Skip to content
Vincenzo Calvanese: “I want to know what makes a stem cell… a stem cell”

Vincenzo Calvanese: “I want to know what makes a stem cell… a stem cell”


The Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute opens a new lab with the incorporation of Dr. Vincenzo Calvanese, a consolidated researcher on stem cell biology. The new group will try to understand which molecular features and regulatory processes identify a blood stem cell, a fundamental knowledge to advance in many areas, like haematopoietic stem cell transplant, one of the few successful clinical applications of stem cells today.

Dr Vincenzo Calvanese speaks with passion about his research projects and objectives. Trained in pharmaceutical biotechnologies at the University of Bologna, Italy, he moved to Madrid to learn about the epigenetic differentiation of stem cells at the CNIO and the CNB, where he got his PhD. Later on, Calvanese focused his research on haematopoietic (blood) stem cells at the University of California Los Angeles, USA, to finally establish his own lab at the University College London, UK. Now, with a brand-new ERC Consolidator grant in his pocket, one of the finest and most exclusive research funding schemes in Europe, he will open a new lab at the Josep Carreras Institute and will join forces in the fight against leukaemia.

Translational Research joins the best of two worlds: the fundamental knowledge on human biology with the needs for practical innovation for the benefit of patients. Out of pure curiosity, Calvanese is fascinated by the ability of stem cells to become any other cell type, just by using one or another piece of its genetic information. That’s why one of his aims is to understand the molecular determinants of such a special cell type, making a stem cell… a stem cell.

On the practical side, unlocking the potential of blood stem cells will be instrumental to advance in the science of bone marrow transplantation, a life-saving therapy in blood cancers, and to fight against cancer stem cells, the often chemotherapy-resistant cancer cells leading to tumour development and relapse. To do so, the Calvanese lab, established as the «Blood Stem Cell Identity» Lab, will work closely with all his new colleagues at the Josep Carreras Institute, some of whom he knows well already.

«The Josep Carreras Institute harbours a unique mixture of profiles, from the most basic science to the patient-oriented clinical research, all focused on blood cancer. There is a critical mass to start something big», Calvanese explains, and adds that «Barcelona is one of the best science hubs in southern Europe and, for me, it’s like coming home».

But, why another lab on hematopoietic stem cells (HSC)? Well, as Calvanese explains, «HSC existence was experimentally proven more than 60 years ago and, as such, they are a robust platform to study stemness. While there is still debate on the existence of stem cells in other tissues, HSC are really well-characterized, hence one of the best models to study adult stem cell properties, how they are established in the embryo and maintained during life».

His projects are nothing short of ambitions and one of these “approaches” will be to try to recreate in vitro to recreate the complex signals leading to the maturation of stem cells, something never fully reached and instrumental to provide a stable supply of HSCs derived from pluripotent cells for regeneration in the future. To do so, the Calvanese Lab will have the latest technologies at reach, like single cell spatial transcriptomics, state-of-the-art genomics, proteomics and computational analysis.

The institute grows and we could not be happier with the new talent joining our family, being part of our story and helping us reach the day leukaemia will be a 100% curable disease, for everyone. Be welcome, Vincenzo, and best of luck!

More news

I want to receive the latest news