Medical science

Bilateral agreements

  • Although more than 90 % of pregnancies go to term normally, foetal life remains one of the riskiest stages in the lives of human beings. One of the major unresolved problems is extreme prematurity (six months or less), which affects 25,000 families every year in Europe alone. Despite the enormous medical improvements made, important recent studies in Sweden and the United States indicate that no clear advances have been achieved in the last 20 years. Survival, even in units of excellence, is low (25-75%), while 75-95% of survivors present sequelae that affect their cognitive, cardiovascular and respiratory development, among other aspects.

    The purpose of the project is to develop a model of artificial placenta that recreates the conditions of the foetus in the womb with the aim of increasing survival and minimising the severe neurological sequelae that affect most extremely premature babies, improving their prognosis and favouring normal physiological postnatal development. Such an advance would have enormous social impact, preventing the severe sequelae that can have such a highly negative impact on later life.

    ”la Caixa” Foundation will devote nearly seven million euros to this pioneering project, which will be developed in two phases over five years. The first phase, with funding of 3.35 million euros, will focus on development and experimental validation using a sheep animal model with subsequent transfer to clinical practice if the success indicators are met. At the end of the first phase, a panel of experts will assess the progress made and decide whether the preparatory phase for clinical application should begin.

    In the second phase, the long-term effects on brain, heart, lung and metabolic development will be evaluated and improvements will be made, mainly to environmental and nutritional aspects, in order to establish the best system. Once these evaluations have been completed, steps will begin to transfer the system to a clinical application. Considerations include evaluating all ethical aspects and taking into account the opinions and experiences of families who have had premature babies.

    Project leader: Eduard Gratacós

    Projectduration: 2021-2023

    Grant: €3,336,450

    » More information (in Spanish)

  • Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) is engaged in the construction of a new research building planned to open in 2023. ”la Caixa” Foundation has provided a grant of three million euros for the project. The new VHIR facility will be housed in a building that is currently unused but which served, years ago, as the hospital laundry.

    VHIR is firmly committed to promoting both research and personalised and precision medicine, and the new facility will enable the development of the medicine of the future. The building will house work on gene therapy, which makes it possible to edit or modify the patient's genetic information, as well as on nuclear medicine, which uses small quantities of certain radioactive materials called radiotracers, which are generally injected into the bloodstream, inhaled or swallowed, thanks to the installation of a cyclotron, a type of particle accelerator.

    Project leader: VHIR

    Project duration: 2020-2023

    Grant: €3,000,000

    » More information (in Spanish)

  • ”la Caixa” Foundation has provided support for the World Institute for Digestive Endoscopy Research (WIDER Barcelona), whose director is Doctor Josep Ramon Armengol, since WIDER was first inaugurated in 2009. The institute’s work focuses on teaching, research and dissemination in the field of digestive endoscopy in all its facets, both medical and surgical, with special attention to developing the methodology known as natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES).

    Natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery embraces a series of new endoscopic approaches to the abdominal cavity with potential advantages over conventional laparoscopic surgery. NOTES is based on the possibility of performing intraperitoneal surgery by entering the peritoneal cavity through the natural orifices, perforating the organ that allows direct entry into the cavity (stomach, vagina, rectum, bladder, etc.).

    By way of example, since the start of the project Doctor Armengol's team has removed a colon tumour via the anus and a stomach tumour orally in two patients using the NOTES technique, operating via natural orifices in the body in order to avoid surgery.

    ”la Caixa” Foundation has financed this project to the tune of over 14 million euros since 2009, which was also the year that the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital’s Digestive Endoscopy Service was launched. This facility, which is also directed by Doctor Armengol, is equipped with the latest technological advances in the field. The service treats more than 9,000 patients a year.

    Project leader: Josep Ramon Armengol

    Project director: 2009-2022

    Grant: €14,050,000

    » More information (in Spanish)

  • BITRECS is a grants programme specifically aimed at enabling clinicians to develop their research careers. The programme offers beneficiaries – post-doctoral professionals – the chance to dedicate themselves intensively to biomedical research for three years.

    During this period, the researchers spend from 12 to 18 months at a centre abroad and the remaining time – between 18 and 24 months – at IDIBAPS. The programme also provides beneficiaries with training, supervision, mentoring and the chance to establish new contacts, as well as a short stay at a non-academic institution.

    Currently, eight researchers have been enjoying the benefits of these grants since 2019. Besides the support of ”la Caixa” Foundation, the programme is also co-financed by the European Commission (Horizon 2020).

    Project leader: IDIBAPS

    Project director: 2019-2023

    Grant: €500,000

    » More information (in Spanish)

Selected projects