Crag News

The Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence Award 2016-2019 has brought four new research lines at CRAG

From left to righ: Julia Qüesta, Nicolas Bologna, Jae-Seong Yang, and Laura R. Botigué
From left to righ: Julia Qüesta, Nicolas Bologna, Jae-Seong Yang, and Laura R. Botigué

In late 2015, CRAG was awarded the “Severo Ochoa Center of Excellence” Award by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. This award recognizes and funds the Centres that perform cutting-edge research and are among the world's best in their respective areas. The “Severo Ochoa” implies a grant of one millions euros per year during a 4-year period (from 2016 to 2019 for CRAG).  Thanks to this extra competitive funding, CRAG has incorporated four new career track fellows that have opened new research lines at CRAG. 

“An institutional award for a research Centre is always the result of the collective work of its personnel, and it is through its “people” that it can achieve excellence. The “Severo Ochoa” programme at CRAG placed a strong emphasis on “people”, by recruiting young scientists” explains the CRAG director, Prof. José Luis Riechmann.

Four New Junior Group Leaders

Laura R. Botigué, was the first Junior Group Leader to be incorporated as part of the “Severo Ochoa” programme. Expert in population genomics, palaeogenomics, and bioinformatics, Botigué joined CRAG’s Plant and Animal Genomics Research Programme. Her main research line is about the process of plant domestication in the Near East, including cereals (emmer wheat) and legumes (chickpea).  Another focus of her research is dog domestication and population dynamics in the Iberian Peninsula from the end of the Neolithic up to the Roman Period, a research line that she started during her postdoc at Stony Brook University (NY, USA).

Nicolas Bologna joined CRAG after his postdoctoral studies at ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and the Gurdon Institute (Cambridge, UK). At CRAG he has set up the RNA Biology research group,  aiming to unravel novel and essential functions of non-coding RNAs pathways, using as model systems Arabidopsis thaliana and Caenorhabditis elegans. Bologna points out that understanding non-coding RNA actions is of paramount importance given the extraordinary potential held by the therapeutic, veterinary and agronomic exploitation of these molecules. Bologna, as well as his fellow compatriot Julia Qüesta, has received the prestigious “la Caixa” Foundation Junior Leader fellowship

Julia Qüesta did her postdoctoral studies at the John Innes Centre (Norwich,UK) and has joined CRAG this summer. Her research is focused at elucidating how lncRNAs and the chromatin silencing machinery trigger epigenetic memory in plants. Using Arabidopsis thaliana, she aims to deliver fundamental concepts concerning plant development and gene regulation that will also contribute to future improvement of agronomically relevant species such as maize and wheat.

Jae-Seong Yang has been the last career track fellow to join CRAG. Korean by birth, he knows well  the Barcelona research environment, since he did postdoctoral studies at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG). He is currently setting up the new Computational and Synthetic Biology research group. His main research line, applying techniques ranging from modern machine learning and computational structural biology to high-throughput experimental methods such as NGS-based screening, is the control of gene expression and transcriptional regulation on microalgae, with the goal of developing bioengineering platforms from photosynthetic cell factories through synthetic biology.