The European Research Council published the list of the awarded researchers in the last call for Proof of Concept, part of the European program on research and innovation, Horizon 2020. Among the 55 awardees -only five in Spain- are three lecturers from the University of Barcelona: J. Daniel de Prades, from the Faculty of Physics, and Antonella Consiglio and Pablo Menéndez, from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The Proof of Concept grants account for 150,000 euros each, and their objective is to explore the social and commercial potential of the obtained results in previous projects funded by ERC. New gas monitoring technology
Daniel Prades is a full professor at the Department of Electronics and Biomedical Engineering and member at the Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology of the UB (IN2UB). He has been awarded for his work on the project Stick&Sense, a new gas monitoring technology accessible to everyone.
Stick&Sense is a new electronic and colorimetric device that consists on a new low-cost optical reader and a gas-specific colorimetric sticker designed to change its color in presence of a target gas. The device works by adding the sticker to the reader, and it will offer a friendly-use system for a wide range of gases and monitoring applications. This enables a rapid expansion, not only in traditional industry but also in new applications which have not been exploited, aimed at mass consumers.
In times when society is more and more aware of the risks related to air pollution, the curernt market does not offer an appropiate solution for a massive and generalized use of gas monitoring devices. Stick&Sense covers all-in-one, the main limitations of existing technologies: it is an integral solution offering a low cost, low complexity, high selectivity, durability and wide range of detection.
According to Prades, “with Stick&Sense, we want to revolutionize the way in which people know about the surrounding risks and how they interact with the environment to improve the quality of life, safety and health”. In this project, the UB researchers will design and make the first minimum viable demonstrator of the technology that will serve to validate the effectiveness both at a technical and commercial level. The team has the necessary experience to implement this Proof of Concept with the support from Bosch i Gimpera Foundation to promote technology transfer agreements. This device is based on the results from other ERC-funded projects, such as the reader chip which is part of the device nucleus and which is already patented.
Platform for the diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis
Antonella Consiglio, ICREA Academia researcher and lecturer of Pathological Anatomy at the Department of Pathology and Experimental Therapy of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and member of IBUB and IDIBELL, has been awarded for the project NeurAntiglen. Consiglio’s team has designed a new platform based on stem cells, able to detect a wide range of antibodies against the neurons in the blood serum or the cerebrospinal fluid.
The autoimmune encephalitis (AE) disease affects 2-3 people out of 100,000. The immune system attacks the brain causing neurological and psychiatric injuries. So far, we only know about 50% of the targets or antigens of our neurons against what the antibodies generate during the disease. This new platform would allow to know not only those antibodies that recognize known antigens that cause AE, but also any antibody that recognizes its proteins as strange. Moreover, since this is a completely human model, there is no chance of a lack of recognition between antigen and antibody due to the difference between species. Last, this platform recognizes with a high reliability the potential fake positives.
Viability, efficiency and safety for a new CAR therapy
Pablo Menéndez, ICREA researcher and lecturer at the Department of Biomedicine, and head of the research group on Stem cell biology, developmental leukaemia and immunotherapy at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute has been awarded for the IT4-TALL project.
The aim is to test the viability, efficiency and safety of a new CAR therapy against the antigen CD1a in cortical T cells in refractory patients of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL). This type of leukaemia presents an unfavourable diagnosis, and therapeutic options have not improved in twenty years, especially for refractory patients.
CAR therapies use healthy cells from the immune system and modify them with a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) so these are able to recognize and attack the cells that have such antigen. These therapies are promising because they can make cells from the immune system attack only the cancer cells, so the adverse effects of other therapies can be avoided. Moreover, these can remain as an acquired defense to prevent the organism of the patient to relapse.