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A key stem cell researcher joins the CRG: Maria Pia Cosma


Mon, 03/05/2010 - 13:45

A key stem cell researcher joins the CRG: Maria Pia Cosma


  • The researcher is one of the few women in a senior position in Spain's biomedical sector, and she is the recipient of a starting grant from the prestigious European Research Council (ERC). With Cosma on board, the CRG becomes one of Spain’s life science research centres to receive most ERC grants.

Maria Pia Cosma joins the Centre for Genomic Regulation's Differentiation and Cancer Program, making it one of the strongest scientific programs for stem cell research in Europe.
Reprogramming and Regeneration
The Reprogramming and Regeneration group studies the mechanisms controlling the reprogramming of adult stem cells, aiming to identify the bases of regeneration in higher vertebrates.
Until recently, it was thought the process by which an embryonic cell creates the rest of our body cells was a unidirectional pathway. It has now become apparent, however, that the reverse pathway is also possible; and many research groups are therefore working on this. To this end, Cosma's group has carried out various studies relating to the role played by a network of proteins responsible for "in vivo" cellular reprogramming. Specifically, this involves the Wnt signalling pathway. The research consists of transplanting adult stem cells into organisms with damaged organs in order to evaluate the reprogramming and regeneration of such tissues, both short term and long term.
The group also investigates beyond this process, and is currently trying to find this protein network's target genes in order to establish the molecular bases of reprogramming and to determine whether Wnt signalling is indeed involved in regeneration mechanisms in higher vertebrates. The results will be vital to understanding how adult stem cells are able to regenerate damaged organs and tissues.
At the same time, the group has developed synthetic gene networks in yeasts and, with this knowledge, is working to create gene network systems and models which will provide a way to control reprogramming in mammalian somatic cells (tissue cells).
The Differentiation and Cancer Program
Maria Pia Cosma joins CRG's Differentiation and Cancer Program as senior researcher. The Program is coordinated by Thomas Graf, one of the most internationally renowned stem cell researchers, and consists of 5 research groups  led by Thomas Graf, Pia Cosma, Luciano Di Croce, Salvador Aznar-Benitah and Bill Keyes.
The partnership of Thomas Graf and Maria Pia Cosma will be vital for both CRG's and Spain's international status in adult stem cell research.
By recruiting Maria Pia Cosma, the CRG has a new senior group leader. Even though the number of women in such positions of high responsibility in science is increasing, there are still few women in positions of this type.
About Maria Pia Cosma
With a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Genetics, this Italian researcher has worked in various research centres, hospitals and universities throughout the world. She formed her own research group at Naples' Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine (TIGEM). She was also appointed an EMBO Young Investigator and is a lecturer at the European School of Molecular Medicine in Naples.
She has also been named a "Cavaliere" of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy and has been awarded various prizes and honours in her scientific career, among which the EMBO Young Investigator award and the Marie Curie Excellence award stand out.
Maria currently participates in various European projects and receives European support such as an ERC (European Research Council) Grant, and has also recently secured support from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP).
The Centre for Genomic Regulation
The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) is an innovative centre for fundamental research, formed in December of 2000 and officially inaugurated in 2002. Legally, it is constituted as a non-profit foundation, and is aided by the Catalan Government through the Department of Innovation, Universities and Enterprise (DIUE), the Department of Health (DS), the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF), the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN), and by some private foundations.
The CRG is a pioneering Spanish centre, based on a non-bureaucratic research organisation model, dedicated to fostering basic research into fundamental aspects of the life sciences, and attracting and producing high quality scientists. CRG group leaders are recruited internationally and receive support from the centre in forming and starting up their groups. An external Scientific Advisory Board periodically evaluates all the principal researchers. The results of these evaluations determine the researchers' future at the CRG, independently of the type of contract they have (open-ended or time-limited). This guarantees high standards of scientific excellence, as well as mobility and renewal of personnel.
Currently, the CRG has 25 research groups distributed between 6 interrelated research programs: Gene Regulation, Differentiation and Cancer, Cell and Developmental Biology, Genes and Disease, Bioinformatics and Genomics, and Systems Biology, which includes the EMBL/CRG unit.
In the latest international SCIMAGO index, the CRG was positioned as first centre in Spain, sixth in Europe and twentieth in the world for citations per scientific publication and impact of its publications. The quality of the work produced by its researchers had an average impact factor of 8.601 in 2009. 
With regard to financing, the centre has 10 ICREA researchers and 5 European Research Council (ERC) grants, making it one of the Spanish research centres to receive most ERC grants. Furthermore, it is currently coordinating 4 Ingenio 2010 CONSOLIDER projects and 3 European projects. In 2009, the CRG obtained an endowment of over 10 million Euros by securing funds from the 7th Framework Program in Catalonia. In terms of competitive income, in 2009 the CRG was the first CERCA centre -from a total of 8- and the fourth body in the list of 20 Catalan bodies, including the main universities.  Among the main European projects in which the CRG participates, we should highlight the INTERPOD (International Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Program) postdoctoral program, the SysteMTb coordinated projects for tuberculosis research and the Geuvadis project for the standardisation of best practice in sequencing studies.  
As a result of the above achievements, in the last six years the centre has carved out a place for itself among research centres of international standing.
For further information: Laia Cendrós, Dept. Comunicació & PPRR, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Dr. Aiguader, 88 – Edif. PRBB, 08003 Barcelona. Tel. +34 93 316 02 37.