BLoC at the Science Week

Last week Alba Herrero and Irene Marco-Rius, BLoC partners at IBEC, participated in the 25th Science Week, an initiative from the Catalan Foundation for the Research and innovation (FCRI) that can proudly count with the participation of more than 1 million people from the beginning. Throughout the Catalan Territory, several activities took place from the 14th to the 29th of November, as open doors visits to research centers, expositions, seminars, games and workshops. As could not have been otherwise, this year many activities were related to the COVID-19 pandemic and SARS-CoV-2, but also other scientific themes had their place.



Alba Herrero and Irene Marco-Rius participated in the event with a talk to 15-17 years old students from the Aimerigues High School, located in the city of Terrassa near Barcelona. They explained their research and talked about BLoC project to more than 80 students, who learned about NMR, diabetes, liver cells, tissue engineering… Many topics that draw the attention of the students and has not left anyone indifferent.


Another important pillar of the event is to awake scientific vocations and to show that women also can do research in STEAM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. In this context, Alba and Irene talked about their scientific career and the steps they walked to arrive where they are now. This was a fruitful and relaxed dialogue with the students who asked several questions to satisfy their curiosity about “being a scientist”.

Hopefully next year Irene, Alba and other BLoC members will participate a continue to bring BLoC science outside the walls of the laboratories.

Bloc researchers present their work in the 13th IBEC Symposium

The 13th IBEC Symposium took place, from the 27th to the 28th October 2020 under the motto “Future and Precision Medicine”. For the first time, this event was held online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. It counted with the participation of more than 400 registered attendees, who gave 18 flash presentations and presented 106 posters. Top international researchers, such as Robert Langer from the MIT, Ada Cavalcanti from the University of Heidelberg and the Max Plank Institute and Raquel Yotti, Director of the Carlos III Health Institute, contributed to this high  level event on Bioengineering for Health.

BLOC researchers from the “Biosensors for bioengineering” laboratory at IBEC, in Barcelona, also participated showing their latest results.

Jose Yeste, postdoc researcher, gave a flash presentation where he talked about in situ metabolomic analysis, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging using dynamic nuclear polarisation (DNP-MR) with the aim to monitor diseases and evaluate drug response.

The other contribution of BLOC came from Marc Azagra, a PhD student from the same research group at IBEC. Marc presented a poster with an innovative protocol to analyse biomarkers for Myotonic dystrophy type1 in patient-derived tissues via nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Irene Marco-Rius and Javier Ramón, coordinators of BLOC Project, were also co-authors of the poster.

Next year BLOC Project will be present in other international events with many more posters and presentations.

Barcelona hosts the kick-off meeting of the EU project BLOC

The Kick-Off meeting of the FET-Open EU project BLOC (Benchtop NMR for Lab-on-chip), an initiative led by Javier Ramón and Irene Marco from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia in Barcelona (IBEC), took place this week in Barcelona.

The event has brought together all the partners of the project, who have taken the opportunity to introduce themselves and explain their roles and responsibilities. The consortium members also presented the main production and research lines of the project and defined the work plan for the following months.

Among the beneficiaries of BLOC there are two research centres: the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), which covers most bioengineering fields, from basic research to medical applications, and the Consorci Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), a public research centre dedicated to translational research in the field of biomedicine.

Moreover, the consortium counts on two high-tech companies: Oxford Instruments (OI), a leading provider of high technology solutions, information and support for industry and research, and Multiwave Technologies AG (MW), a deep science technology company incubating, developing and bringing to market a portfolio of metamaterial innovations.

Main Production and Research Lines

All the partners of BLOC will work together until 2022 to make our lives easier by offering us new approaches to metabolic disease modelling and drug discovery. Concretely, partners will develop a new technology based on magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging using dynamic nuclear polarisation (DNP-MR) integrated with organ-on-a-chip (OOC) devices to monitor disease and evaluate drug response in OOC models.

As a proof-of-concept, the project will fabricate a biomimetic multi OOC integrated device composed of liver spheroids and pancreatic islets and develop the necessary DNP-MR hardware and software to study metabolic diseases and for future drug screening applications.

Organ-on-a-chip (OOC) devices offer new approaches to metabolic disease modelling and drug discovery by providing biologically relevant models of tissues and organs in vitro integrated with sensing technology. As such, OOC devices have the potential to revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry by enabling reliable and high predictive in vitro testing of drug candidates.

To date, the capability to miniaturise microfluidic systems and advanced tissue fabrication procedures have enabled researchers to create multiple tissues on a chip with a high degree of control over experimental variables for high-content screening applications.