In the BIOMEDICINE AND BIOTECHNOLOGY AREA, during the 2009-2014 period, three important milestones were reached: the inauguration of the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria (IBBTEC), joint UC-CSIC and Government of Cantabria centre, the legal progress made to constitute the Regional Biomedical Cluster and the internationalisation generated by Valdecilla Virtual Hospital.
IBBTEC AND IDIVAL
In 2013, personnel were effectively transferred to the new IBBTEC located in PCTCAN (inaugurated in June 2014). The institute is equipped with 22 research laboratories, instrument rooms, two biosafety level 2 biological containment laboratories (P2) and one P3 laboratory, microfluidics, histology and microscopy laboratories and a specific pathogen free animal facility (SPF). The commitment to the transfer of knowledge is made patent by the creation of a Biological Diagnostics and Evaluation Unit (UDEB), a space focused on housing spin-offs and biotechnology companies, thus strengthening joint research projects. This building required an investment of close to €19M co-financed by the three participating institutions, along with ICE funds.
IBBTEC's scientific activity is structured in 13 research groups distributed in two departments: Cellular and Molecular Signalling, and Microbiology and Genomics. With a total of 80 researchers (UC-CSIC), IBBTEC stands out for its scientific production, because it is among the best biomedical research centres in Spain thanks to the quality of its publications. It has published over 240 articles in international journals between 2009 and 2014, with an average "impact factor" of 6.5 and over 70% in the first quartile. These parameters indicate that the quality of the publications exceeds that of most CSIC centres, positioning itself as one of the Council's centres with the best international projection.
At the same time, IBBTEC has worked diligently to obtain funds for research and to hire scientific personnel. In fact, thanks to the AGL programme to attract international talent, an ambitious project was implemented between UC and the Slovenian company Acies-BIO. Currently, the Institute has on-going projects financed for a value of €6M obtained from the National Plan for R&D, the Carlos III Health Research Institute, the EU and contracts with companies for biotechnology projects.
Cantabria boasts a second biomedical research centre, the Marqués de Valdecilla Research Institute (IDIVAL) , translational research centre closely tied to the Government of Cantabria and Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital (HUMV). It has 28 research groups and its 500 workforce members belong to the hospital, the university, the Cantabrian Health Service and the institute itself.
During the 2009-2013 period, IDIVAL researchers published 1,500 research articles, with an average impact factor of 4.5 in the last three years, and 50% of the articles in the first quartile of their respective areas. This rate of productivity is very relevant in the context of research institutes associated to hospitals. Their research is financed through funds obtained in competitive calls (currently €6.2M for on-going projects from the National Plan for R&D) and from the institute itself.
REGIONAL BIOMEDICAL CLUSTER
In the last two years, progress has been made to achieve the planned objective of establishing the Regional Biomedical Cluster, in charge of coordinating the institutions and supporting all biomedical research and training in Cantabria. The first step was taken in December 2012, when UC (IBBTEC) and the Government of Cantabria-HUMV (IDIVAL) signed an agreement to formally constitute the "Marqués de Valdecilla Research Institute-Foundation- IDIVAL", with its own legal status.
This benchmark marked the beginning of a joint collaboration between the two research institutes (IDIVAL and IBBTEC), the university and the public administration through the university Hospital, generating a unique health research conglomerate in Cantabria. This will be capable of enhancing the high productivity and scientific quality of its researchers, aimed at national and international excellence.
Initiatives focused on scientific dissemination and training have also been implemented, such as the Biomedical Research Forum of Cantabria (a programme of joint research seminars), and the first joint IBBTEC and IDIVAL call for scholarships, focused on university students providing summer internships in laboratories in both institutes.
In terms of Postgraduate teaching improvement, the Master's in Molecular Biology and Biomedicine has been consolidated and projected internationally and 6 new Master's have been implemented in the area since 2009. The most recent one is the University Master's in Introduction to Mental Health Research (2013/2014), developed as an interuniversity programme coordinated by UC and imparted along with four other Spanish universities .
In terms of Graduate programmes, UC is strategically committed to Medical Simulation, developed in collaboration with the Valdecilla Virtual Hospital (HvV) . It is the 1st centre in Spain accredited as educational institution by the American College of Surgeons thanks to its excellent training programmes and its experience in using medical simulation as a teaching method. In addition, it is affiliated to Boston's Center for Medical Simulation (CMS), part of the Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital network. This has led to the organisation of teaching and research activities among UC and Harvard CMS professionals, whose director, Robert Simon, is CIC's "Visiting Professor of Medical Simulation" since 2012.
Thanks to the alliance promoted by CIC, HvV and UC signed an agreement by which the virtual Hospital puts its simulation facilities at the disposal of UC so that students in the Nursing and Medical degree programmes can complete their practicum . This is not only a significant step forward in terms of UC's teaching quality but also a pioneering benchmark in the Spanish university panorama.