Researcher Alberto Fernández Tejada obtains a new ERC Proof of Concept grant

The funded project is called ADJU-PLATFORM and focuses on the development of a synthetic technology for the production of pre-clinical molecular vaccines and the valorisation of their market transfer potential.

The European Research Council earmarks funding to explore the commercial potential of research work.

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a new ERC Proof of Concept grant to Ikerbasque Research Professor Alberto Fernández Tejada, leader of the Immunological Chemistry laboratory at CIC bioGUNE – a member of the Basque Research & Technology Alliance, BRTA.

ERC Proof of Concept projects funded by the European Research Council (ERC PoC) are aimed at researchers who currently hold ERC projects and who want to explore the commercial potential of their research work. These projects are focused on establishing proof of concept of an idea that was generated in the course of ERC-funded projects. The funding of ¤150,000 is primarily for activities aimed at converting research results into a commercial product.

The project funded this time by the ERC is called ADJU-PLATFORM and focuses on the development of a synthetic technology for the production of molecular vaccines in the pre-clinical phase, as well as the valorisation of their potential for transfer to the market.

This project aims to develop a new platform for self-adjuvanted vaccines, i.e. vaccine candidates that do not need to be co-formulated with external immuno-boosting substances to be effective and induce potent and long-lasting immunity. This innovative strategy is based on the chemical conjugation of the two fundamental elements of the immune reaction in the same molecular structure. On the one hand, the antigen component, which is recognised by the immune system to produce the immune response, and on the other hand, the adjuvant element, which provides an additional immune stimulus, increasing the efficacy of the response and the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Combining chemical synthesis, immunology, preclinical studies in mice and a translational orientation, the aim is to develop this vaccine technology platform and exploit it for the generation of synthetic vaccines that can be advanced to clinical phases in the future.

With a PhD in Chemistry (2009) from the University of La Rioja, Alberto Fernández Tejada leads an interdisciplinary research programme in immunological chemistry at CIC bioGUNE focused on the application of various synthetic methodologies and immunological studies with a dual objective: to promote the development of new adjuvants and optimised molecular vaccines, as well as to elucidate key biochemical aspects related to their immunostimulant action mechanisms.

Throughout his career, he has received prestigious research grants, such as Fulbright (2009) and Marie Curie (2010 and 2013, successively) postdoctoral contracts. As an independent researcher, he has obtained funding from important national and European programmes to develop his own research programme at CIC bioGUNE. These include a Ramón y Cajal contract from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (2015), an Ikerbasque Research Fellowship (2016), an ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council (2016), an AECC LAB grant from the Spanish Association Against Cancer (2022), and a previous ERC Proof of Concept project (2022), to which the current ERC PoC (2023) is added.

Alberto Fernández Tejada has research experience at the highest level at the chemistry-biology frontier in the best national and international centres: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York, USA), Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas CIB-CSIC (Madrid) and the University of Oxford (Oxford, UK). Since 2017, he leads his own research group in Immunological Chemistry as Ikerbasque Research Professor and Principal Investigator at CIC bioGUNE (Bilbao).