Achievements & Impact Highlights

  • iMed.ULisboa research stemming from the late 1990s has led to the development of bile acids as anti-apoptotic molecules and potential treatment for a variety of major diseases. Rodrigues and colleagues patented bile acids as the first FDA-approved anti-apoptotic drug (4 global coverage patents), leading to spin-offs SMG Therapeutics and Metselex. Ursodeoxycholic acid entered phase I/II clinical trial in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, confirming the potential therapeutic neuroprotective effect of these molecules.
  • Ground breaking work by iMed.ULisboa investigators dated from the 2000s and published in Nat Cell Biol (2003) by Anes has shown that selected lipids activate phagosome actin assembly and maturation resulting in killing of pathogenic mycobacteria. Further, NF-κB activation controls late endosome/lysosome fusion-mediated killing of mycobacteria by macrophages. Using this knowledge, prodrug derivatives from pyrazinamide, encapsulated in liposomes and containing NF-κB stimulatory lipids have been produced at iMed.ULisboa, which are active against resistance strains of mycobacteria and have been patented.
  • iMed.ULisboa research created the biotechnology company Technophage in 2005. This work progressed to explore small antibody scaffolds and full IgG that inhibit HIV-1 infection facilitating the specific targeting of lentiviral vectors. Gonçalves looks to explore reactivation of HIV-I latency and expression of restriction cellular factors to control and eradicate the virus. Alternative strategies that combine antibody engineering, genetic delivery systems and synthetic biology are being developed to eliminate cells containing viral genomes, and merit international funding support by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Program.
  • At iMed.ULisboa, we value a better understanding of HIV diversity and evolution in Portuguese speaking African countries and its translation into the production of better diagnosis tests, better treatment regimens, new antiviral products and new vaccine candidates. Using advanced methods of phylogenetic analysis in HIV sequences, Taveira has characterized the epidemiology, diversity and evolution of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in Portugal, Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde. An added benefit of this work is the close interaction and exchange of scientists.
  • At iMed.ULisboa, the development of bio-inspired, efficient and sustainable synthetic methodologies are at the forefront of a powerful strategy to design new biopharmaceutics and unravel biological mechanisms. Methodologies protected by patents have been developed for the preparation of small molecule modulators and bioconjugates. Gois has recently disclosed a new strategy for reversible protein modification. The start-up company Solchemar Lda. has been launched to develop and commercialize ionic liquids and catalysts, which was then sold in 2011.
  • iMed.ULisboa holds a remarkable portfolio of nanotechnology-based solutions (liposomes, transfersomes, microparticles and nanoparticles) in the areas of leishmaniasis, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. Through a process of capacity building over the last 20 years, our researchers have been able to address innovative-patented strategies for effective drug delivery and modulation of the immune system for immunisation purposes.
  • iMed.ULisboa researchers have played a leading role in providing scientific briefing on regulatory science and science policy at EMA, IMM, and EUFEPS. This establishes iMed.ULisboa as a valuable source of knowledge and expertise to inform legislation and policy-making in Europe, publishing in areas of scientific regulation of orphan medicinal products (Nat Rev Drug Discov, 2011), biomarker qualification submission (Nat Biotechnol, 2010a) safety biomarkers for use in early drug development (Nat Biotechnol, 2010b), advanced therapy medicinal products (Nat Rev Drug Discov, 2010), and animal models for rare diseases (Nat Rev Drug Discov, 2013). We have also contributed input across a number of National Health Authorities to ensure economic harmonization/evaluation of biological medicines and medical devices, as well as standardization in safe medication practice.

In addition to the scientific findings and examples of knowledge and technology transfer described above, other indicators and outputs support our vision and objectives for the future. We are involved in an expanding number of networks and synergies to ensure recognition of iMed.ULisboa value and contributions, aiming at returning the impact of fundamental research to people. We have supported research infrastructures, locally and at the global level, aiming at sustaining a robust and flourishing environment for world-class medicines research and training. These include the European Infrastructures for Integrative Structural Biology (Instruct), Translational Medicine (EATRIS), and the Open Screening Platforms for Chemical Biology (EU OpenScreen).

iMed.ULisboa is involved in two recently created PhD Programmes, the PhD Programme in Medicines and Pharmaceutical Sciences (i3DU) at FF/ULisboa, and the Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics Doctoral Programme (M2B-PhD) at FM/ULisboa, together with several other institutions within and outside ULisboa. Currently, ca. 120 PhD students pursue post-graduate training at iMed.ULisboa, most of them awarded with fellowships from FCT and several jointly funded by industry. Over 60 short advanced training courses have been organized in 2008-12, several integrated in large consortium initiatives, such as the pan-European Education and Training Programmes SafeSciMET and PharmaTrain for pharmaceutical medicines and drug safety funded by the IMI, bringing together many top universities/institutes and pharmaceutical industry. We have been involved in other international training activities such as the Cooperative European Medicines Development Course, the European Diploma in Pharmaceutical Medicine (EUDIPHARM), the DIA Non-Clinical Safety Sciences and Regulatory Aspects, and the European Science Foundation Summer School in Nanomedicine.

A fundamental facet of iMed.ULisboa activities is the promotion of dialogue with the public on science and medicines in general. We have engaged with non-specialist audiences, including public events, school visits, appearances in the media and communicating research to health professionals, patient groups and policy-makers, such as the International Brain Awareness Week, Week of Technology, Summer Vacation Scientific Training, European Researchers Night, among others, in collaboration with the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, Scientific Societies, and National Agency Ciência Viva.