Three IGTP projects selected by the CaixaImpulse Validate Programme

- Research

The "la Caixa" Foundation has announced the 23 projects selected for the two arms of the CaixaImpulse Programme in this year's call. 20 are projects in the CaixaImpulse Validate call and three of these are led by the IGTP. These initiatives are focussed on resolving big health challenges, such as resistance to cancer treatment, complications in eye surgery and the use of microwaves to detect stent failures in implanted heart disease patients.

In the field of cancer the project led by Dr Maria Rosa Sarrias, leader of the Innate Immunity Group, focusses on overcoming the resistance that occurs in many cases of cancer treatment. The project is focussed on studying tumour associated macrophages (TAM), a type of immune cell that can tolerate tumours and interfere with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted immune therapies. This aim is to develop a new class of cancer treatments that act selectively on these cells. This has been tested in in vivo and in a liver cancer model and the group is currently working on another preclinical model for other types of tumour and combined therapies.

The project led by Dr Xavier Valldeperas has designed a hydrogel patch for eye surgery. The vitrectomy is a surgical procedure by which part of the vitreous humor inside the eye ball is removed in order to safely access the retina and it has many therapeutic applications, such as repairing detached retinas. After the procedure the eyeball must be sealed to avoid it collapsing and blocking the retina. Surgeons currently use inert gases or silicone oil, but these can cause complications such as hypertension, cataracts or toxicity causing the need for further surgery. The researchers have designed a retinal patch based on a new non-toxic biocompatible material, which is easy to implant and doesn't need a second operation to remove it.

The third project is also focussed on solving complications from surgery, in this case the most usual device implanted in vascular disease. This project is led by Dr Carolina Gálvez-Montón, from the Cardiovascular Disease research group and is developing a new rapid, non-invasive and painless system to monitor and evaluate the state of implanted stents using microwaves. The stents (metal prosthetics that reinstate blood circulation in veins and arteries that have been blocked or narrowed) are the most common device implanted in medical practice and are of generalized use in the treatment of vascular disease. However, due to the presence of the disease the stents can become blocked or break, which causes severe complications. The diagnosis of these problems is not very precise and often requires confirmatory surgery, with an extra exposure to X-rays and hospitalization. The new device reduces the need for surgery and a hospital stay and radiation exposure for both the patient and hospital staff, which also considerably reduces costs for the health system.

All the projects chosen for the CaixaImpulse Validate Programme have passed an exhaustive selection process involving several formats and panels to evaluate the quality of the science, transfer potential and valorization actions that could bring the project to market, as well as the social impact. Researchers from the three IGTP projects are starting a tutoring programme with mentoring and advice to accompany the financial support provided by these awards.