Ferran Sanz Carreras
The Research Program on Biomedical Informatics (GRIB) is a joint research program of the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences of Universidad Pompeu Fabra.
The mission of GRIB is to develop and apply computational methods and information technologies for a better understanding and prediction of biological phenomena, placing special emphasis on those related to human diseases, their diagnosis and pharmacological treatment.
GRIB is recognized and funded by the Catalan government. It is the node for Biomedical Informatics of the Spanish Institute of Bioinformatics (INB) and, jointly with Farmaindustria, GRIB coordinates the Spanish Technological Platform for Innovative Medicines (PTEMI). GRIB also participates in the Bioinformatics Barcelona Association (BIB), which aims to promote training, research, and technology transfer in bioinformatics. Ferran Sanz, the director of GRIB, is the co-coordinator of PTEMI and vice-president of BIB.
GRIB staff is involved in pre- and postgraduate teaching at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), where we are coordinators of the Master’s program in Bioinformatics for Health Sciences. The master’s in Bioinformatics for Health Sciences of the UPF aims to provide professionals and researchers with expertise and skills geared towards developing new computational strategies and IT systems that are useful in biomedical research.
People and research areas
GRIB is currently composed of more than 60 members, with a highly multidisciplinary background, including biologists, chemists, computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, medical doctors, etc. More than 30% of the members are senior scientists or postdocs. The programme includes five IMIM research groups:
• The Evolutionary Genomics group led by M. Mar Albà (ICREA) uses comparative genomics and transcriptomics methods from a large number of samples and technologies to discover new genes and characterize their functions.
• The Integrative Biomedical Informatics group led by Laura I. Furlong (Miguel Servet) and Ferran Sanz, works on new methods and tools for knowledge extraction and linkage from biomedical literature and other publicly available sources, and develops strategies for the research reuse of clinical data.
• The PharmacoInformatics group led by Manuel Pastor (UPF) is devoted to the development and application of computational methods and tools in pharmaceutical research.
• The Systems Pharmacology group led by Jordi Mestres performs research at the interface between chemistry, biology, and informatics to develop novel computational approaches to designing safer, more efficacious, personalized drugs. Some of the results of the group have been commercialized via the spin-off biotech company Chemotargets.
• The Computational Biology of RNA Processing group is devoted to the development and application of methods to identify functional domains in genomic sequences. The main researcher in this group is Roderic Guigó (CRG).
Most relevant issues in 2016
GRIB has broad experience in participating in and coordinating research projects in the field of bioinformatics and providing services, especially in the development of computational methods for drug discovery and toxicity assessment. The most significant funding resources of GRIB come from competitive European and national grants and from research contracts with industry.
In December 2016, GRIB had 7 ongoing European (H2020, IMI) grants. Two of them are coordinated by it:
• The IMI eTOX project (2010-2016) that integrates bioinformatics and chemoinformatics approaches for the development of expert systems allowing the in silico prediction of drug toxicity.
• The H2020 MedBioinformatics project (2015-2018) on the translational and clinical application of bioinformatics.
GRIB also participates in other IMI projects:
• Open PHACTS (2011-2016), which developed an open access platform for knowledge discovery in pharmaceutical R&D, through semantic web approaches.
• EMIF (2013-2018), dealing with the creation and exploitation of a European Medical Information Framework.
• iPiE (2015-2018), aiming to develop a predictive framework for the environmental impact of drugs.
And the ongoing H2020 projects:
• EU-ToxRisk (2016-2021) aiming to achieve a paradigm shift in toxicology towards a more efficient and animal-free chemical safety assessment.
• ELIXIR-Excelerate (2015-2019) to accelerate the implementation of Europe’s life-science data infrastructure.
In addition to these projects, 3 large-scale projects (H2020, IMI2) are scheduled to start in 2017:
• TransQST (IMI2; 2017-2021): Translational Quantitative Systems Toxicology, which aims to develop novel computational approaches to address the mechanisms of drug toxicity.
• ESCAPE – NET (H2020; 2017-2021): European Sudden Cardiac Arrest network: towards Prevention, Education and NEw Treatment.
• eTRANSAFE (IMI2; 2017-2022): Enhancing TRANslational SAFEty Assessment through Integrative Knowledge Management. GRIB coordinates this IMI2 project.
The research activities of GRIB have led to the creation of several spin-off companies such as BioCloud (2015), Acellera (2007), Chemotargets (2006) and Pharmatools (2002), and the development of commercial and open-source scientific software. See http://grib.imim.es/software-services/software/ for further details.
Some of the international events organized in 2016 with GRIB involvement were:
• 1st European Conference on Translational Bioinformatics (ECTB 2016) in the framework of MedBioinformatics project coordinated by the GRIB. University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 26-27 April 2016. (Ferran Sanz, Organizing Committee).
• IX Conferencia Anual de las Plataformas Tecnológicas de Investigación Biomédica: Medicamentos Innovadores, Nanomedicina, Tecnología Sanitaria y Mercados Biotecnológicos. Barcelona, 15-16 March 2016. (Ferran Sanz, Organizing Committee).