Navarra attracts the talent of a researcher who receives a scholarship from the “la Caixa” Foundation to complete her postdoctoral studies at Navarrabiomed-IdiSNA

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Fundación ”la Caixa”

Navarra attracts the talent of a researcher who receives a scholarship from the “la Caixa” Foundation to complete her postdoctoral studies at Navarrabiomed-IdiSNA

• A researcher from La Rioja has obtained a scholarship to study her postdoc in Navarrabiomed-IdiSNA.
• This young talent receives support within the framework of the Junior Leader postdoctoral scholarship program, which has awarded a total of 45 scholarships in 2021 to excellent researchers.
• The call pursues a dual goal: to support the best Spanish and Portuguese talent by encouraging them to stay in their homeland with optimal conditions to carry out their projects, as well as to globalize the Spanish and Portuguese research system, attracting promising international researchers.

La Fundación ”la Caixa” this year has awarded 45 postdoctoral fellowships to researchers who will carry out their projects at leading universities and research centres in Spain and Portugal. In this way, the organization supports young talents and promotes innovative and high-quality research in the Iberian Peninsula. Among those awarded, Maria Apellaniz has been selected, who shall join the Navarrabiomed research centre of the Navarra Health Research Institute.
”La Caixa" Foundation offers the most important scholarship program among those promoted by private entities in Spain and Europe, both due to the number of scholarships offered and the variety of disciplines. The objective of these postdoctoral grants, to which the entity has allocated 11.28 million euros this year, is to retain local talent of excellence, as well as to attract foreign researchers, offering them competitive salaries and additional opportunities for training in cross-disciplinary skills.

Junior Leader Postdoctoral Program

Co-financed by the European Commission through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND Action, within the framework of Horizon 2020, this program is intended for the recruitment of excellent researchers, of any nationality, who wish to continue their research career in Spanish or Portuguese territory in the areas of health and life sciences, technology, physics, engineering and mathematics.
These postdoctoral fellowships, which have a duration of three years and an allocation of 305,100 euros per grant, include a complementary training program, with the aim of consolidating research skills and promoting an independent scientific career as an option for a professional future, dealing with topics such as leadership, conflict resolution or communication.
In this call, more than 700 people have applied to qualify for one of the fellowships. Of the 45 awardees, 20 are Spanish (from 14 provinces) and 25 foreign nationals (from 14 different countries). One of the awardees is pursuing her postdoctoral studies in Pamplona.
She is María Apellániz, born in Logroño in 1988, she has a degree in biochemistry from the University of Navarra (Pamplona) and a master's degree in biomedicine from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Madrid). In 2012, she joined the Hereditary Endocrine Cancer Group of the National Cancer Research Centre (Madrid) to complete her doctorate with another grant from the ”la Caixa” Foundation, during which time she worked on the identification of genetic variants that influence the response to treatment and toxicity in cancer patients. Subsequently, to expand her knowledge of human genetics, she completed a 3-year postdoctoral degree at McGill University (Canada). At the laboratory with Dr. Foulkes, she studied hereditary cancer syndromes and characterized the mechanisms involved in their pathogenesis. In 2020, she returned to Spain to join the Genomic Medicine Unit of Navarrabiomed (Pamplona), where she is responsible for analysing genomic data to discover genetic alterations underlying familial hypercholesterolemia and genetic markers associated with the response to statins. Her research has led to 37 publications in international journals, 11 of them as first author. Her goal is to understand the genetic differences underlying disease susceptibility and drug response, in order to benefit patients and promote customized medicine.

Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is one of the most common hereditary diseases, with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 250 people worldwide. FH, which is characterized by considerably high blood levels of cholesterol from birth, confers an increased risk of premature cardiovascular disease (CVD) throughout life. Therefore, early diagnosis and suitable treatment substantially improve the CVD-free survival of these patients. However, the disease is still underdiagnosed and undertreated. The objective of this proposal is to apply a unique multidisciplinary strategy to personalize the diagnosis and treatment of patients with FH and their families, in order to reduce the morbidity and mortality of CVD episodes. This project will be carried out by integrating genomics, functional assays and clinical and lifestyle data. The results of this study may uncover new disease-causing genes/variants and genetic markers of statin response and CVD risk that could be used in clinical practice.