Three projects led by UPF researchers receive CaixaImpulse programme grants

Three projects led by UPF researchers receive CaixaImpulse programme grants

The projects led by Marc Güell, Rafael Maldonado and Quim Castellví have been selected to receive grants from the CaixaImpulse programme, created by “la Caixa” Foundation and Caixa Capital Risc.



UPF has received three of the twenty grants awarded by the CaixaImpulse programme to proceed with therapies for congenital dystrophy, chronic pain and a system to improve prostate biopsies. The three projects are led by Marc Güell and Rafael Maldonado, at the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS), and Quim Castellví, at the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC).

The selected projects at UPF are:

UNI-LARGE: Advance Gene Editing Technologies

The group led by Marc Güell has developed Uni-large, a new generation of medication that combines the precision of CRISPR/cas9 and the efficacy of viral vectors established in the clinical practice. They are developing a first therapy aimed at treating congenital type 1A dystrophy (MDC1A), a disease that affects 1 in 30,000 people. It is produced by mutations in laminin alpha-2, a protein that exceeds the size limit of other vectors and therefore requiring the development of alternative therapies. They will perform the necessary steps for the preclinical development of this technology for its safe use in humans to treat muscular dystrophy and other diseases.


NeedleSafe: Antiseptic biopsy system

Transrectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy is the gold-standard for diagnosis of prostate cancer. But this procedure is not harmless since the rectal wall is perforated during the biopsy allowing the bacteria naturally confined within the rectum to cause infectious complications. Currently, between 2 and 5% of the patients undergoing a transrectal prostate biopsy are reported to develop a severe infection.

The project NeedleSafe is led by team led by Quim Castellví, Quim Castellví, researcher at the Biomedical Electronics Researche Group (BERG), which is led by Antoni Ivorra, researcher at the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC). Rsearchers from Hospital Clínic, Vall d'Hebron Research Institute, and IESE Business School also participate in the project. NeedleSafe uses a technology capable of eliminating the risk of infection after biopsy procedures. It is based on the electrical release of silver ions from a thin silver coating on the biopsy needle to obtain a long-term bactericidal effect. 


Cannabis Fighting-Pain: Fighting pain with cannabis avoiding the side effects

Chronic pain is a health problem that affects 20% of the world's population. Cannabinoid compounds have enormous potential for the treatment of this pathology due to the analgesic properties of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but they have major side effects. The Cannabis Fighting-Pain project, led by Rafael Maldonado, aims to bring to the market a new set of compounds capable of maintaining the analgesic effect of cannabinoids, avoiding their side effects. The team from UPF, Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and University of Barcelona (UB) has developed peptides with greater specificity, selectivity and efficacy, while avoiding the cognitive deficits typically associated with the use of cannabinoids.


An enhancement, marketing and support plan

“La Caixa" and Caixa Capital Risc launched this programme in 2015, with the aim of facilitating the transfer to society of scientific knowledge originated in research centres, universities and hospitals, through patents, the creation of transfer companies or agreements. The programme has already allocated 7.5 million euros and has promoted 58 initiatives, 10 of which have already become spin-off companies and a further 7 are currently being created.

Each project selected by CaixaImpulse can receive up to 100,000 euros. In addition, the researchers will have access to a support programme that will guide them through mentorship, training, expert advice and establishing contacts.