Interview with Francisco Javier Rodríguez Berrocal. Molecular Biomarkers.

Francisco Javier Rodríguez Berrocal is a Full Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and secretary of the department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Immunology at the University of Vigo. In addition, he is also Principal Investigator for CINBIO’s Molecular Biomarkers group (BB1).

The BB1 group is multidisciplinary and it contains three different teams: Protein Biochemistry, Glycoproteomics, and Human Genetics. Despite this spread, they share a common aim: to find new genetic, proteic or glycidic markers, with the view of their potential application to various human pathologies.

What are the main lines of research being worked on, both individually and as a whole?

The three groups are working on the use and development of biological molecules as diagnostic, prognostic and disease monitoring markers in both humans and animals. We apply them to a wide range of diseases, from prevalent diseases such as cancer to rarer diseases such as ciliopathies.

How do you articulate the cross-disciplinary aspect of the group? In what way does working allow that in your day to day research? Could you give an example of the most transverse project in which all three teams participate?

By having a basic common goal, which is our joint work with biomarkers. Each group has a Lead Researcher and I am coordinator for the whole group (BB1). In day to day functioning we share biochemical techniques and equipment. For instance, methylation studies are particularly important and can be applied to various projects.

With regard to results transfer, you have a remarkable track record to date. What milestones would you highlight in this area? 

We have been producing research contracts for companies such as CZVeterinaria for the past number of years, and we put together a high number of reports every year to facilitate the diagnosis of ciliopathies in different hospitals. The three groups have all obtained patents, and 5 out of 6 senior researchers in the group are shareholders in the INBIOGAL spin-off company (Biological Research of Galicia).

Meanwhile, the group has had numerous collaborations with research groups both nationally and internationally. Which of these collaborations would you highlight in particular?

I think our collaboration with research groups from Barcelona, Alicante and the Canary Islands is one of the most important we have been involved in. In this project we developed an Applied Research Program for cancer diagnosis, lasting 5 years and funded by the Asociación Española Contra El Cáncer with 1.200.000 €.

What would you say are the main milestones that you have reached as a group on an international level? 

We do not have a specific relevance on an international level, but the group’s track record both in publications and in projects, contracts and patents, has led to 3 of the 6 senior researchers being made Full University Professors, and 2 have obtained the accreditation allowing them to become one.

CINBIO is a multidisciplinary ecosystem which you have been a part of since its beginnings. Which of CINBIO’s strengths would you highlight? To what extent does it help your competitiveness as a research group?

On the one hand, CINBIO is a “melting pot”, where groups offer new ideas and methods to projects that we have all been developing for years. On the other hand, it gives us much more visibility, and the possibility of obtaining aid together, aid to which individually we would not have access.