The Awards of the Board of Trustees and the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation will be presented on Thursday 15 December at 18:00 in the Aula Magna of the Historical Building. The awards will be presented by the rector of the University of Barcelona, Joan Guàrdia, the president of the Board of Trustees, Joan Corominas, and the director of the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation, Carme Verdaguer. The award-winning pieces are examples of high-quality research derived from doctoral theses by young researchers, as well as projects for the transfer of knowledge acquired and developed at the University to society.
The educational success of the Jesuit missions
The José Manuel Blecua Prize, which is awarded to the best article published in a recognized journal in the humanities and social sciences derived from a doctoral thesis, goes this year to Éric Gómez’s research on the missions of the Jesuit order in colonized Latin America in the 17th and 18th centuries. These religious communities, popularised by Roland Joffé’s film The Mission, emphasized the education of indigenous populations.
Through the study of the register of Native Indian inhabitants (the censuses of the time), the research study shows that the Jesuit mission communities had an exceptional arithmetical knowledge at the time. Gómez’s doctoral thesis, supervised by Julio Martínez and Miquel Gutiérrez, professors at the Faculty of Economics and Business, suggests that the way these missions were organised, as well as their respect for and adaptation to the Guaraní worldview and language, may have contributed to their educational success.
Award to a research study published on the cover of Nature
The Ramon Margalef Prize to the best research published in a recognized journal in the field of experimental sciences and health derived from a doctoral thesis, goes to a study published on the cover of the journal Nature with the headline "Matters of the heart". The article unravels one of the unsolved puzzles about the transition between free-living and sedentary lifestyles in ancestors of our phylum: the chordates. The doctoral thesis by Alfonso Ferrández Roldán, supervised by Cristian Cañestro, lecturer of the Department of Genetics of the UB, presents a new evolutionary scenario that helps to understand the evolution of our phylum and to discover what the ancestor of the tunicates, the sister group of vertebrates, was like. Specifically, he reveals that massive gene losses that deconstructed the heart gene network facilitated the transition to a free pelagic lifestyle in the appendicularian tunicates, from an ancestral sedentary form.
This study was carried out exclusively by the Evolution and Development Consolidated Research Group (Evo-Devo) of the Section of Genetics of the Faculty of Biology of the UB. The research group is a world pioneer in the use of the species Oikopleura dioica as an animal model to study the impact of gene loss as an evolutionary force.
Artificial intelligence to improve colorectal cancer diagnosis
The Antonio Caparrós Prize for the top knowledge, technology and innovation transfer project went to the project for the detection of intestinal tract pathologies using artificial intelligence led by Santi Segú, associate professor in the UB Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.
The project aims to develop an artificial intelligence system that allows a faster and more effective review of the video recording obtained by means of an endoscopic capsule equipped with a camera along its route through the intestine. This artificial intelligence tool will gradually replace traditional endoscopy, an invasive technique that requires anaesthesia, and will also improve diagnostic efficiency.
The project began in 2018 with a research collaboration between the UB, the Vall d’Hebron General Hospital and the Scottish company Corporate Health International. Subsequently, the collaboration with this company continued with a new project funded by Innovate UK. Currently, with the financial support of the National Institute for Health Research in England (NIHR) and in collaboration with UK hospitals, a phase II clinical trial is underway.
A veterinary medicine to treat pain in dogs
Jose Maria Suñé Negre, director of the UB Medicines Development Service (SDM) research group, has also won the Antoni Caparrós Prize to the top knowledge, technology and innovation transfer project. It has been awarded for having developed Firocoxib, a generic anti-inflammatory drug approved for dogs. In the development of this medicine, a pharmaceutical technological innovation has been incorporated that allows the dosage to be adjusted according to the weight of the animal, an issue that had not been resolved until now. In addition, the product has been designed to be palatable to ensure that the dog does not reject it, and it is hypoallergenic, i.e. it has very little potential to produce an allergic reaction.
The project has been created on behalf of Livisto, a pharmaceutical company with a large global deployment in the veterinary sector. The project has also benefited from the technological transfer of the company Lelypharma, from the Netherlands, which has been in charge of the industrial manufacture of the product.
Reducing food waste
ColorSensing, a UB spin-off, has received the Senén Vilaró Prize to the top innovative company. Created in 2018 by Daniel Prades, from the Faculty of Physics, and María Eugenia Martín, now CEO of this spin-off, the company helps manufacturers and suppliers of packaged food to reduce food wastage, through a food quality and safety control tool that improves their profitability.
ColorSensing offers a smart label that clips onto food product trays and allows three key aspects to be checked: the quality of the in-line packaging in a non-destructive manner (no need to break the pack to check the condition of the product); whether the cold chain has been broken; and the actual freshness of the product at any point in its shelf life and at any point in the supply chain.