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Europe funds with € 2.43 million Rafael Sanjuán’s research on viral threats to wildlife

  • Scientific Culture and Innovation Unit
  • April 22nd, 2021
Rafael Sanjuan.
Rafael Sanjuan.

Rafael Sanjuán, researcher at the Institute of Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio), a joint center of the University of Valencia and the Higher Council for Scientific Research and professor of UV Genetics, leads a project on virus threats of wildlife that has received two and a half million euros from the European Research Council (ERC) in the Advanced Grants modality. These are the largest grants awarded by the main European research body, who published the list of projects awarded today.

Experimental Virology for Assessing Disease Emergence Risks (EVADER), Virología experimental para evaluar los riesgos de aparición de enfermedades, is the title of the project led by Sanjuán, the goal is to provide crucial clues about viral emergence, using experimental methods of fields of virology and evolutionary biology.

“This is great news for us, I2SysBio and our University, as these projects are awarded to very few researchers. Personally, I am very grateful to the ERC for awarding this third project, then of allowing me to also enjoy the grants of type Starting Grant and Consolidator. We are going to investigate hidden viruses in the nature, of which at the moment only the genetic sequence is known. We will reconstruct parts of these viruses in the laboratory by means of synthetic biology by “This will allow us to better understand how they work. This will allow us to know more about their propensity to infect human cells and, therefore, the risk that these viruses pose”, said Sanjuán.

New human viruses that cause diseases that originate in animals are a growing concern. Its appearance is also a little known process. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that fighting wildlife viruses is an urgent challenge and that is why the scientific community has recently launched mass sequencing programs to characterise wildlife viruses, although it is not yet known as these viruses work and if they can potentially infect humans. In addition, the isolation and cultivation of wildlife viruses is often not feasible due to current technical barriers and current biosafety concerns.

This new frontier research may reveal repeatable evolutionary pathways that could improve outbreak predictions and increase the feasibility of wide-ranging antiviral therapies to combat emerging viruses.

Rafael Sanjuán is a full professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Valencia and principal investigator of the Experimental Virus Evolution group at the Institute of Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio), a joint centre of the University of Valencia and the CSIC. His work focuses on the study of the mechanisms responsible for the creation and maintenance of genetic variation in viruses and the analysis of viral evolution from an experimental perspective. Sanjuán has published more than 100 research articles on viruses and evolution and has obtained ERC funding virtually uninterruptedly over the past 15 years. In addition, he is involved in the fight against COVID-19 by researching new antiviral compounds and contributing to the implementation of epidemiological surveillance tools.


Advanced Grants

This year, more than 2,500 proposals for Advanced Grants have been submitted to the European Research Council, of which 209 have been accepted, of which a total of 507 million has been allocated. Eleven of these grants have been awarded to Spanish projects. These are projects led by senior researchers, with a duration of five years and can be on any area of knowledge. These are innovative projects, high impact in their area of research and an excellent scientific perspective.


Resolution with the list of awarded projects:

Rafael Sanjuán research group: