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Thursday, June 26, 2014

BIOCAPS researchers win five prizes within a month

Recognition of the scientific work undertaken within the project’s framework comes from conferences and competitions held in May

Researchers from the Instituto de Investigación Biomédica de Vigo (IBIV) [Institute of Biomedical Research of Vigo] continue winning prizes for their scientific work within the framework of the BIOCAPS project. After beginning the year with recognition from the company RayBiotech for the advances made by the group of Dr Carlos Spuch in the field of multiple sclerosis, in May alone, three of BIOCAPS scientific areas have been awarded prizes for their work by different conferences and competitions.

The Sociedad Española de Reumatología [Spanish Society of Rheumatology] has awarded the 2013 prize for best work about systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases to the article by the IBIV researcher and doctor at the Hospital Meixoeiro, Dr José María Pego.

During the 40th Annual Conference of the Spanish Society of Rheumatology , held in Santiago de Compostela between the 20th and 23rd of May, prizes were awarded for the best publications in different fields related to rheumatologic diseases.

The winning article, published in the journal of the American College of Rheumatology (Arthritis Care and Research), is entitled ‘Efficacy and Safety of Nonbiologic Immunosuppressants in the Treatment of Nonrenal Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Systematic Review’.

The award-winning researcher, from the BIOCAPS area of ‘Infectious diseases, inflammation and immunity’, is currently coordinating the prospective phase of the Register of Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus of the Spanish Society of Rheumatology (RelesSER), which is the largest single-nation register of patients affected by lupus in the world. Its aim is to significantly increase knowledge about this autoimmune disease, which affects one in every thousand people in Spain –with a rising incidence – while its cause is still not known for certain. Therefore, it is essential to obtain in-depth knowledge about its characteristics to be able to progress in its diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

In addition, the Hospital Pharmacy Department of CHUVI, a collaborator with this same BIOCAPS area, was last month awarded a grant of 10,000 Euros by the Sociedad Española de Farmacia Hospitalaria [Spanish Society of Hospital Pharmacy] to develop its research project on biosimilar medicines. Through this scientific work, Noemí Martínez, Alicia Martín, Miriam Álvarez, Marisol Ucha and Guadalupe Piñeiro are assessing the current situation of this type of drug in Spain and looking for ways to implement action measures against the existing barriers to the use of these drugs in the health system. A future challenge is to promote the formation of a working group to be involved in the development of independent clinical trials of biosimilar drugs for indications in which there have been no clinical trials prior to their authorisation.

Double recognition

Also in May, two presentations coordinated by Dr Federico Mallo and Dr Eva María Vigo, researchers of the BIOCAPS area of ‘Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition’, won awards at the 56th Conference of the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition .

At this scientific meeting, the two presentations by IBIV researchers received awards, one in the oral presentation category and the other in the poster format. For the third consecutive year, Marina Romaní was awarded second prize in the best basic oral communication category for her demonstration of the actions of the drug Liraglutide on foetal pulmonary maturity in an animal model. Currently, this drug is used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus type 2. The animal model reproduces the situation of pulmonary immaturity that is frequent among children born with a low body weight and shows how, by the administration of this drug, it is possible to recover from the deficiencies impeding the respiratory process since birth. This finding paves the way for new therapeutic applications of this drug and provides an alternative to other treatments currently used, which have long-term side effects, such as glucocorticoids.

In the category of basic research communication in Endocrinology, for which there were 291 presentations, the poster of pre-doctoral researcher Verónica Outeiriño won second prize. Her poster described for the first time the stimulating effects of the gastrointestinal hormone Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) on the reproductive function in an experimental animal model.

Best poster on epigenetics

Dr Roberto C. Agís-Balboa won first prize for the best poster presentation at the Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) conference Epigenetics: From Bench to Bedside , held in Athens (Greece) between the 5th and 8th of May. The event gathered together established scientists and early stage researchers, as well as entrepreneurs and national and European Union policy makers, to discuss the interdisciplinary aspects of epigenetics, to describe and recognise its key role in both basic science and applied research.

Thanks to an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) grant, the scientist from the BIOCAPS area of ‘Neurological Sciences and rare diseases’ travelled to Athens to attend this international event, which aimed to promote scientific excellence in the field of epigenetics, to give it top priority within the EU’s scientific community and related industries, as well as to encourage contact and collaboration among conference participants.

The poster of the BIOCAPS researcher, which stood out among the 50 presented, was entitled ‘DNA-methylation is required for hippocampus-dependent fear extinction’. It described how one of the epigenetic mechanisms, DNA-methylation, plays a crucial role in extinguishing fear-related memories. According to Dr Agís-Balboa, “these results pave the way for the development of future epigenetic therapies for treating diseases associated to uncontrolled and exaggerated fear, such as phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder”.