iBET comprises 12 laboratories fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
Find below a brief description of the research carried out at each laboratory. Informal enquiries to iBET’s laboratory heads are welcome for you to know more about their science and discuss possible work opportunities.
Cell Bioprocesses Lab
Paula Alves, CEO & Head of Division
We are focused on research and development of complex biopharmaceuticals namely for the production, purification and storage of vaccines (e.g. virus like particles-VLP’s and marker vaccines), recombinant proteins (e.g. MAbs) and viral vectors (adenovirus, retrovirus, lentivirus and baculovirus). In particular we aim at understanding cell physiology and metabolism to improve the efficiency of bioprocesses.
We are also interested in the development of methodologies for pre-clinical research and cell therapy applications, namely in 3D cell models, bioreactor technology and novel cell cryopreservation strategies. Current efforts are on novel 3D in vitro models of infection and for hepato- and cardio-toxicology, employing human stem cells and primary cultures of human hepatocytes.
Engineering Cellular Applications Lab
Manuel Carrondo, Vice-President
Our research is centred on integrative development of bioprocesses for complex biopharmaceuticals namely vaccines, recombinant proteins, viral vectors and stem cells. We are focused on the optimization of cell expression systems (human and insect), bioreactor operation modes, application of scale-down models for HTS, design of continuous purification processes, modelling towards biological process control, and scale-up for pre-clinical applications. Metabolic systems biology has been assisting not only bioprocess development but also translational research in areas such as cancer cell metabolism, brain cell metabolism in normal and pathological conditions, stem cell metabolism along cardiac and neural differentiation and cell metabolic response to virus infection.
Cell Line Development and Molecular Virology Lab
Ana Coroadinha, Head of Lab
Our research links virology and technology in order to provide therapeutic solutions and better healthcare through the use of recombinant virus. Focused on the areas of gene therapy and vaccine development our research combines the use of molecular biology, animal cell culture and applied virology. We develop molecular biology tools for gene expression, targeted integration, cell clone screening and virus detection. With the aim of improving virus potency, we perform genetic engineering either to modulate the expression cassettes of viral genes or to introduce molecular modifications to the virus. One of our activities is the development and improvement of animal cell lines through traditional cell line development work or genetic enhancement of the cells in order to improve the product yield, efficacy or cell robustness.
Advanced Cell Models Lab
Catarina Brito, Head of Lab
Our research is mostly translational and focused on the study of cellular microenvironment in disease. We develop innovative disease cell models by applying advanced cell culture approaches (namely 3D culture, co-culture and cell immobilization) and systems (bioreactors) to human stem cells and other patient-derived cells. By integrating cell biology, biochemical, imaging and omics approaches we can depict the dynamic modulation of a specific cell microenvironment along time or in response to a therapeutic challenge. We aim at the identification of novel molecular players involved in extracellular space and intercellular communication potentially involved in disease progression and therapeutic response, towards novel disease biomarkers or therapeutic targets. Our projects address several neurological pathologies and carcinomas.
Downstream Process Development Lab
Cristina Peixoto, Head of Lab
Our research combines the use of experimental and theoretical engineering approaches in the development of new advanced purification materials, processes and novel analytical tools for bioseparation applications. Our goal is to setup scalable, highly efficient and cost effective downstream processes for complex biopharmaceuticals including cell-based products, aiming technology transfer for manufacturing. In addition to this, our research activities focus on the integrated and continuous processes, mainly continuous counter-current chromatography for exosomes, viral vaccines and gene therapy vectors. The use of mathematical models allows a rational design of downstream processing steps together and the identification of critical process parameters enabling optimal purification and global recovery yield.
Stem Cell Bioengineering Lab
Margarida Serra, Head of Lab
Our research is driven by the vision to bridge engineering and stem cell biology, with the goal of accelerating next generation therapies from bench to bedside. The key research line is focused on streamlining processes for robust manufacturing of cell therapy products with improved functionality. We design novel 3D culture strategies and modulate key environmental conditions (either at the chemical or physical level) in bioreactors to excel growth and differentiation/maturation of human pluripotent stem cells (hESC and hiPSC) and adult stem cells as well as their derivatives (e.g. exosomes). We are integrating proteomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and fluxomics as complementary analytical tools to i) bioprocess understanding and optimization and ii) product characterization, with a strong emphasis on understanding tissue regeneration processes.
