Maria del Mar Albà
Laura Inés Furlong and Ferran Sanz
The Research Programme on Biomedical Informatics (GRIB) is a joint research unit of the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF).
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 UPF, where they coordinate the Master’s Program in Bioinformatics for Health Sciences. This master degree 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 six IMIM research groups:
• The Evolutionary Genomics group led by M. Mar Albà (ICREA) uses comparative genomics and transcriptomics methods to discover new genes and characterize their functions.
• The PharmacoInformatics group led by Manuel Pastor (UPF) is devoted to the development and application of computational methods and tools in pharmaceutical research, with a particular focus on computational toxicology.
• 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 GPCR Drug Discovery group led by Jana Selent (Miguel Servet) focuses on the functionality of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) within the context of CNS-related disorders, taking into account receptor plasticity, activation mechanism, signalling bias, ligand binding and the effect of the membrane and other interaction partners.
• 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 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 2018
The GRIB has wide experience in participating and coordinating research projects funded by the European Commission and other research funding agencies. It also has a long tradition of collaboration with the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry within the framework of R&D projects and providing services, especially in the development of computational methods for drug discovery and toxicity assessment.
During the year 2018, the Programme coordinated two large scale scientific initiatives:
• The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) project eTRANSAFE (Enhancing Translational Safety Assessment through Integrative Knowledge Management), which aims to develop an advanced data integration infrastructure together with innovative computational methods to improve safety in drug development processes. (2017-2022)
• The H2020 project MedBioinformatics, focused on the translational and clinical application of bioinformatics. (2015-2018)
The GRIB was also a partner in other EU-funded projects, such as the following IMI projects:
• TransQST (Translational Quantitative Systems Toxicology), which aims to develop novel computational approaches using the best available data from the public and private domains to address the problems of drug safety.
• EMIF (European Medical Information Network), which aims to develop a common information framework of patient-level data that will link up and facilitate access to diverse medical and research data sources, opening up new avenues of research for scientists.
• iPiE (Intelligence Led Assessment of Pharmaceuticals in the Environment), which aims to develop a predictive framework for the environmental impact of drugs.
The GRIB was also partner of the following H2020 projects:
• EU-ToxRisk, which aims to achieve a paradigm shift in toxicology towards a more efficient and animal-free chemical safety assessment.
• ESCAPE-NET (European Sudden Cardiac Arrest Network), focused on the prevention, education and new treatment of this disease.
• ELIXIR-EXCELERATE, which aims to accelerate the implementation of Europe's life-science data infrastructure.
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, such as the DisGeNET resource on gene-disease associations. For further details, see http://grib.imim.es/software-services/software/