Dr. Meritxell Rovira, awarded with the “CRIS de Excelencia” Program to study pancreatic cancer

The scientist from IDIBELL and the University of Barcelona will lead a project aimed at identifying new early detection markers and developing personalized medicine strategies for this pathology.

The recognition granted by the CRIS Foundation against cancer aims to promote and consolidate the careers of researchers with an endowment of up to 1,250,000 euros.

In this call, grants totaling 11.4 million euros have been awarded to ensure that advances in research have a broader reach and impact the treatments received by patients.

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Dr. Meritxell Rovira, leader of the Pancreas Regeneration group at IDIBELL and the University of Barcelona, has received the “CRIS de Excelencia” award from the CRIS Foundation against cancer, a non-profit entity whose objective is to raise funds for oncology research. Her project will examine the cellular heterogeneity of the pancreas to better understand the development of pancreatic ductal carcinoma (PDAC), a disease with a 5-year survival rate below 10% and no early detection methods or effective treatments.

The award ceremony was held yesterday in Madrid, within the framework of the scientific symposium held on CRIS Science Day 2024, under the motto “Drawing the future of cancer: Transforming cancer detection with advanced technologies.” Among other authorities, the Minister of Health, Mónica García, and the president of the CRIS Foundation against cancer, Lola Manterola, as well as renowned national and international experts, participated in the event.

“Receiving this support from the CRIS Foundation against Cancer is a great honor,” said Dr. Rovira, who received the award from the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Universities, Juan Cruz. “This funding offers me the opportunity to carry out an ambitious project with the potential to change the prognosis of a disease that, unfortunately, today has a very negative impact on the people who are diagnosed,” details Dr. Rovira, specialized in cell lineages and pancreatic cancer and also a Ramon y Cajal researcher at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

This year, the “CRIS de Excelencia” Program, which involves an endowment of up to 1,250,000 euros for a project with a duration of 5 years, also distinguished Dr. César Serrano, from the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO).


Not all pancreatic cancers are the same

Understanding how PDAC, a subtype of pancreatic cancer, starts is essential to finding better ways to treat it. In this sense, recently, Dr. Rovira’s team has discovered that tumors originate from different types of cells, which may explain why some tumors are more aggressive than others. Now, researchers from IDIBELL and the University of Barcelona will delve into this analysis to find new genes that can help detect and treat pancreatic cancer more effectively.

Using cutting-edge genomic techniques, scientists will analyze pancreas samples from both mice and people suffering from the disease. These data will be contrasted with clinical data and information on the progression of tumor development to identify specific early diagnostic biomarkers and potential new therapeutic strategies, offering hope to patients and their families. “This proposal aims to fill the main gap in the detection and treatment of PDAC to achieve a positive impact in the clinical setting,” says Dr. Rovira.

Graduated in Biology at the University of Barcelona, Dr. Rovira soon specialized in pancreatic development. During her career she has conducted pioneering research on embryonic stem cell differentiation and its relationship to cancer, which has led to significant publications. Since 2019 she leds the Pancreas Regeneration laboratory at IDIBELL and the University of Barcelona, obtaining important recognition and funding, such as the prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO award or a CaixaResearch grant from the ”la Caixa” Foundation.


A driver of progress in oncology research

The CRIS Foundation against Cancer is a charitable entity formed by civil society, with the aim of raising funds for oncological research. Its mission is to ensure that everyone has access to the most advanced treatments in a fair and equitable way.

Since its creation 13 years ago, the foundation has invested 50 million euros, 39 of which in the last 5 years alone. In addition, it has committed to reaching an investment of 80 million in the next 5 years. Globally, more than 7,700 patients directly benefit from CRIS-supported clinical trials, and research advances are expected to benefit up to 11 million patients.

Its president, Lola Manterola, explains: “At the CRIS Foundation against cancer we work to cure cancer through research so that all patients have another chance. If we all work together, state and regional governments, civil society, increase investment in research and development, and promote public-private collaboration, we will be able to find solutions that cure cancer.”




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).

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