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Biomedicine international training research programme for excellent clinician-scientists
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Learn about BITRECS activities and milestones.

BITRECS results disseminated to the research community and society – July 2022

Isabel Valli is the first author of a publication resulting from her BITRECS work. It is the outcome of the study on cognitive difficulties associated with brain and genetic alterations in children and adolescents at genetic risk of psychosis (here you can access to the original article). Additionally in this occasion, some press releases in scientific and general media have helped to disseminate those findings among society (see them at: CIBER ISCIII, IDIBAPS, La Vanguardia among others ).

In  this BITRECS project, the researchers studied the relationship between genetics, cognition and brain structures in children and adolescents at higher risk than the general population of suffering from a psychotic disorder. It has been observed that children of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have a heterogeneous cognitive difficulty profile. From all of them, there is a subgroup with no difficulties, a subgroup with intermediate difficulties and another that has significant difficulties. Only the last two groups would show brain alterations and only the most cognitively affected would have a genetic risk of cognitive difficulties.

BITRECS program included in the Summer issue of EU Research - July 2022.

EU-Researcher magazine includes an editorial on the BITRECS program, where the figure of the clinician-scientist within the world of research is emphasized. They also make known the BITRECS fellows and their respective projects as well as their impact on society. 

You can find the editorial at the following link, corresponding to July’s edition of Summer issue of EU Research journal, where you can view the article on page 26.   

EU Research is a dissemination journal focusing on pioneering frontier research, distributed throughout 33 countries in Europe to over 50,000 readers.  

IDIBAPS in house seminar: Immunotherapy with CAR T-cells for multiple myeloma - March 2022

Luis Gerardo Rodríguez who recently finished his BITRECS fellowship presented an IDIBAPS in-house seminar on March 24th, 2022 that was available in hybrid format (either in person or through a digital access).

The seminar was hosted by Luis Gerardo’s mentor during his BITRECS project, Carlos Fernández de Larrea. The main topic of the seminar was about how immunotherapy with Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for multiple myeloma are related with the mechanisms of progression in monoclonal gammopathies.  This was his field of work during the program although he has continued focused on it in his new position.

Many IDIBAPS researchers attended the seminar and some of them actively participated in the discussion  to deepen on this outstanding research topic.

BITRECS time extension - March 2022

Due to the impact of the pandemic caused by COVID-19, the correct development of the different BITRECS projects has been affected. For the most part, there have been difficulties in the progress of the projects: delays to perform experiments, late delivery of supplies, limited time to perform research in the facilities, and so on.

IDIBAPS Direction and BITRECS’ Management Team, in agreement with the European Commission, have allowed all fellows to enlarge their 36-month fellowships according to the reasons and needs they could have. The main intention was to compensate the negative effect of COVID-19 pandemic to allow the BITRECS researchers reach the scientific goals foreseen.

The European Commission was also open to enlarge the final date of the program (it was September 30th 2022) to allow all the contracts fit into the life of the project. Consequently, IDIBAPS proposed a 9-month extension period through an amendment request that has been finally accepted.

BITRECS Yearly Assessment Meeting 2021 – November 2021

On November 23rd 2021 took place the individual BITRECS Yearly Assessment Meetings 2021 organized by the BITRECS management team. Those appointments expected  to monitor the scientific and professional development of  the current working BITRECS fellows for the second year of their fellowships.. .

Due to the good indicators of the COVID-19 pandemic at that time, the BITRECS Yearly Assessment Meetings 2021 took place in a face-to-face format with individual sessions where each fellow first presented his/her progress since last meeting in the research project, the main achievements, merits and career goals. The corresponding  Principal Investigator (PI) was also invited to attend the session.  Once their presentation concluded, they answered the questions presented by the 2 IDIBAPS clinician-scientists that were part of the scientific panel, Sara Llufriu and Francesc Balaguer. Also the members of IDIBAPS management contributed to the discussion with additional comments and questions regarding exploitation of results and career progression opportunities.

As a result of those individual sessions, feedback reports were drawn and were forwarded to the fellows and their PIs as a tool to support their professional performance. It is important to highlight that all the participating fellows received positive feedbacks. They were able to properly show the progress made.  

Another Yearly Assessment Meeting is foreseen in 2022, as the final follow-up meeting for the programme. BITRECS programme expects to guarantee constant monitoring of the BITRECS fellows to support them until the end of the programme.

