Four biomedical research centres in Barcelona join forces to bridge the gap between investigation and clinical practice

The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), and the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR)—the two last institutes linked to the Clínic Hospital and Vall d’Hebron Hospital, both university training hospitals in Barcelona—have designed a training programme called “PhD for Medical Doctors – PhD4MD”. This is a pioneering initiative seeking to speed up the transfer of results generated by biomedical research activities in Spain to clinical practice—a process commonly known as translational medicine.

The commitment to biomedical research in Spain over the last ten years has yielded its rewards and now several Catalan research centres are placed among the leading and most prestigious centres in Europe and worldwide. A solid framework for basic biomedical research has been slowly put together and the time is now ripe to join forces with the strong translational research undertaken in hospital in order to transfer the knowledge generate into clinical practice. In this regard, collaboration between basic research centres and hospitals is essential, as is the focus on multidisciplinary projects that include medical doctors who have received specialized training for the purpose. This is precisely what “PhD for Medical Doctors – PhD4MD” is about—a collaborative programme promoted by the Catalan centres CRG, IRB Barcelona, IDIBAPS and VHIR, in which physicians in Spain that have already completed  their Specialised Health Training (known as MIR in Spanish) perform  cutting-edge PhD research projects.

It is a challenge for research centres to translate their findings into clinical practice. It is crucial to further basic knowledge, but all this effort makes no sense if there is no benefit for public health,” explains Luis Serrano, director of CRG. “We need to have medical doctors who are willing to collaborate with us and to train in order to ensure that our research reaches the hospital setting,” concludes Serrano.

The first call, which will serve as a pilot programme, will offer four fellowships for medical doctors that wish to be trained in research and to do a PhD over three years. Joan Comella, director of VHIR comments that, “the experience of hospitals in clinical and translational research will help basic research centres to bring their knowledge to the bedside”. In his experience, “together, medical doctors and researchers form a perfect team to improve public health.

The four participating centres will work on collaborative projects that involve a basic research group (at IRB Barcelona or CRG) and a translational or clinical research team (at VHIR or IDIBAPS). “The four centres have opened an internal call to select outstanding projects orientated to translational medicine and with objectives that can be achieved in a period of three years. This activity is proving to be stimulating and motivating from the very beginning,” explains Joan Guinovart, director of IRB Barcelona.

This programme marks the launch of a pioneering initiative in Spain. The director of IDIBAPS, Ramon Gomis, concludes, “We cannot overlook this opportunity. Today’s science is based on the sharing of data, samples, knowledge, ideas …and it is increasingly more multidisciplinary. We hope that this pilot programme becomes a cornerstone and serves to launch a larger project that receives greater institutional and private support”.

More information about the programme:

PhD4MD website: