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CRG and Novartis present the CRG-Wits-Novartis Mobility Programme


Dc, 27/11/2013 - 16:38

CRG and Novartis present the CRG-Wits-Novartis Mobility Programme


  • The CRG-Wits-Novartis mobility programme is, for the first time, bringing three students from University of the Witwaterstrand in Johannesburg (South Africa) to the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona (Spain).
  • This initiative highlights the strategic value of the CRG in the international biomedical research world and is one the activities of the Scientific Capability Development Department at Novartis, aimed at training scientists and exchanging research talent with developing countries.
  • Andreu Mas-Colell, Minister of Economy and Knowledge of the Catalan Government highlighted the relevance of the public-private agreements and collaborations for scientific research.

The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), an international institution of biomedical research of excellence and which is supported by the Catalan Government and the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, has signed collaboration agreements with the University of the Witwaterstrand (Wits) in Johannesburg (South Africa) and Novartis to promote joint scientific projects and train scientists of excellence through the CRG-Wits-Novartis Mobility Programme. It is a bid to reinforce the presence of the Catalan research centres worldwide and drive forward a new model of public-private partnerships in research.

The CRG-Wits-Novartis Mobility Programme is bringing three PhD students to Barcelona to join three of the CRG laboratories for six months and work on projects related to breast cancer, systemic sclerosis and HIV. The purpose of their stay at the centre is to carry out high-quality scientific projects directed and supervised by scientists from the CRG and the University of the Witwaterstrand.

During the presentation, the Minister of Economy and Knowledge of the Catalan Government, Andreu Mas-Colell, highlighted the relevance of the public-private collaboration in the field of research. “The public sector on its own cannot fulfil all its commitments to mantain a first rate research. Private contributions and collaboration are the key to boosting, even further, the high level achieved by Catalonia, its research centres and infrastructures. The Mobility Programme presented today is a good example of how to achieve this by bringing together excellent international research institutes and industry to promote, in this case, ability and talent as well as scientific knowledge,” stated the Minister.

“This programme will allow us to reach many of our goals and reinforces the CRG as a key international player in biomedical research”, said Luis Serrano, director of the CRG. “It is very important for us to establish this new model for public-private collaboration. It allows us to strengthen the claim of Catalonia, Spain and Europe within the international scientific scene whilst, at the same time, allows us to undertake research projects oriented towards translational medicine using data and samples from other continents”, he concluded.

The three selected PhD students will be joining the laboratories of emblematic CRG group leaders: Xavier Estivill, expert in genetics and genomic medicine, Roderic Guigó, international benchmark bioinformatician, and Juan Valcárcel, leader in the study of gene expression and the role of functional genome processing.

The initiative is possible thanks to the collaboration of Novartis and its Scientific Capability Development programme for training scientists and exchanging research talent with developing countries. Novartis will cover part of the costs of the projects carried out at the CRG. For this reason, Novartis and the CRG have signed a collaboration agreement which represents a new model of public-private partnership for promoting research, training and development. In a few months, when the students come to the end of their stay, the CRG, Novartis and Wits will organise a "Joint Research Day" to communicate the results of the projects and to plan future collaboration.

Promoting talent and skills in Africa through scientific stay programmes
"Research in Africa has entered a period of rapid growth and, without doubt, science and technology are the key to progress, so they are high on the development agenda", says Dr. Jorge Cuneo, Medical Director of Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Spain. He continues: "In this context and as part of the company's efforts to meet medical needs around the world, Novartis is helping to improve the scientific and clinical capacity of emerging regions through partnerships with local universities and research centres.”

These efforts are aimed at sharing the research and development experience of Novartis with the scientists and medical doctors of those regions, whilst at the same time educating our researchers in the practice of science and medicine in Africa. "By collaborating with our partners in Africa we will be able to find the best adapted solutions to the health problems of that continent", concludes Cuneo.

Multidisciplinary science without borders
Through this programme, the Centre for Genomic Regulation demonstrates its firm commitment to internationalising the centre and promoting scientific collaborations of excellence in order to offer the best interdisciplinary training for new generations of scientists. "The CRG invests in high level international partnerships to attract the best researchers and strengthen our interdisciplinary research without borders", comments Michela Bertero, head of the International and Scientific Affairs Office at the CRG. In recent years, the CRG has signed cooperation agreements with research centres, universities, hospitals and industry in Europe, India, Argentina and Japan, and is open to new strategic scientific alliances.

Project: The Wnt signalling pathway in systemic sclerosis
CRG Supervisor : Xavier Estivill
Wits student: Jackie Frost
Project summary: Genome analysis of skin samples and DNA from patients with systemic sclerosis using sequencing and molecular biology techniques. The results will be used to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in systemic sclerosis in the black population of South Africa.
Project: A study to determine whether the KH-type splicing regulatory protein (KSRP) is a regulator of FGFR2
CRG Supervisor: Juan Valcárcel
Wits student: Kiashanee Moodley
Project summary: Characterisation of a protein (KSRP) involved in triple negative breast cancer in human breast cancer cell lines, using molecular biology techniques. The results will be used to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in triple negative breast cancer and the heterogeneity of this type of cancer.

Project: Transcriptome profiling in HIV-1 infected long-term non-progressors (LTNPs) and elite controllers (Ecs)
CRG Supervisor: Roderic Guigó
Wits student: Nikki Gentle
Project summary: Analysis of gene expression of genomic RNA samples from patients suffering HIV-1, using sequencing techniques. The results will be used to understand the effects that human genetic variation has on the progression of the disease through HIV-1 infection.

About the CRG:
The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) is an international institute for biomedical research of excellence, set up in December 2000. It is a non-profit foundation funded by the Department of Economy and Knowledge and the Department of Health of the Catalan Government, and by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, and includes the participation of Pompeu Fabra University.

The mission of the CRG is to discover and advance knowledge for the benefit of society, public health and economic prosperity.

The CRG believes that the medicine of the future depends on innovative science today. This necessitates an interdisciplinary scientific team focused on understanding the complexity of life, from the genome to the cell, up to the entire organism and its interaction with the environment, providing an integrated view of genetic diseases.

The centre's main objectives are to: a) become an international reference centre in the field of biomedical sciences; (b) communicate and establish bilateral dialogue with society; (c) to offer advanced training to the next generation of scientists; and (d) transform new knowledge into benefit and value for society and the economy of the country.

About Novartis
Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) provides health care solutions consistent with the needs of patients and society. Focused exclusively in the field of health, it offers a wide range of products to meet those needs: innovative medicines; vision care; high quality cost-reducing generic drugs; human vaccines and diagnostic tools; OTC drugs; and animal health. Novartis is the only company to achieve a leading position in all these areas. In 2012 the Group had a turnover of $56,700 M and invested approximately $9,300 M in R+D activities ($9,100 M excluding depreciation of assets and amortisation). With its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, the Novartis Group companies employ approximately 128,000 people and are present in more than 140 countries around the world. For more information, check out the websites and

About the University of Witwaterstrand
The University of the Witwaterstrand (Wits) is renowned for its commitment to academic and research excellence, and public engagement. It is one of the leading universities on the continent and is one of only three universities in Africa to feature in the top 400 in three separate international rankings. Wits is home to 22 South African Research Chairs, nine key research institutes, 20 research units, 10 research groups, six Interdisciplinary 21st Century Research Institutes, and more than 286 NRF rated scientists, of which 15 are A-rated. It has produced four Nobel Laureates: Sydney Brenner (Medicine), Nadine Gordimer (Literature), Nelson Mandela (Peace) and Aaron Klug (Chemistry) and 91 Mandela Rhodes Scholars.

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