16 scientific publications are already disseminating the BITRECS research - July 2021

Researchers from the BITRECS programme have generated various publications since the beginning of their work on their projects. Those documents are evidences of the scientific progress they have achieved since 2019, year in which they all joined the programme.

A new section has been created within the BITRECS microsite to give visibility to this scientific production. In the Results tab there are listed all these publications. 

In July 2021, there have been identified16 publications (original articles, reviews or others) published in international peer-reviewed journals of the biomedical field. All of them have the acknowledgement to the programme and half of them have as main author one of the  BITRECS fellows. Nonetheless, what is more important is that all those achievements allow each individual project to be disseminated to the research community.

It is noteworthy to mention that the researchers have other papers under preparation or review. Meanwhile, the research performed by these clinician-scientists of the programme do not stop. Therefore, more scientific productivity is expected within BITRECS very soon. Do not lose the opportunity to follow-up this information in the programme’s webpage.

European Researchers’ Night - November 2020

On the 27th of November 4 BITRECS fellows participated to the European Researchers’ Night, a science outreach initiative funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA). This annual event aims at bringing research and researchers closer to the general public and explaining how scientific advances can benefit society.

In Barcelona, this event was coordinated by ISGlobal and included different types of activities many of them online to allow the widest reach while ensuring safety measures due to the current pandemic. The BITRECS fellows that participated to this initiative to raise awareness about their research, are:

Marco Antonio Alba, who presented a microtalk in Spanish entitled “Three things I love about science: let’s talk about pigeons, zombies and vasculitis” explaining his current research on vascular inflammation and telling 2 other stories that show how science can be fun and surprising.

Lorna Leal, who presented a microtalk in Spanish entitled “mRNA vaccines against viral infections” regarding the state of the art on vaccine research to treat viral infections.

Norma Verdolini and other collaborators who presented a microtalk in Spanish entitled “Put your brain in shape” that explains the importance of maintaining good mental health and good practices to follow.

Luis Gerardo Rodriguez who presented a scientific talk entitled “CAR-T Immunotherapy against cancer” to high school students regarding one of the most innovative approaches that are being developed to treat cancer.

BITRECS Yearly Assessment Meeting 2020 – September/October 2020

On September 29th and October 6th 2020 took place the individual BITRECS Yearly Assessment Meetings 2020 organized by the BITRECS management team to monitor the scientific and professional development of the fellows during the first year of their BITRECS fellowships.

This meeting was designed to promote a constructive discussion between the BITRECS fellows and a panel composed by 2 experienced IDIBAPS clinician-scientists, Sara Llufriu and Francesc Balaguer, and representatives of IDIBAPS management.

The BITRECS Yearly Assessment Meetings 2020 took place online with individual sessions where each fellow first presented his/her research project, achievements, merits and career goals, and then answered the questions presented by the 2 IDIBAPS clinician-scientists that were part of the scientific panel. The members of IDIBAPS management also contributed to the discussion with additional comments and questions regarding exploitation of results and career progression opportunities. The Principal Investigators (PIs), responsible for the scientific direction of the research projects developed by the fellows, participated as guests to this meeting and they were allowed to give a short overview of the fellows’ work during the first period of the BITRECS programme. As a result of those individual sessions, feedback reports were drawn and were forwarded to the fellows and their PIs as a tool to update their scientific and professional objectives for the following year of the BITRECS programme.

Other Yearly Assessment Meetings, one in  2021 and another in 2022, will guarantee constant monitoring of the BITRECS fellows to support them until the end of the programme.

Three BITRECS projects contribute to the research on COVID-19 - May 2020


Since the designation of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as a global pandemic, the scientific community worldwide joined forces to study the newly identified SARS-CoV-2 virus and the impact of the COVID-19 on population. Three BITRECS fellows are providing their contribution to these purposes:

Dr. Gianluigi Li Bassi proposed a different approach to the study of respiratory failure he was working on before the COVID-19 outbreak. He is now involved in the creation of a broad international network aimed at gathering data on COVID-19 patients that entered the intensive care unit (ICU) to identify the most promising interventions and therapeutic options to treat patients.

