• IQS earns one of the competitive University Professor Training (FPU) grants for the first time

Tuesday, 10 November, 2020
IQS Tech Transfer

Roberta Lucchi entre los dos co-directores, Dr. Salvador Borrós y Dr. Benjamí Oller
Roberta Lucchi between the two co-directors, Dr Salvador Borrós and Dr Benjamí Oller

For the first time, IQS has earned one of the competitive University Professor Training grants, awarded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities for work in Spanish universities. The grant was awarded to Roberta Lucchi, a doctoral student with the Department of Bioengineering who has recently joined the Materials Engineering Research Group (GEMAT) at IQS to work on the “Development of nano-bio-therapies directed at cerebral tumours” project. The project is co-directed by IQS School of Engineering professors Dr Benjamí Oller and Dr Salvador Borrós.

Roberta Lucchi ranked 13th out of the 234 grants that were awarded in the biomedicine category throughout Spain. Earning the grant was possible thanks to the candidate's excellent CV, the CVs and research careers of the project directors, and the GEMAT research group to which she and the research project itself belong.

Roberta Lucchi is a Biotechnologist and holds a Master's Degree in Medical Biotechnologies from La Sapienza University of Rome. Upon graduating, she formed part of the programme Vulcanus in Japan, in which 30 students from all over Europe are chosen from among over 600 candidates to take part in a nine-month internship with a Japanese company.

Interview with Roberta Lucchi

What has earning this grant meant to you? 

I was told that this is the first time this grant has been awarded to IQS-URL. Earning it has been an honour because it is a very competitive grant. If it adds prestige to the university that has welcomed me, then it's really something to be proud of!

What's the goal of the project you're working on? 

We want to develop a new therapy against glioblastoma, a type of brain tumour with a very poor prognosis and which currently has no effective treatments. The goal is to develop nanoparticles that carry therapeutic genes to tumour cells. In particular, we want the nanoparticles to be as selective as possible and to be able to kill normal tumour cells.

Above all, our goal is to reach cancer stem cells, which are the most resistant to therapies, which allow tumours to “recur” or reappear after a period of absence, beyond the usual therapies.

Additionally, due to the fact that glioblastoma is a brain tumour, there is another challenge to overcome, which is the difficulty of crossing the blood-brain barrier to fully reach the tumour.

Why did you choose IQS and, specifically, the GEMAT to do your doctoral thesis? 

I wasn't aware of IQS or the GEMAT group before. I set out on the adventure due to my interest in the project and because of the feeling I had when talking with the scientists who lead it. I was working in Japan, in a nanotechnology company applied to the automotive and printing sectors. That's how I got the 'itch' to do my doctorate, to learn to be more independent in planning and conducting my experiments. The call for Benjamí's project to research nanomedicine fell right into my hands. I sent my application and, after several virtual meetings with Dr Oller and Dr Borrós, here we are! Benjamí drew me in with his enthusiasm and passion for research and for the project itself. I also liked his creativity. He seemed like a good guide in this process in which I'm able to work independently and demonstrate my initiative.

I'm really happy to have joined this IQS research group!

Target GBM global project

The "Development of nano-bio-therapies targeting brain tumours" project is part of the Target GBM project, for which Dr Benjamí Oller won the first individual Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MCSA-IF) grant at IQS.

In the words of Dr Oller, “The prestige and financial contribution of the MCSA grant inspired us to launch an international call for applications to attract talent. Over 60 candidates answered this call, and we were lucky that the best candidate, Roberta, joined us. We're really pleased with the vitality she brings to the team. And, of course, we are very happy that her short, yet exceptional, career has been rewarded with the FPU grant."

This pre-doctoral contract has received funding from the Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities for University Professor Training.