The researcher at the Príncipe Felipe Research Center (CIPF) of Valencia Verónica Lloréns Rico has been selected by the European Research Council –ERC, for its acronym in English– in the Starting Grant call for young researchers, endowed with 1 .5 million euros, for the development of the Regubiome project (Transcriptional REGUlation as a mediator of bacterial interactions in the microBIOME).

The CIPF, a biomedical institute of excellence supported financially by the Consell through the Ministry of Health, is, according to the Scimago rankings, which measure the visibility and quality of scientific production, the center in the Valencian Community with the best value at the level. world in the field of life sciences and has innovative facilities where Dr. Llorens will be able to develop this avant-garde project.

Regubiome, which will have an expected duration of five years, focuses on two specific bacteria of the intestinal microbiota with great impact on our health: Fusobacterium nucleatum (associated with colorectal cancer) and Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus (used as a probiotic).

The project will study what external factors influence the expression of the different genes and the different functions in these two microorganisms, details the research center.

The Valencian expert will also address the molecular mechanisms in each of these bacteria to recognize and adapt to changes in the diet and intestinal environment, changes in pH, interactions with other bacteria in the intestinal microbiota and direct interactions with the human intestine.

“The Regubiome project will shed light on how gut microbiota bacteria regulate their functions and how this has an impact on our health.

Furthermore, in the case of Fusobacterium nucleatum, it will allow us to better understand its role in the development of colorectal cancer,” highlights Lloréns Rico.

According to data from the Spanish Association Against Cancer, in 2022, colorectal cancer was the most diagnosed type of cancer in Spain, with more than 40,000 new cases.

Colorectal tumors are the second leading cause of cancer death, only behind lung cancer.

“In the case of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus, it will allow us to better understand some of its benefits as a probiotic. Furthermore, in the long term this project will provide us with tools to design new personalized treatments for diseases related to the intestinal microbiota, based on “tailor-made” probiotics and in being able to accurately control the functions of the microbiota”, concludes the CIPF researcher.

The bacteria of the intestinal microbiota perform essential functions for our body, such as digesting some compounds in our diet to produce essential nutrients or regulating the responses of our immune system.

However, despite their importance, we still know very little about how intestinal bacteria perform all of these functions.

Bacteria continually adapt to changes in their environment, altering the functions they perform in order to survive, so understanding what external factors –such as diet or the presence of other microorganisms– influence the expression of the different functions of the microbiota is of vital importance to understand the impact of the microbiota on our health.

ERC Starting Grants support cutting-edge research and help researchers get started in their careers. In 2023 the aid amounts to 3 more than 628 million euros for a total of 400 projects. This funding is part of the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme.

Spain occupies the seventh position with a total of 23 selected researchers, behind Germany (87 selected), France (50), the Netherlands (44), the United Kingdom (32) and Israel (27).

A total of 2,696 proposals have been submitted, of which only 400 have been chosen in three areas: life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and social sciences and humanities.

In the three areas, Spain has obtained a total of 23 grants, the CIPF being the only Valencian center. With this, there are 5 ERCs achieved in recent years by the CIPF in all its categories.

The president of the ERC, Professor Maria Leptin, has highlighted: “This Starting Grants call we have had one of the highest percentages of women beneficiaries to date, something that I hope will continue to increase. Congratulations to all the winners and very good luck on the road to discovery.”

After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Biotechnology at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, she completed a Master’s Degree in Biophysics at the Autonomous University of Madrid, with a grant from the Fundación la Caixa.

He obtained his doctorate in Biomedicine at the Center for Genomic Regulation and Pompeu Fabra University, with the Extraordinary Doctorate Award and the Young Investigator Award of the Catalan Society of Biology.

He continued his career at KU Leuven (Belgium), where he gained extensive postdoctoral experience in the study of the gut microbiota.

After five years in Belgium, Verónica Lloréns Rico obtained a Ramón y Cajal contract to join the Príncipe Felipe Research Center in January 2023 as group leader, leading her own lines of research in her group Systems Biology in Microbiota-Host Interactions .