancer types. This includes deciphering the genetic and molecular variations that contribute to cancer heterogeneity and tailoring treatments accordingly.

• Biomarker Discovery for Diagnostic Advancements: Identifying and validating biomarkers that enhance cancer diagnostics and prognostics. Through advanced molecular profiling and bioinformatics analyses, we aim to contribute to the development of reliable biomarkers for various cancer types.

Molecular Perspectives of Rare Diseases

Rare diseases, often referred to as orphan diseases, encompass a broad spectrum of disorders that collectively affect a relatively small number of individuals within a population. These diseases are characterized by their low prevalence, typically afflicting fewer than 1 in 2,000 people. Despite their individual rarity, the cumulative impact of rare diseases is substantial, with estimates suggesting that there are thousands of distinct rare diseases, collectively affecting millions of people worldwide.

Many rare diseases are chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening, often manifesting early in life. Due to their complex and often unpredictable nature, these diseases can lead to significant physical, emotional, and financial burdens on patients and their caregivers. Moreover, the lack of effective treatments exacerbates the challenges faced by individuals living with rare diseases.

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The importance of research dedicated to rare diseases lies in its potential to unravel the underlying molecular mechanisms, genetic factors, and cellular processes driving these conditions. Investigating genetic mutations associated with rare diseases provides crucial insights into the fundamental aspects of human biology and the consequences of genetic abnormalities. Understanding the molecular basis of disease progression is essential for developing targeted therapies that can alter the course of the disease, improving the quality of life for affected individuals.

The impact of rare diseases research extends beyond the laboratory, directly influencing clinical practice, healthcare policies, and societal perceptions. By identifying potential therapeutic targets, researchers contribute to the development of novel treatment approaches and pave the way for precision medicine tailored to the unique genetic and molecular profiles of individuals with rare diseases. Additionally, advancements in rare diseases research contribute to the broader understanding of biological processes, benefiting the entire field of medicine.

The Rare Diseases Research Program at CIC bioGUNE plays a pivotal role in addressing the challenges posed by rare diseases. By exploring the intricate molecular pathways, genetic factors, and cellular mechanisms associated with rare diseases, the program contributes not only to scientific knowledge but also to the development of innovative diagnostic methods and targeted therapeutic strategies. The societal impact of this research is substantial, offering hope and improved outcomes for individuals grappling with rare diseases and their families.

CEITEC Masaryk University

Harnessing knowledge of plant biology for crop improvement, infectious diseases; RNA/nucleic acids in health and disease; correlative approaches to connect dynamics and structure of living systems; cancer biology; and brain disorders.