Crag News

Dr. L. Maria Lois named new Director of CRAG

Maria Lois will succeed José Luis Riechmann as CRAG Director on the 1st of February

Last December, CRAG’s Board of Trustees appointed the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) Scientist L. Maria Lois as the new director of the Centre. This appointment comes after an international selection process coordinated by the CERCA Institution, and with the participation of CRAG’s External Scientific Advisory Board. Lois will take office on the 1st of February.

L. Maria Lois will be the third director of CRAG succeeding José Luis Riechmann, who has been director from early 2013 and will remain at CRAG as a Research Group Leader, and Pere Puigdomènech, who was the founder director.  Lois will be one of the very few women directors of the Catalan CERCA Research Centres and Spanish “Severo Ochoa Centres of Excellence”.

 “I am sincerely honored to receive the trust to lead CRAG for the next years. Thanks to the vision and commitment of the previous directors, the exceptional work of the researchers and, certantly, the whole CRAG community, CRAG is today an internationally renowned research Centre in plant and farm animal sciences. In this new period, CRAG will seek to have a leading role in providing fundamental knowledge and tools for the ecological transition, urgently needed to achieve a sustainable and equitable society. Through the unique cooperation between our Consortium institutions ꟷtwo main institutes in fundamental and oriented research (CSIC and IRTA) and two of the best universities of the country (UAB and UB)ꟷ CRAG will generate solutions that will benefit the agrifood sector, and will train the future leaders needed to meet the societal challenges related to food security and the bioeconomy”, said L. Maria Lois.

About L. Maria Lois

Born in Barcelona in 1971, L. Maria Lois received a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Barcelona in 1999, and performed four years of postdoctoral research in New York, USA (Rockefeller University, WMC of Cornell University, and Memorial Sloan Kettering). In 2004, she obtained a competitive Ramón y Cajal contract and joined the University of Barcelona as a young group leader. In 2008, she was appointed CSIC Assistant Professor at CRAG, where she has been leading a research group ever since.

As an independent researcher, Lois has focused on the study of a cellular regulatory mechanism known as SUMOylation, which involves the binding of the small protein SUMO to other proteins in order to regulate their activity. Lois pioneer research on SUMOylation in plants was supported by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) from 2008 to 2014. Some of Lois’ research group contributions are: the identification of novel regulatory mechanisms of SUMO conjugation (Castaño-Miquel et al., 2011; Castaño-Miquel et al., 2013; Chosed et al., 2006; Lois, 2010), and the discovery of SUMOylation’s role in plant defense against pathogenic fungi (Castaño-Miquel et al., 2017). Their recent studies suggest that SUMOylation act as a molecular switch orchestrating plant developmental transitions, specifically in the seed and at the onset of senescence. As an emergent field of research, Lois has also actively been involved in the creation of a Plant Proteostasis Network that brings together leading experts in mechanisms that regulate protein activity in plants

Lois has also been very active in translating her research into applications to improve human and plant health. In this sense, she led the development a molecular tool for in vivo SUMO conjugation inhibition, which is the basis for a translational research line focused on the generation of SUMO conjugation inhibitors for therapeutic and agronomical applications. This development has received support from the ERC (Proof-of-Concept grant, 2014), the Catalan Government (Llavor, 2014 and Producte, 2018 projects), and “la Caixa” Banking Foundation and Caixa Capital Risc (CaixaImpulse, 2017).