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Croatian scientist Fran Supek (Photo: IRB Barcelona).

IRB Barcelona opens brand new laboratory for analysis of genomic ‘big data’

Researcher in the field of bioinformatics and genomics Fran Supek is starting his Genome Data Science (aGENDAS) laboratory at the  Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), within the Structural and Computational Biology Research Programme. The recruitment of Supek is a clear demonstration of IRB Barcelona's commitment to offering leadership opportunities to young investigators and to recruiting highly promising scientific talent at its headquarters at the Barcelona Science Park.


The aGENDAS research group aims to tackle important biological questions by insightful statistical analysis of massive data sets originating from human cancer, human populations, environmental DNA sequencing (metagenomics), and also fully sequenced microbial genomes.

One important disease that is caused by mutations in DNA is cancer. Such mutations may also highlight potential therapeutic opportunities. Supek’s group, which will initially include four members, will use cutting-edge artificial intelligence methods to understand what causes mutations in human DNA, which parts of the genome are affected, and will also try to detect tumour vulnerabilities that may open new avenues for personalized treatment.

“While one can easily recognize the mutational signatures produced by, for example, cigarette smoke in lung cancer and sunlight in melanoma, recent analyses of cancer genomes suggest there are many other factors causing mutations in our cells. In most cases, we don’t yet know exactly what causes a certain kind of mutation in DNA. Some mutations result from failures in the processes that the tumour cells use to repair their DNA, thereby causing the cancer to mutate faster and to become more aggressive and resistant to drugs. However, the failed DNA repair is also a weakness of the tumour, which may be exploited to destroy it, while sparing healthy cells,” highlights Fran Supek. 

With the addition of this new group, the IRB Barcelona now comprises a total of 24 laboratories and seven core facilities. “The scientific environment that IRB Barcelona offers is highly stimulating and a very good fit for my research plans. My impression is that it is an excellent institution for a starting principal investigator to develop their career and to deliver world-class research. I hope that my work will complement the Institute’s other lines of biomedical investigation,” stresses Fran Supek. 

The recruitment of Supek also fits into the Big Data strategic research area that the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), in which IRB Barcelona is included, will be promoting over the next few years from its headquarters at the Barcelona Science Park.