Interview with David Posada. PI of Evolutionary Genomics group.

Doctor in Zoology, Full Professor of Genetics at the University of Vigo and coordinator of the Evolutionary Genomics Group (XB5) for CINBIO, David Posada González is the only Galician researcher to be awarded a Consolidator Grant, given by the European Research Council (ERC) in 2013. In 2003 he received a Ramón y Cajal grant, and in 2007 a Starting Grant, also given by the ERC. In addition, he is regarded as an ISI Highly Cited Researcher, according to Thomson Reuters, since 2003.


One of the lines of research of your group was awarded a Consolidator Grant by the ERC and it focuses on the creation of a theoretical and methodological framework allowing better comprehension of the evolution of carcinogenic tumour cells. What results do you hope to find in this area?

PHYLOCANCER is an ambitious 5 year project with 2 clear objectives: on one hand, to fine tune techniques for the study of individual genomes in tumour cells, and the development of bioinformatic methodologies for the mass analysis of genomic data. On the other, the generation of knowledge about evolutionary parameters in the life of a tumour, its history and how its characteristics develop (metastasis, growth rate, etc.) in each individual patient.


The results of PHYLOCANCER will offer new computational tools to the scientific community for the mass analysis of genomic data, and information about the evolutionary history of cancer, which could contribute to future improvements in fully personalized diagnosis and prognosis for patients with all tumour types.


This is a multidisciplinary study in which we collaborate with various regional hospitals (Hospital Álvaro Cunqueiro and Meixoeiro de Vigo and USC Hospital University Complex, Santiago de Compostela), and the focus is on two types of cancer: colorectal  cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.


In addition to being given a Consolidator Grant for your PHYLOCANCER project, in 2007 the ERC awarded you a Starting Grant for the PHYLOGENOM project. What was the subject matter of the project and what are the main conclusions you drew from it?

PHYLOGENOM is based on the development of a general methodology for genome evolution in any type of sexual organism, those which produce offspring from reproduction between a male and female. This project offered us the chance to develop scientific knowledge about the evolution of DNA in this type of organism, but above all methodological tools to measure it and characterize it statistically.


Bioinformatics is a key aspect of your group and of the research projects you carry out. In this context you have developed a number of open to use applications for the scientific community. Which of them would you highlight for its value?

Bioinformatics has been key for the evolution and relevance of our research group. We have developed multiple techniques and methodologies which are today used by scientists all over the world in their data analysis routines but I would perhaps higlight ModelTest, which I developed in 1998 during my phD, and whose descriptive article, with more than 20,000 citations, is one of the top 100 most cited articles of all time, according to “Nature” journal. ModelTest is a methodology which, based on biostatistical calculations, allows the best DNA evolution model to be selected for a particular set of scientific data and which has become a standard by which to justify the model used in phylogenetic research studies.


There are no doubts about your potential in scientific production, with more than 130 articles appearing in high impact publications, such as Nature. In addition, you are recognized as an ISI Highly Cited Researcher. How do you assess your position nationally and internationally? What other indicator about your group would you highlight?

This recognition obviously makes us a group of excellence internationally, but it also means that the methodologies that we develop are useful and facilitate research all over the world.


This prestige on an international level means that regionally we are one of the best placed to attract international talent. In our group you can find researchers from Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, etc…


In addition, another of the key aspects of our group is its cross-disciplinary nature. This enriches our lines of research immensely with many different complementary perspectives, such as knowledge in chemistry, biology and informatics.


Beyond the multidisciplinary environment and the ease of synergies between research groups, what advantages does CINBIO offer as a group? And what about for you as a researcher?

Without doubt, CINBIO is an ecosystem which strengthens the establishment of synergies and collaborations between complementary research groups, allowing our projects to be more global and more comprehensive, tackling the same issue from different angles.


CINBIO is also an opportunity to access cutting-edge technologies and generate a knowledge “biocluster”, which joins the capacities of different groups together and makes us all more competitive internationally and allows us to take on more challenging and more complete projects.