Thursday, 15 February 2024 16:50

The study of synthetic cells and minimal genome, selected in the BBVA Foundation's Fundamentals Program

Imagen artística de una sección de una célula JCVI-synA3 en división. David S. Goodsell, RCSB Protein Data Bank. doi: 10.2210/rcsb_pdb/goodsell-gallery-042 Imagen artística de una sección de una célula JCVI-synA3 en división. David S. Goodsell, RCSB Protein Data Bank. doi: 10.2210/rcsb_pdb/goodsell-gallery-042 David S. Goodsell, RCSB Protein Data Bank. doi: 10.2210/rcsb_pdb/goodsell-gallery-042
The first call of the "Fundamentos" research program of the BBVA Foundation has awarded the grant for the area of Biology and Biomedicine to the project presented by the groups of Saúl Ares and Germán Rivas, both belonging to the LifeHub connection, of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in collaboration with the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in the United States.

The funding, close to 600,000 euros, will allow to deepen the knowledge of the physical bases that occur in complex physiological processes such as cell division. To do this, the researchers will use synthetic and minimal genome cell models that offer unprecedented control of the molecular interactions that generate cellular forces.

Saúl Ares, project coordinator and CSIC researcher at the National Center for Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC) explains how "in this project, we will be able to define better the genomically minimal cell model system JCVI-syn3A, the cell capable of independent life with the most reduced genome, and use the fundamental knowledge generated, on the molecular mechanisms of life, as a platform for biotechnological applications."

The interdisciplinary team brings together experts in two complementary approaches in engineering biology. On the one hand, the teams led by Saul Ares and James Pelletier (CNB-CSIC) together with John Glass (JCVI) adopt a genomic reduction perspective, focusing on simplifying the complexity of the genome of living cells to obtain minimal cells. On the other hand, the team of Germán Rivas and Silvia Zorrilla, from the Margarita Salas Center for Biological Research (CIB-CSIC), follows a strategy of biochemical reconstitution of essential processes, such as cell division, from their constituent components, in the context of research on synthetic cells. "The funding from the BBVA Foundation will allow us to integrate these complementary approaches to understand and design minimal and synthetic cells," remarked Rivas.

Large CSIC representation in the Fundamentals Program

The BBVA Foundation's Fundamentos research program is aimed at projects that innovatively address central or foundational questions of a scientific or disciplinary field at its current stage of development or interdisciplinary questions of the same fundamental nature. They are awarded in five major research areas: physics and chemistry; mathematics, statistics, computer science, artificial intelligence; biology and biomedicine; environmental sciences; and social sciences. The immediate application of research results is not part of the spirit of this call, which also supports projects that use the most advanced techniques in data science today.

In addition to the CNB and CIB Margarita Salas teams, the Foundation has selected projects involving CSIC teams in two other areas: Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, which has researcher Marcelo Bertalmío from the Institute of Optics (CSIC), and in Environmental Sciences, with a project led by Manuel Delgado Baquerizo, from the Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology of Seville (CSIC), and Francisco Ignacio Pugnaire de Iraola, from the Experimental Station of Arid Zones (CSIC).

CNB-CSIC Communition office

CIB-CSIC Communication offce

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