The COVID-19 pandemic has represented a globally social, economic, and health emergency, and research has emerged as a key piece to face it. In this situation that needed to advance the research, La Marató de TV3 and Catalunya Radio decided, exceptionally, to change the planned theme and dedicate this edition to COVID-19.
Last night, in a special edition of “El cotxe”, the projects selected to receive financing were announced. The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) will carry out 5 of the projects financed by La Marató 2020.
This year’s edition will finance 36 research projects of excellence aimed at improving the diagnosis and monitoring of COVID-19 patients, as well as, seeking new therapies and vaccines to combat the infection. In the 2020 edition, 229 projects were presented that have been reviewed by international scientists. The selection process has been coordinated by the Catalan Agency for Health Quality and Evaluation and by the Department of Health, which has assessed the quality, methodology, scientific, health and social relevance, innovative value, and viability.
The IDIBELL’s projects of La Marató 2020
IDIBELL will receive more than 630,000 euros for five transversal projects in which the patient will be the center of the research.
Among these projects, there is one led by Dr. Conxi Lázaro, head of the hereditary cancer research group at IDIBELL and ICO, who together with Dr. Xavier Corbella, group leader at IDIBELL and the University Hospital of Bellvitge, will study the genetic variants that cause that some people develop COVID-19 complications. Among people who become infected with SARS-CoV-2, there are asymptomatic cases or mild symptoms, and there are others that present serious complications that can even have a fatal outcome. The factors that determine the individual evolution of each patient are still a mystery that this project, financed with 300,000 euros by La Marató, aims to reveal.
In addition, recent studies have indicated that the presence of neutralizing antibodies against the cytokine interferon, a signaling molecule involved in the first line of defense against viruses, indicates a poor prognosis for COVID-19. The project of Dr. Lázaro and Dr. Corbella also aims to determine the prevalence of these antibodies among different patient groups.
On the other hand, Dr. Arantxa Mas, from IDIBELL and the Integrated Health Consortium, will lead a project from our research center. Many of the patients with pneumonia derived from COVID-19 present a characteristic respiratory pattern in which the inspirations are very profound, the increase in the respiration rate is delayed, and they have high hypoxia. With the 136,000 euros from La Marató, Dr. Mas’s team will develop a system to detect these breathing patterns through the temperature of the vents. The final aim is to elaborate a more precise follow-up that can predict earlier the complications appearance in order to advance their treatment.
The IDIBELL Nephrology and Kidney Transplantation group and the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) have received 190,000 euros to initiate a study of the efficacy and safety of vaccines against COVID-19 in transplanted patients. Thanks to the efforts of the entire scientific community, vaccines against the new coronavirus have been developed in record time. However, it has not yet been tested whether these vaccines are effective and safe in people who have received a transplant and may be immunosuppressed. This project aims to study the short- and long-term immunity induced by the vaccine in transplanted people.
Similarly, IDIBELL also participates in two projects led by other institutions that have received funding from La Marató. On the one hand, Dr. Víctor Moreno, from the IDIBELL and ICO colorectal cancer research group, will participate in a project led by the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO). This project will analyze the microbiota composition of colorectal patients infected with SARS-CoV2. The aim of the project is to find predictive biomarkers for severe COVID-19 in the microbiota of these patients.
Finally, Dr. Aurora Pujol, head of the research group on Neurometabolic Diseases at IDIBELL, will collaborate with the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute. This project will search genetic and epigenetic variants that explain the predisposition of some children to suffer from severe COVID 19 characterized by generalized and exaggerated inflammation.
The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).