Dra. Begoña Benito

VHIR’s Director

Year 2022 has witnessed an evolving landscape in health research, marked by pioneering advancements and innovative approaches to understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent human diseases. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemics have still propelled an intense research in immunology, vaccine research, and telemedicine. However, other health challenges have continued to define the major priorities of biomedical research, which include ageing and chronic disorders, global and environmental health, and rare disorders. In parallel, biotechnology has offered important developments in gene therapy, tissue engineering, organ transplantation, and advanced therapy medicinal products. Precision medicine including large clinical and biological data for individual-centered purposes has taken central stage, consolidating the engagement of artificial intelligence and machine learning for a more accurate diagnosis, risk assessment and therapy.

According to this scenario, we have implemented in 2022 a fundamental modification of the VHIR’s scientific structure, which has been conceptualized to promote a more modern and impact-oriented research. You will see, therefore, that scientific indicators of our research activity in 2022 are presented according to the 7 new eCOREs or Research Collaborative Spaces, which include 5 thematic areas (Global Health; Chronic, Prevalent Diseases & Aging; Cancer; Brain, Mind & Behaviour; and Woman & Child Health & Rare Diseases) and 2 transversal areas (Personalized Medicine, Innovative Diagnostics, Molecular Imaging & Digital Health; and Advanced Therapies & Advanced Interventions, Nanomedicine, Transplant & Donation). As shown in the annual report, VHIR’s scientific production in 2022 continues to grow over the years. The number of peer-reviewed publications has increased by 34% compared to the previous year. More importantly, publications have had greater impact (25% are among the top 10% of most highly-cited papers) and have been more frequently led by VHIR’s researchers. The number of competitive projects granted to our research community has increased by 24%, consolidating our international positioning and leadership. On the other hand, our campus continues to score as one of the highest in Europe regarding participation in clinical trials and patient recruitment rate. Transfer of the results of our research to patients and society continues to be an important pillar of our values. As such, in 2022 we have approved 3 new spin-offs to develop new solutions to health problems, making a total portfolio of 16, a milestone that was acknowledged by the financial press as unique for a health research institution.

Appointed as new director of VHIR in January 2023, I plan to continue to strengthen the research activity of our institution by laying several pillars: first, by developing and consolidating VHIR’s new scientific structure; second, by promoting internal and external alliances and internationalization; third, by potentiating new policies for talent attraction and retention; fourth, by actively endorsing innovation and technology transfer; and fifth, by providing advanced infrastructures and equipment for our research community. In this last regard, it will be crucial the role of the VHIR’s new research building, under construction until 2024, which will provide a huge opportunity that will positively feedback all other initiatives. Challenges are ahead, but we are taking them as a chance to prove our full commitment to biomedical research and our ultimate goal, which is none other than improving people’s health.