Dr. Lorna Leal is working on a research project focused on the development of novel mRNA vaccine candidates against HIV and the study of preparedness for the implementation vaccine clinical trials in rural South Africa. Dr. Leal will complement her work by  including in her research project the design and development of a new mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV2 to fight current COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Norma Verdolini is currently working in a project focused on prodromes and predictors of bipolar disorder. Dr. Verdolini proposed to complement her research by studying the effects of psychological stress related to the pandemic (e.g.: lockdown, social distance, reduction of freedom) on patients who have suffered from a first manic episode. This research would provide useful information on those factors that contribute to a better adaptation to the stress condition and a better long-term prognostic in vulnerable patients.  

Research and innovation actions are an essential part of the coordinated European Union response to the public health threat of COVID-19. BITRECS’ projects support preparednessand and response to the coronavirus pandemic.#TogetherWeCan

Science outreach: the brain explained - November 2019 / January 2020

Two BITRECS fellows successfully explained their research activity to high schools students in two scientific outreach events, one promoted by IDIBAPS with the support of the Ajuntament de Barcelona, and the other by AGAUR.

Isabel Valli and Norma Verdolini both have a background in psychiatry and, within BITRECS, they are currently developing their research projects at IDIBAPS in the laboratory of Dr. Sugranyes and Dr. Vieta, respectively. Due to their interest spreading scientific culture among the general public, the two BITRECS fellows decided to join forces to participate in two activities aimed at raising awareness among high school students on the importance of biomedical research in neuroscience and the fascinating work done by scientists.

As part of the outreach activity Generaciò ciencia (November 2019), organised by IDIBAPS and that hosted more then 250 high school students, Isabel and Norma prepared an exciting workshop to explain how the brain process emotions, especially those related to the stimulation of fear, and how defects in the underlying brain circuits could lead to pathological conditions.

The two BITRECS fellows participated also in the RecerConnecta iniciative and explained to students of the “Institut Torra y Bages” in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat what changes occur in the brain during adolescence (January 2020).

Kick-off meeting - October 2019

On October 1st 2019, the seven fellows selected to participate in the Biomedicine International Training Research programme for Excellent Clinician-Scientists (BITRECS) celebrated its official start together with IDIBAPS managers. A whole day of activities took place at the Center Esther Koplowitz in Barcelona with IDIBAPS Director Dr. Elias Campo opening the meeting.

The kick-off allowed introducing IDIBAPS institutional framework and all the departments supporting the BITRECS programme. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the “La Caixa” Foundation as sponsoring entity of the BITRECS Programme.

The BITRECS fellows had the opportunity to present themselves and their research projects; moreover, they were invited to participate in a training activity aimed at providing tools for the identification of career goals and professional aspirations. This training was organised to allow the fellows to draw a personal career development plan outlining their short and long-term career objectives and the relative implementation strategy. 

Although the BITRECS fellows had already started their research project, the kick-off meeting signed the official start of a unique journey that will see the professional growth of seven promising clinician-scientists and the successful implementation of their research projects. 

"La Caixa" foundation sponsors BITRECS - March 2019

"La Caixa" foundation will support the implementation of the BITRECS programme within a framework agreement with the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona (HCB).

During the next 5 years, "la Caixa" will finance 3 main strategic initiatives of the HCB, among them the selection and training of a new generation of clinician-scientists leading innovative translational research projects throught the "Biomedicine international training research programme for excellent clinician-scientists".

The common commitment of IDIBAPS and HCB towards the promotion of professionals with a clinician-scientist profile together with the support of "la Caixa" foundation will guarantee the successful completion of the BITRECS programme.

Seven clinician-scientists selected - March 2019

Clinician-scientists provide an invaluable help in translating research results “from bench to bedside”,  thanks to their deep understanding of medical problems and their hands on experience with patients and diseases. Unfortunately, recruitment and retention of these professionals has become more and more difficult due to the lack of appropriate funding opportunities, the high workload and the low economic remuneration. 

To reverse this negative trend, the Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) in Barcelona, thanks to its strategic alliance with the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona that ensures the direct translation of research to the patients, has launched BITRECS: Biomedicine international training research programme for excellent clinician-scientist”. This programme is supported by the H2020 MSCA-COFUND programme and La Caixa foundation

The BITRECS programme offers a unique opportunity for postdoctoral clinician-scientists to carry out translational research in one of the available IDIBAPS’ top-class research groups.  In 2019, eight international candidates have been selected after a competitive peer-reviewed selection process and seven of them have already started their 36-month training research programme designed to promote scientific research of excellence and support career progression as successful clinician-scientist leaders.


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