Spanish researchers Luis Liz-Marzán Y Carlos Simon Valles have been awarded the Lilly Biomedical Research Awards 2021. These recognitions, which could not be awarded last year due to the pandemic and which are now celebrating their 20th edition, highlight the scientific trajectory of excellence of researchers who contribute in our country to the development of biomedicine and health sciences. The awards ceremony will be held this Monday, and will be chaired by the Minister of Science and Innovation, Pedro Duque, and will be attended by the president of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Rosa Menendez.
Liz-Marzán receives the Lilly Award in her category of Preclinical Biomedical Research “For his research in the field of nanoscience and nanomedicine,” according to the jury’s decision. He is the scientific director of the Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials (CIC biomaGUNE), professor Ikerbasque and principal investigator at the Center for Biomedical Research on the Net, Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN).
The awards ceremony will be this Monday and will feature the Minister of Science, Pedro Duque, and the president of the CSIC, Rosa Menéndez
For his part, Simón receives the award in the category of Clinical Biomedical Research “For his pioneering work in the study of the human endometrium and its functionality.” He coordinates the Research Group in Reproductive Medicine of the Health Research Institute of the Valencian Community (INCLIVA), is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Valencia and founder of the reproductive genetics company Igenomix.
The director of the Lilly Foundation, Jose Antonio Sacristan, has wanted to highlight the studies of these researchers in nanosciences and reproductive medicine due to “the great value and prestige they bring to health sciences in Spain”. Thus, he adds that these awards are “a benchmark in the scientific community” thanks to the trajectory of the winners in their 20 editions and because of the composition of the jury that designates the recognitions “.
Nanosciences at the frontiers of knowledge
The research team led by Liz-Marzán is dedicated to the study of the properties of materials in nano size to offer biomedical solutions in the areas of diagnosis and therapy.
Illustration of the scientific works of Professor Liz-Marzán. / Lilly Foundation
According to the expert, one of the lines of research being carried out in his laboratory consists of the creation of “scaffolds” that, by means of nanosensors, observe in a non-invasive way how the tumors when external stimuli are applied.
The objective of Liz-Marzán’s work is to understand how gold or silver nanomaterials work in biological systems, seeking potential applications in medical diagnosis and therapy.
“We can measure variations in the metabolism of tumors through our sensors. We can also, for example, by applying a drug, observe how it affects the speed of cell death or the selectivity of cancer cells compared to healthy cells ”, he detailed in a meeting with journalists.
In general, the objective of his work is to understand how gold or silver nanomaterials work to manipulate their interaction with biological systems and seek applications in medical problems. However, he emphasizes that all his research is in vitro “and we do not intend to work in vivo.”
“Offering the personalized study of such serious and highly fatal diseases, such as cancer or neurodegenerative pathologies, is an objective that we cannot lose. It is something that will improve the quality of life and that, with the gradual growth of life expectancy, is really strategic to investigate ”, concludes the professor.
The ‘black box’ of human reproduction
The works of Simón Vallés seek to unravel how the fertility and human reproduction from its earliest stage. The expert has explained how his investigations have been developed to know what he calls the “black box of life“: The implantation of the human embryo in the mother’s womb, an instant that determines the success of the conception and the health of the baby.
Illustration of the scientific works of Professor Simón Vallés. / Lilly Foundation
Their studies have managed to decode how the endometrium behaves at the cellular level and the characteristics of the uterine microbiota. “We know how the maternal uterus sends a series of molecules to it so that it can implant and how the embryo talks to it to tell it if it is okay or not. Also how the mother prepares the first layer of the endometrium, which is the epithelium, to indicate to the embryo the most propitious moment for implantation and how, after the initial adhesion, the lower part of the endometrium regulates how deep it has to invade it ”, Simon specifies.
Simón Vallés’ studies have managed to decode how the endometrium behaves at the cellular level and the functioning of the maternal uterus during embryo implantation
Along these lines, he declares that assisted reproductions are “very inefficient” processes, just like the human species in the reproductive sphere.
Only 4 out of 10 women who undergo reproductive assistance have a baby in their first cycle.
One year of pandemic research
Asked how it has affected covid-19 pandemic to her research, Liz-Marzán points out that in the last year her team has written more articles, so “it may seem that we have worked more, when we have not.”
It does acknowledge that covid-19 has caused “a lot of interference” with daily work, “for the better in most cases, although there has also been an investment of useless items, to call them that, which have made us waste a lot of time.” In his particular case, he indicates that he has worked as editor of these scientific articles, “some very good and others not so good.”
For his part, Simón emphasizes that despite the health situation, his team “always looks for a way to get ahead and in all kinds of situations ”.
“As everything that is covid was fashionable, the rest has been a little relegated and many useless publications have been created,” he points out, adding that it is a logical situation “because it was a moment in which we were all overwhelmed by the situation” .
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