It’s been a hair-raisingly fast climb up to the near top of the tree of centres in the Catalan research arena, with IBEC already holding its own alongside bigger and more established organizations for scientific output, number of ERC grants, patents, spin-offs, training programmes, national or EU-level stamps and endorsements, and other important indicators. 2017 saw the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) celebrate its first ten years of research activity.
Fulfilling its first mission, which is to conduct basic and interdisciplinary research in bioengineering and nanomedicine at the highest international level, IBEC has published more than 740 indexed scientific papers in the last decade, more than half of them in the top decile of high-impact journals. Its 21 group leaders have achieved no fewer than 11 prestigious research grants from the European Research Council (ERC), and six of them have been supported by ICREA, the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies. The institute has coordinated five Europe- or worldwide consortia of EU-funded projects under FP7 and Horizon 2020, as well as being a partner in countless others. Its scientific breakthroughs have included the first functional splenon-on-a-chip, a new concept in biology, plithotaxis, pioneering breakthroughs in drugs controlled by light, uncovering crucial mechanisms in breast cancer, resolving a long-standing chemistry enigma, developing record-breaking nanojets, and many more.
To realize its mission to transfer its knowledge and technology to the biomedical sector, IBEC works with hospitals and industry to develop its research into products that can be brought to market and the bedside. With 23 patents under its belt and 3 spin-off companies, IBEC can claim with pride such advances as new pancreatic cancer molecules, a drowsiness indicator for vehicles, novel wound-healing particles, and many others in the pipeline.
In its efforts to achieve another mission, collaborations with international academia, IBEC has set up Memorandae of Understanding or other official alliances with organizations in thirteen countries. It was a creating partner of EIT Health, one of the largest publicly funded health initiatives in the world, and is part of countless other networks at international, national and local level. Its impressive internationality doesn’t hurt, either; 38 countries have supplied IBEC’s scientists and staff over the years.
With the last but not least of the missions – training the next generation of experts in healthcare technology – in mind, so far 104 PhD students have defended their theses at IBEC. Its students and other researchers have gone on to work in prestigious institutions and companies all over the world and have been part of some tremendous scientific advances.
These are undeniably impressive feats for a centre that, upon its launch at the end of 2006, was little more than five research groups from the UB and the UPC who had come together to pool their knowledge. IBEC’s hectic ascent towards its ultimate goal of becoming a world reference in bioengineering – not forgetting to improve health and quality of life in the process – was duly recognized in 2015 with a Severo Ochoa Excellence Award from the Spanish ministry in charge of research.