Pedro Alpuim, 2D Materials and Devices Group Leader from INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, has secured support from the Spanish “La Caixa” Foundation Health Research Projects 2021 for a project with a total amount of close to 1 million euros.
INL will host the “Graphene nanodevice to better understand how the brain works” in collaboration with Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA) in Spain and Universidade do Minho located in Braga, Portugal.
This unique project uses graphene nanotechnology, molecular biology and neuro-engineering to develop and validate a new device that allows monitoring the chemical and electrical messages of neurons and thus better understand the functioning of the brain.
Neurological disorders affect more than a quarter of the world’s population. What they all have in common is the fact that they have alterations in the communication of neurons, in which the brain’s chemical and electrical signals do not work properly. The little knowledge we still have about the brain makes progress in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases difficult. One reason is the lack of tools to investigate the brain and its neuronal connections.
Aware that cutting-edge and transformative research requires relevant support for its development, the “la Caixa” Foundation announces the 30 projects selected in the CaixaResearch Health Research 2021 Contest, 12 of which are Portuguese. These are excellent research projects in biomedicine and health, led by research centres and universities in Spain and Portugal, to which a total of 22.1 million euros was allocated, of which 7.9 million euros were allocated to Portuguese initiatives for its development over the next three years.
In Portugal, the CaixaResearch Contest has the collaboration of the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), which is committed to matching the investment that the “la Caixa” Foundation allocates to selected research projects in Portugal. FCT finances 5 of the 12 selected Portuguese projects with 2.6 million euros. Collaboration with FCT has existed since the creation of the Contest and has already allowed the joint financing of a total of 29 projects led by Portuguese institutions, promoting collaboration between research centres and Iberian universities.
The Competition aims to identify and support the most promising initiatives, with the greatest scientific value and social impact, both in basic research and in clinical and translational research. To this end, a team of more than 242 international experts remotely evaluated 644 applications presented in this edition. In a second evaluation phase, five expert committees interviewed the principal investigators of the 70 pre-selected proposals, after which the 30 best ones were selected according to their quality and relevance in the respective research area.
The selected projects are all aimed at combating the pathologies with the greatest impact on health worldwide: the CaixaResearch Health Research Contest this year supports projects of excellence in the field of oncology (9 projects), neurosciences (9 projects), and related cardiovascular and metabolic diseases (6 projects) and infectious diseases (6 projects). Part of the selected initiatives will develop enabling biomedical technologies that will make it possible to face some of these challenges in the health area.
The 12 Portuguese projects selected come from research centres and universities in various regions: 6 from the North Region (Porto and Braga), 5 from Lisbon and 1 from the Centro Region (Coimbra).