News: CRAG scientists Ana Caño-Delgado and Maria Lois awarded grants in the Llavor (Seed) program for the creation of technology start-up companies
The CSIC scientists Ana I.Caño-Delgado, L. Maria Lois Rojas, Vicenta Llorente Cortes and Jordi Riera Colomer have been granted in the Llavor (Seed) program, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and launched by the Catalan government (Generalitat de Catalunya). This program is addressed to fund business projects which are in an early stage of technological development, in order to promote their evolution to the productive sector. From 90 projects, 29 were chosen, each one receiving a grant of 24.000 euros. The Llavor grant includes a mentoring and training program coordinated by the University UC Berkeley (EUA).
The four CSIC scientists have launched projects that offer alternatives to issues highly relevant in our society: sustainable and resilient crops for climatic change, therapies against cancer and cardiovascular diseases; and energy. Ana I. Caño is leading a research group in the Center for Agrigenomic Research (CRAG). Her group has been chosen for a philanthropic project of the Fundación Renta Corporación, aimed at developing solutions to fight hunger in countries affected by climatic change, like in the Subsaharan Africa areas. “But the scarcity of water is a serious and growing problem in developing countries”, adds Caño-Delgado. “Plant biotechnology will be an essential factor for providing food security”. This scientist is now entrepreneur of the spin-off PLANeT Biotech, that receives the Llavor grant and will develop sustainable solutions for the new challenges of agriculture. L. Maria Lois Rojas, also a scientist at the Center for Agrigenomic Research (CRAG), is developing SUMOblock, a project that aims to develop new anticancer drugs. These drugs are based on an innovative strategy that blocks the conjugation of SUMO (acronym of “small ubiquitin-related modifier”), an essential process in the tumoral cells. Maria Lois says that “Llavor funding will allow us to translate our results and progress into the first steps of developing these drugs”. The project of Vicenta Llorente Cortes, a scientist at the Cardiovascular Research Center (CSIC-ICCC), aims to develop a new drug for the prevention and treatment of cardiomyopathy. This drug will counteract lipid accumulation in the cardiovascular system. Llorente Cortes explains: ”Unlike current treatments (statins) that lower blood cholesterol levels, the treatment we are developing is addressed to the prevention of lipid accumulation in the vascular wall and myocardium, processes directly connected with myocardial infarction and cardiac dysfunction. The Llavor Project has allowed us to establish the required clinical and business connections, essential to turning the project towards the patient’s healthcare”. Jordi Riera Colomer, a scientist at the Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (IRI), a joint center of the CSIC and the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC), together with Dr. Attila P. Husar, is developing a commercial system for the diagnosis and advanced control of a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell. This new system can facilitate the introduction and the widespread utilization of more efficient and clean new power systems based on hydrogen and fuel cells.