The consortium closely matches the several scientific disciplines and length scales covered by the project. At the molecular scale (WP1), Aránzazu del Campo, INM (materials science/chemical biology) is a worldwide expert in the synthesis of photo-activatable molecules mimicking cell adhesive ligands and in the fabrication of biomaterials with precisely tuned mechanical and adhesive properties. Sergi Garcia-Manyes, KCL is an emerging young scientist with an excellent track record in single molecule physics and nano-mechanics. At the cell and tissue scale (WP2), Pere Roca-Cusachs and Xavier Trepat, IBEC are also emerging young scientists with outstanding track records in cell and tissue biophysics from both experimental and theoretical/computational perspectives, focusing respectively on cell/matrix10, and cell/cell adhesion. On the cell biology side, Johan de Rooij, UMCU is a leading scientist in the study of adhesion from a cell/molecular biology perspective, focusing on the role of mechanotransduction by cell-matrix adhesion proteins (integrins) and cell-cell adhesion proteins (cadherins) in tissue dynamics. At the organism scale (WP3), Patrick Derksen, UMCU (pathology, oncology) is a leader in how loss of cell-adhesion leads to invasive breast cancer, both in basal as pre-clinical practice. For this he has developed state-of-the-art multi-layered mouse models and cell systems, which form the basis for biochemical studies to develop targeted cancer intervention strategies.On the modelling side (WP4), Marino Arroyo, UPC is an expert the mechanics of biological systems, focusing precisely on the theme of this project, i.e. the connection from the molecular scale to large-scale continuum models. Finally, Noviocell and MindtheByte are two young, small companies working on commercial applications in two key aspects of the project: soft gels for cell and tissue culture, and inhibitory drugs targeting specific molecular interactions. Their contribution will be essential in exploiting the potential applications of the project in breast cancer. Importantly, the interest of the companies in commercial exploitation of the synthetic matrices, mechanical-control drugs and other potential results of this research will also ensure the continued relevance of this research consortium beyond the current funding period.
To coordinate the project and ensure the proper integration of all aspects and disciplines, Pere Roca-Cusachs is in an ideal position given the fundamentally inter-disciplinary nature of his work and his previous involvement in research at the single-molecule, cell, and tissue levels, and covering material science, biophysics, and cell biology. Even though Dr. Roca-Cusachs is a young researcher with a recently established laboratory, he is currently the coordinator of the Spanish Network of Excellence in Mechanobiology (MecBio), coordinating 10 research groups across Spain. This role, combined with his participation in different European projects (outgoing and returning Marie Curie Fellowships, and Innovative Training Network BIOPOL) confirms his capacity as coordinator. The consortium also fosters the participation of emerging actors in scientific/technological leadership: 4 out of the 7 academic partners (including the coordinator) are young researchers within the “consolidator” phase (according to ERC standards). In direct relation to European policy of gender impact in the working environment, our consortium will increase the awareness of gender amongst the participants. We will ensure that there is no gender discrimination within our team, while ensuring that both women’s and men’s rights are equally represented.