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Xavier Trepat and Eduard Batlle (Images: IBEC / IRB Barcelona).

Researchers Xavier Trepat at IBEC and Eduard Batlle at IRB Barcelona receive an ERC Advanced Grant

Researchers Xavier Trepat at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and Eduard Batlle at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), based in the Barcelona Science Park, have received the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), endowed with €2.5M.


ERC Advanced grants are awarded to EU researchers with a recognized research history with significant scientific achievements in the past 10 years. This grants reward projects that have strong multidisciplinary and innovative applications in emerging fields.

The projects led by researchers Xavier Trepat from IBEC and Eduard Batlle from IRB Barcelona have been among the 85 selected proposals, out of the 1881 submitted, in this call. Until now, IBEC has received funding from the ERC for the development of 19 research projects and IRB Barcelona, for 20 research projects.

A new generation of biological robots

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Xavier Trepat, ICREA professor and principal investigator at IBEC, the prestigious Advanced Grant, worth with 2,5 M€. This is the third ERC grant awarded to Trepat.

Thanks to this recognition, the expert will be able to develop the “EpiFold” project for five years, which will focus on understanding the principles and mechanical properties of 3D epithelium. In addition, Trepat and his team will take one step further and develop new technology to set the stage for a pioneering generation of biohybrid devices that would have a unique ability to enhance functions in biological robots.

These unique micro-robots built with hydrogels and epithelia cell layers will be able to maintain the multifunctional and self-regenerating properties of the epithelium, as well as being able to sense, absorb, secrete, filter and carry out enzymatic activities.  “When a piece of a current robot breaks, we have no choice but to replace it. On the other hand, with biological robots we can get the parts to self-repair, since living tissues have the capacity to regenerate thanks to their stem cells,” says Trepat. More information: IBEC website [+]

Organoids to study relapse in colorectal cancer

Eduard Batlle, ICREA researcher, head of the Colorectal Cancer Laboratory at IRB Barcelona and a CIBERONC member, has received an ERC Advanced Grant  to carry out his project Residual Disease in Colorectal Cancer (ResidualCRC) over the next 5 years. This is the fifth ERC grant awarded to Batlle.

The ResidualCRC project focuses on those hidden cells of the primary tumour that begin to spread before surgical intervention and that remain undetectable for months or even years, until they give rise to a new tumour. “Despite the clinical relevance of disseminated tumour cells, very little is known about them, and advances in this area would benefit many patients,” says Eduard Batlle. 

Studies to date suggest that the mechanisms that disseminated tumour cells use to remain dormant differ from those described for other types of cancer, such as breast cancer. IRB Barcelona’s Colorectal Cancer Laboratory has developed a highly advanced model based on organoids—cultivable mini-cancers—that will allow the study of the mechanisms these cells use to detach from the primary tumour, evade the immune system, invade another organs and seed a new tumour.  More information: IRB Barcelona website [+]