The UB obtains nearly 9 million euros to install the first high-field nuclear magnetic resonance in Spain

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RMN is one of the most versatile tools in biomedicine and biotechnology. Image:

RMN is one of the most versatile tools in biomedicine and biotechnology. Image: O. Marimon et al. Nat. Com. (2016)


According to the provisional resolution of the last call of the Singular Scientific and Technological Infrastructures (ICTS), the University of Barcelona has received 8,922.959 million euros to bring the first high-field nuclear magnetic resonance in Spain. The grant, given by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, covers the 100% of the funding to get and install this equipment to be managed by the Scientific and Technological Centres ( CCiTUB ) and which will be part of a ICTS that provides service to the whole scientific community.

The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (RMN) is an essential technology in chemical, pharmaceutical and biomedicine research. "The UB is leader in these fields, as seen in the recent rankings, and renewing the infrastructures with this new tool will enable us to maintain the leadership in Europe and worldwide", notes the rector of the UB, Joan Guàrdia.

The equipment will be installed in the Barcelona Science Park in a specifically designed building for equipment with large magnetic fields. This technology, together with other already existing complementary techniques in the ICTS networks, "will allow the creation of the largest structural biology hub in southern Europe and will boost emerging fields of application such as the use of disordered proteins as therapeutic targets or drugs of biotechnological origins", says Jordi Garcia, vice-rector for Research. 

1 Ghz MRI: faster and more sustainable

The NMR is one of the most versatile tools in biomedicine and biotechnology. The power of this technology lies in its ability to provide atomic-scale structural and dynamic information about complex biomolecules, including their interactions and the modifications they undergo in vivo.

The very high-field nuclear magnetic resonance device has a state-of-the-art hybrid magnet that includes a new high-temperature superconductor. Therefore, it is possible to create a sufficient magnetic field to reach the frequency of 1 GHz. "With such high magnetic fields, we achieve a significant gain in resolution and sensitivity, as well as a significant decrease in the data acquisition time. That will be a great boost for the structural and dynamic study of complex biomolecules", says Miquel Pons, scientific coordinator of the ICTS Network of NMR Biomolecule Laboratories to which this new equipment will be incorporated.

To ensure the sustainability of the device, it also includes a helium re-heating system, i.e., it allows the gas to be liquefied again, which drastically reduces the consumption of such a limited resource and increases the resilience of the ICTS network regarding the potential supply problems or future increases in its cost.

The project also includes the development of a data management system that will incorporate artificial intelligence systems and ensure that data can be easily found and are accessible, interoperable and reusable, according to the FAIR principles of good practice in the management of scientific data. 

The incorporation of this new equipment to the ICTS "will allow the entire research community to have access to state-of-the-art technology, which will enhance new synergies and lines of research", says Juan Fran Sangüesa, director of the CCiTUB. "It will also have an impact on the industrial fabric, especially in a key sector such as biomedicine, and will contribute to attracting talent and quality training for our students", concludes the expert.

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