The Biotechnology research area aims at promoting interdisciplinary research that can be translated into the development of innovative tools and approaches for prevention and treatment of a selected group of disorders that are exacerbated in the aged population, such as neurodegenerative, ischemic, infectious and cancer diseases. The groups in this thematic strand use recent advances in high-throughput screening, deep sequencing, delivery formulations, medicinal chemistry, imaging and animal models to develop innovative therapies. Selection of this thematic strand for the consortium CNC is strategic because it will create translational and economical value for the Center Region of Portugal in the area of biotechnology/health sciences.
The strand is formed by 20 groups into a matrix of complementary expertise aiming at investigating ways to create innovative therapies that can be moved from the bench top to the bedside. These groups have contributed with novel approaches for the treatment of ischemic diseases, in the development of viral and non-viral therapies for neurodegenerative and cancer diseases, the identification of new therapeutic targets to treat brain diseases such as Machado-Joseph disease, in the identification of cell reprogramming factors to reprogram fibroblast cells into hematopoietic stem cells and in the identification of new targets as well as therapeutic approaches to treat and prevent infection and infection-associated damage.
These groups will join efforts in a flagship project related to cell senescence since it is a topic that is linked with the strategic mission of CNC in the area of aging and disease and because the topic is of relevance in the areas of neuroscience, infection, cancer and aging. In addition, the Biotechnology area will work closely with the Neuroscience strand and Metabolism, Aging and Disease strand in the development of tools such as therapeutic biomolecules (miRNAs, protein, antibodies), in vitro models (e.g. in vitro blood brain barrier models) and bioinformatics models to explore large datasets (e.g. microbiome and metagenomes, etc).
This thematic strand benefits from a special niche in the Center Region of Portugal, formed by Biocant, the first Portuguese biotechnology park, which represents 30% of the biotechnology companies in the country, and of the CHUC, one of the best and the largest in Portugal. A member of this strand was the recipient of an ERC grant as well as an ERA Chair grant in the area of aging. Members of this Strand have launched several spin-offs including TREAT U SA, Exogenus Therapeutics, Matera and CureMat, all located at Biocant Park. Furthermore, members of this thematic strand secured over 20M€ in research funding and published more than 300 international peer-reviewed publications in the last 5 years.