This year (10th April), the official signing of agreements for the establishment of the EMBL outstation in Barcelona finally took place. After more than 20 years, the EMBL opened a new site at the PRBB in Barcelona adjacent to the CRG. This will enhance the PRBB’s international visibility and will create, together with the CRG light microscope facility, a leading imaging facility in Europe.
One of the most important events of 2017 was the creation of a network comprising all the Spanish institutes and university units distinguished with the Severo Ochoa and Maria de Maeztu excellence grant award. This alliance (SOMMa, http://somma.es/) has been created to promote Spanish Excellence in research and to enhance its social impact at national and international levels. The CRG currently chairs the alliance.
In the area of science, in the course of the year, our Bioinformatics and Genomics programme was evaluated. The feedback was excellent and endorsed the continuation and reinforcement of Bioinformatics at CRG.
In 2017, three of our young PIs found senior positions at other institutes. Matthieu Louis is now at the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department of the University of California, Santa Barbara in the USA; Fyodor Kondrashov has moved to the Evolutionary Genomics Department of the Institute of Science and Technology (IST Austria), in Klosterneuburg, Austria; and Manuel Mendoza is now Team Leader at the Institute of Genetics, Molecular and Cellular Biology (IGBMC) in Strasbourg, France. Finally, James Sharpe moved from CRG to become the Head of the new EMBL Barcelona site. We are delighted that all of them have found excellent positions, thus attesting to the CRG’s success in training and promoting young scientists. On the other hand, Elvan Boke and Nicholas Stroustrup, formerly of the Harvard Medical School in the United States, joined the CRG at the beginning of 2017.
Also during the year, and in accordance with our strategic plan, we changed the way we recruit new PIs. For the first time ever, we advertised positions not attached to any programme on the main research topics of our plan. We received more than 150 applications and, after the short-listing and interview phase, we hired two new PIs, Eva Novoa, from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, and Arnau Sebe-Pedros, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who will be joining us at CRG in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
In the realm of finance, the CRG continues to attract competitive funds. It is important to mention that we were awarded our second four-year ‘Centres of Excellence Severo Ochoa Award’ by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness. Additionally, four groups entered two key national technological platforms, for bioinformatics (Guigó, Gabaldón, Gut) and proteomics (Sabidó), supported by the Institute of Health Carlos III (ISCIII). At European level, and besides numerous collaborative projects, particular mention should be made of an ERC Starting Grant (Boke) and an ERC Proof-of-Concept (Valcárcel), the latter aimed at testing the therapeutic potential of new reagents for lung cancer therapy. In the international arena, Roderic Guigó secured two new research awards, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
CRG supports Open Science, and in this regard, it is important to mention the EU project led by CRG: ORION. This is a new initiative to promote institutional changes in research funding and performing organisations to make them more receptive to societal needs and to embrace the principles of Open Science.
It is important to emphasise that CRG would not be such an attractive place without the professional and excellent support of its different administration departments which, despite a heavy workload, have managed to create an excellent working environment. More particularly, one of the key recommendations from the external panel in 2016, the ¨business process management¨ project, was implemented in the course of last year with the goal of evaluating and enhancing the administration’s performance and effectiveness, thus enabling department-wide continuous improvement.
In a year full of challenges, for the first time we had to cope with the departure of many groups at the same time, as well as with a regional and national political crisis. Moreover, our VAT deductibility is under debate, entailing a significant financial impact and major uncertainty. The support of all our personnel enables us to minimise the impact of these challenges and to guarantee the support and success of all our PIs. CRG continues to be a great place to engage in science, and exciting opportunities and projects await us in 2018.