Three months in Barcelona

As a student and young researcher I travelled a lot – internships, workshops, conferences. Mobility is crucial for scientists, we have to discuss, learn and interact with others. Recently, due to COVID pandemics, lots of duties on-site and becoming a mum I’ve travelled less. However, at the beginning of this year I received mobility funding as one of four winners in the latest edition of the competition International Internship Programme for University of Gdańsk Young Researchers in the frame of the  Excellence Initiative – Research University (IDUB).  Thanks to this grant I spent three months at the Institute Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP), which is a part of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).

During my stay in IGTP I worked in the research group of Prof. Eva Martinez Caceres, who specializes in clinical immunology and immunotherapy. Her group developed an innovative method to treat multiple sclerosis with the use of autologous dendritic cells derived from monocytes. This therapy went through all the pre-clinical stages of testing (on cells and then model organisms) and is now in stage I/IIa clinical trial.

My stay in professor Martinez-Caceres lab was very fruitful – I learnt how to induce differentiation of monocytes into dendritic cells, how to culture them and use them in functional tests. I also tested the impact of TLR9 stimulation on monocyte-derived dendritic cells, with the use of TLR9 ligand that we developed in the ICCVS. These experiments were a part of my research task: “Optimization of co-culture conditions to maximize TLR9-mediated NK cell activation” funded by the National Centre for Science in the Miniatura 6 Programme. The skills that I’ve learnt at IGTP will be very useful in my day-to-day lab work in ICCVS where we are working on immunotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer.

The team of professor Martinez-Caceres is very young and energetic. I felt most welcome and got a lot of useful advice on my experiments with dendritic cells. During my internship I took part in weekly meetings and journal clubs, I also gave a talk describing my research at ICCVS.

Personally, this opportunity to live in Barcelona for three months was an unforgettable experience for my family. We had a great time and managed to escape from cold Polish spring…