Cell Based Vaccines Development Lab
António Roldão, Head of Lab
We are focused on designing improved bioprocesses for vaccines manufacturing. The basis of our research lies on the use and integration of multidisciplinary technologies such as molecular biology, bioprocess and evolutionary engineering, and bottom-up systems biology for optimizing the cell factory (mammalian and insect), the expression system (transient and stable), the culture system, the bioreactor operation mode (perfusion and continuous) or the scale-up process. To complement upstream activities, our team dedicates time to devising innovative solutions for increasing product recovery yields and quality, and assays for product characterization and purity assessment. The aim is to gain development efficiencies that speed the manufacturing process of vaccines (e.g. virus-like particles).
Molecular Biophysics Lab
Pedro Matias, Head of Lab
Tiago Bandeiras, Head of Lab
Our research is focused in applying 3D protein structure determination by X-ray crystallography and biomolecular interactions studies to protein targets relevant to human health (e.g., proteins involved in cancer onset and metastasis), to study their detailed structural features and interactions with other molecular partners, with the goal of contributing to the development of new drugs targeting these proteins and their associated health conditions. In addition to X-ray crystallography we are also beginning to focus on Cryo-EM to study protein complexes of interest which are very difficult to crystallize.
Our activities encompass both pharma-related and fundamental research. Besides a long-standing collaboration with Merck KGaA (Darmstadt, Germany) we have received regular grant funding from the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, the Portuguese state research funding agency, and our academic research work is published regularly in international peer-reviewed journals – 38 publications since 2006, most in co-authorship with national or international collaborators.
Natural Bioactives and Nutraceuticals Characterization Lab
Rosário Bronze, Scientific Coordinator
The main aim of this laboratory is to develop methodologies based on separative methods (liquid and gas chromatography, capillary electrophoresis) using different detection modes (UV-vis, fluorescence, electrochemical and mass spectrometry) to analyse different compounds (volatile and non-volatile) in different matrices (raw materials, food products, biological fluids, by-products from food industry). Different methodologies of analysis are also applied depending of the analytes’ characteristics. The compounds under study are bioactive components, such as phenolic compounds, carotenoids, sesquiterpenes, among others.
Natural Bioactives and Nutraceuticals Functionality Lab
Teresa Serra, Head of Area
The Natural Bioactives and Nutraceuticals Functionality Laboratory is responsible for the development of preclinical assays to evaluate the bioactivity of food products, natural extracts and bioactive compounds. These assays contribute to elucidate about possible human health promoting effects and complemented with bioaccessibility, bioavailability and human intervention studies, provide relevant knowledge on their Health Function. The target areas of the laboratory are:
- Bioactivity studies – Available methods range from chemical assays, enzymatic methods and cell-based assays that contribute to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the health promoting effect (anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardiovascular health, neuroprotection and skin health)
- Bioaccessibility evaluation – In vitro digestion methods are used to identify the main bioaccessible compounds of food products
- Bioavailability assays – Permeability studies using intestine cells and skin models are applied to evaluate the bioavailability of natural bioactive compounds.
- Human intervention studies – These assays are carried out in collaboration with Research Centers, Clinics and Hospitals, and are performed with healthy volunteers or patients to obtain evidence of the i) bioavailability of the main bioactive compounds and ii) health benefits of the product by evaluating biomarkers related to different diseases.
Natural Bioactives and Nutraceuticals Process Technology Lab
Naiara Fernández Hernández, Principal Scientist
Located in the Technological Platform of iBET, the focus of the Natural Bioactives and Nutraceuticals Process Technology Laboratory is the extraction, purification and formulation of natural functional ingredients using integrated green processes.
This laboratory aims to:
- isolate bioactive compounds from agri-food industry by-products and other natural sources through the design of environmentally friendly processes using alternative solvents (supercritical CO2, Deep Eutectic Systems) and process intensification strategies (high pressure extractions, microwave/ultrasound assisted extractions).
- build and/or improve sustainable separation processes to purify compounds (adsorption techniques and centrifugal partition chromatography).
- develop micro/nanoparticulate systems to enhance the bioactive compounds stability and to improve the bioavailability.
Food Safety & Microbiology Lab
Teresa Crespo, Head of Area
Our laboratory has a long track record of working with food, water and environmental microbiology and molecular biology.
Food and water safety and quality are paramount priorities nowadays. Our research focus has been to look at different angles of those priorities in production, processing, transportation and storage of food products. We aim at studying pathogenic and indicator microorganisms (bacteria, fungi or viruses), genes (e.g. antimicrobial resistances), and microbial populations and its dynamics. The implementation of molecular biology tools to assure authenticity of medicinal, aromatic and condiment plants is also an objective. The evaluation of antimicrobial activities of compounds recovered from food and agro-food wastes is also a subject tackled by the group.