The Basal Financing Program for Scientific and Technological Centers of Excellence
The Basal Financing Program for Scientific and Technological Centers of Excellence, was created in 2006 as an initiative of the National Innovation Council for Competitiveness (CNIC)
The Basal Financing Program allows Chilean groups made up of prominent researchers, embedded in universities and / or independent research centers, to secure funding for basic research focused on increasing the competitiveness of the Chilean economy, as well as advancing human capital, knowledge creation and innovation. To date, 13 centers have been awarded.
Basal Financing Program at Fundación Ciencia para la Vida
Since its creation, the Fundación has focused on the following goals:
• Building value by developing products and technologies that serve the needs of Chilean industries,
• Building capacities through the active training of students and participation in Ph.D. programs at different local universities,
• Building global resources through the establishment of effective networks with local and international scientists and centers of excellence,
• Building awareness for science and technology through unique outreach programs to opinion leaders and community at large and
• Building the framework for science and technology based-innovation through participation in governmental and private initiatives.
The Fundación is constituted by a team of eight senior members including six senior investigators with a broad experience in basic as well as applied research and eight junior members, including seven young, promising investigators. The group of senior investigators has a long track record of collaborative and synergistic work, as evidenced by joint publications, patents and development of biotechnology products. The senior investigators, as well as some of the junior investigators, are professors at different local universities, although their laboratory work and most of their training and teaching is conducted at the premises of the Fundación.
The Fundación is therefore, in effect a mini campus, from an academic perspective. Currently, there are over 15 undergraduate and over 25 graduate students from various local universities, conducting their thesis with investigators at the Fundación. Altogether, with the administrative and support personnel, there are approximately 90 individuals in the Fundación. This model is quite unique in Chile, where the Fundación is one of the very few private organizations in the country which conduct in-house R&D, tech transfer, and academic activities by the same team and in the same premises. In addition to the investigators, the senior group also incorporates an expert with more than 15 years of international experience in technology transfer and intellectual property in biotech and an expert with more than 3 years of international experience in science and business development.
Summary of key activities during 2008
During 2008, the basic and applied biology projects in cell regulation, gene expression, genomics and biotechnology moved ahead considerably. Our scientists and their posdocs and students published 27 papers in ISI journals, presented a total of 14 invited conferences in Chile and abroad, 34 communications to international scientific meetings and a total of 33 to national meetings.
The Fundación has devoted special dedication to our advanced training and education in biological sciences. During the year 2008, our group trained a total of 8 postdoctoral fellows and young scientists. This year, 3 of our students completed their Ph.D. thesis while other 37 are working towards their Ph.D. degree thesis. In addition we have 27 students doing research in order to complete their requirements for undergraduate degrees in biological sciences.
During 2008, we have continued to hold a good level of international exchanges and collaborations. Among several programs, the most important is the Program “Science and Friendship” with the University of California in San Francisco. In 2008 we received the visit of 22 graduate students and 4 professors all from the Department of Biochemist & Biophysics. In addition we received visits from 19 distinguish foreign investigators who gave talks at the Fundación. Bionexa (currently renamed RedCiencia), our program designed at connecting Chilean Scientists working abroad and in Chile through the Web, signed a collaboration with Nature Publishing Group and held a successful International Encuentros Conference at the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen, a gathering of young Chilean scientists working in Europe.
As in previous years outreach to the community was carried out through successful programs such as the Workshops in Genetic Engineering for Opinion Leaders and the Eureka Program. Additionally, outreach to the health care and productive sectors continues to be actively pursued by our Institute. These activities include R&D programs in applied pathology in collaboration with the FONDAP Center of Biomedicine from the P. Universidad Católica de Chile, research on the genes of Andes Hantavirus in collaboration with the Instituto de Salud Pública de Chile, the molecular biology of salmon pathogens in collaboration with Fundación Chile and Novartis Animal Vaccines, a program on the microbiology and genomics of bioleaching bacteria with Universidad of Antofagasta, Microsoft and BHP Billiton, studies on the mechanisms of tolerance to organ transplant in collaborations with physicians from Clínica Las Condes, studies on the genomics and detection of grapevine RNA viruses in collaboration with investigators from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad de Chile and the Chilean Association of Fruit Exporters and others.
In summary, the scientific and technological output of our Institute reflects the strong enthusiasm and participation of our investigators, associates and students. The expansion of our national and international networks and the consolidation of new research projects render our Institute as a leader in genomics and applied biology in Chile. We believe in doing good science, participating in the international R&D enterprise and at the same time tackling critical local problems.
Higlights of 2008
Research & Development: In 2008, the Fundación was nominated in six of the “70 Historias Exitosas de Innovación y Ciencia en Chile” published by the Chilean Development Agency. These were:
1) The novel cancer novel therapy technology developed by L. Burzio and his team,
2) the pionering R&D of M. Rosemblatt and his group in immunology,
3) the research on vaccines for salmonids of V. Wilhelm, P. Valenzuela and collaborators
4) the R&D of A. Orellana and his group in the genomics of fruit ripening,
5) the work of P. Valenzuela and his group in grapevine virus genomics and detection and
6) the educational products generated by the Eureka group directed by B. Méndez and P. Rosenblatt.
During 2008, our investigators have made a significant contribution in terms of publications in ISI Journals. Of note is the paper that Dr. Rosemblatt’s team published in Science (Science 322; 1705-1710, 2008) in collaboration with a French group. This work was highlighted as an important finding in the field of immunology both by the journal Science (Perspectives) and by Nature Review in Immunology (Research Highlights).
Another important R&D highlight of 2008 is the spin off of a new biotechnology company in Chile (Andes Biotechnologies S.A.) as result of the R&D achievements and technology developed by L. Burzio and his group. They discovered a novel family of non-coding mitochondrial RNA molecules which are effective targets for diagnosis and therapy of cancer.
Training: During 2008 we have strengthened our activities related to the training of students including our participation in Ph.D. programs with local universities. In 2008, our group trained a total of 8 postdoctoral fellows and young scientists. This year, 3 of our students completed their Ph.D. thesis while other 37 are working towards their Ph.D. degree thesis. In addition, we have 27 students doing research in order to complete their requirements for undergraduate degrees in of biological sciences.
The Ph.D. Program in Biotechnology, made possible by the collaborative efforts of the Fundación and the Universidad Andrés Bello is becoming the most successful in the country. Today the program has 73 students. The program has obtained renewal accreditation for 4 additional years. Today 27 students have won national graduate fellowship from Conicyt and 9 from Mecesup. Seven students won fellowships for research stays in foreign labs in projects related to their thesis projects.
In 2008, the Fundación expanded its relationships with the academia and entered into a collaboration with the Universidad San Sebastián which involved the creation of a Research Program in Biomedicine. The program includes 4 of our young investigators (S. Bernales, A. Loyola, R. Pacheco and N. Tischler) and 3 posdocs and R&D projects in four areas of human molecular biology, virology, molecular genetics and immunology.
Outreach: During 2008, we carried out an ambitious outreach program for high school teachers & students, opinion leaders, government officials and the community at large leaded by the Eureka group of the Fundación. Main activities during 2008 were 2 workshops, 7 activities involving multimedia products and services and nearly 15 conferences to the general public.
Quotes from international reviewers
“This is an extremely strong Center, run by personnel talented and committed to science as well as to educational initiatives that will impact Chilean society. This Center is attempting to fundamentally affect a change in culture. This is a huge challenge but given the track record and the evidence of continued innovation as outlined in [their] report, this core team has the potential to affect this change. I recommend continued and strong support by the Basal program”
Dr. Frances Toneguzzo.