Yet, the strongest and more productive lines of work continued to be the ones devoted to yeast-related issues. As a consequence, more than 50% of the present permanent staff in the Department of Biology obtained their PhD on yeast physiology and molecular genetics, and more than 80% of the students obtained their PhD on these topics.
Yeasts in general, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae in particular, are among the most important eukaryotic cell models and one of the best-studied organisms. Yeast has offered unique possibilities since immemorial times, producing bread, wine and beer. But these traditional tasks are only an example of yeast-derived biotechnology. Engineered yeast has become the production host for many pharmaceutical compounds and proteins. The yeast-industries represent nowadays an impressive ensemble with unquestionable economical impact.
These are strong reasons to keep betting on yeast for the future to come. Experienced researchers from the Biology Department decided to combine forces and create a more focused research unit. This aims at generating a critical mass of competence, with complementary expertise and close scientific ideals, and benefit from an effective interaction to strengthen the research outputs. These researchers believe that an increase in scientific and organizational coherence will enable a better productivity and a higher quality of the research produced.
A joint vision produced a joint strategy for a joint venture
This group of researchers combines expertise on the most diverse aspects of cell and molecular biology, genetics, physiology and biochemistry, as well as microbial ecology. Additionally, these expertises are further complemented by the extremely valuable contribution of researchers specialized in animal cell cultures, focused on the search for new pharmaceutical drugs and evaluation of chemical agents toxicity. These constitute an emerging area that will be reinforced and encouraged in the future years.
Identically, the researchers dedicated to the area of Ecology and environmental issues fulfil an important role, not only on research, but also and importantly, carrying out environmental studies for other institutions/entities. These researchers bring the group an enriching macroscopic vision of Biology. Furthermore, this scientific area allows the development of outreach activities, considered of the utmost importance, and providing an effective bridge with society, less straightforward in other areas of research.
Altogether these working areas comprehend the so-called Functional Biology, studied at the level of the individual cell, as well as tissues, organisms and populations and community interaction.
From molecules to cells to tissues
From individuals to populations to communities
We hope to become a scientifically coherent and competitive research unit, able to cope with the hard challenges facing research at national level, as well as in a broader scale. Being aware of how much more difficult it is going to be in the near future to access enough financial support to compete at international level, we believe that the strategy of creating this new research unit will turn easier the management and promotion of effective contacts and cooperation with other quality groups. We want our unit as an internationally recognized research centre, and we want it to have a solid organizational structure, allowing to cope with future institutional challenges. First and foremost we propose the designation:
Centro de Biologia Molecular e Ambiental
Centre of Molecular and Environmental Biology
This designation translates the philosophy of this new research unit. We want to keep valuing yeast as the primordial biological model, which we consider an ongoing source of precious information to increasingly complex biological processes, like intracellular trafficking and signalling, cell morphogenesis, mitochondrial functions, cell proliferation, aging or apoptosis. Yet, within CBMA,substantial importance is to be given to the strengthening of the research associated with environmental themes. Additionally, but not less importantly, the centre is engaged in the development of Pharmacological studies, as well as in the implementation of new approaches devoted to Structural Biology and its applications.
Furthermore, the centre’s philosophy is not restricted to the development of high quality fundamental research, but also and importantly to the development and implementation of technology and to provide services, through an enlarged collaboration with companies/industries and public institutions.
The CBMA is proposed to start with a number of researchers (entirely derived from the former Biology Centre, CB-UM) within the medium size of the centres of Biological Sciences or related areas in the country, and able to ensure quality productivity from the very beginning. Moreover, CBMA has the privilege of being inserted in the Minho University, presently comprising 32 Research Centres credited by the FCT, 7 of which classified as Excellent and 8 as Very Good, which, taken the relatively young age and human dimension of the University, is quite an achievement.
Finally, the CBMA is being created with a higher purpose of integrating in the nearest future a larger research organization (an Associated Laboratory), which can open new and promising possibilities for financial autonomy and scientific reward for this team.