Dr. Mar Albà


The GRIB receives an ERC grant of 2.5 million euros to expand knowledge of the human genome

Press release IMIM 4/5/2022

Dr. Mar Albà, ICREA professor and coordinator of the Evolutionary Genomics Research Group, director of the GRIB and associate professor at Pompeu Fabra University, has received a grant of 2.5 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC), to develop the NovoGenePop project. This study seeks to expand our current knowledge of the human genome by searching for genes that are specific to certain individuals or populations.

Over the next five years, the group led by Dr. Albà will work on "opening up new horizons in research, studying the diversity of genes in populations". Their field of study focuses on de novo genes, those that have been created recently due to mutations that accumulate constantly and which have no negative consequences for the organism. Having bioinformatics tools for identifying these genes can be very useful in a number of fields. "The aim is to take a step forward in our understanding of how new genes are formed from the genome, not on long evolutionary scales, but at the population level", explains Dr. Albà. The goal of the project is to identify the diversity of these novel genes, based on data from yeast populations and human cell lines, for which genomic sequences are already available. Using massive RNA and protein sequencing tools, it will be possible to detect novel genes and identify the mutations associated with their formation. To refine the research, the data will be compared with information from other related species. "We have been looking at genes in a very limited way, always using the same database references", explains the researcher. The project seeks to identify individual differences in genes and create tools to analyse them easily. "It is possible that, depending on the population, there are genes that are unknown to us and we want to identify these systematically. Some of them could play a role in the development of certain diseases", adds Dr. Albà. The development of tools to identify the spectrum of mutations associated with the formation of new genes will facilitate the study of new mechanisms linked to pathologies such as cancer or hereditary diseases.

ERC Advanced Grants

The European Research Council is a European Union institution and Europe's leading funder of pioneering research excellence. Its objective is to cover the needs of this type of project from the most basic research to commercial applications. Nearly 1,800 researchers applied in the 2021 edition. 253 have been selected, from 21 EU countries, who will share 624 million euros. In Spain, only thirteen projects have been chosen. Among these, IMIM-Hospital del Mar was the only biomedical research centre selected.

Read the press release in full in english

Read the press release of IMIM in catalan and spanish

Site Information