Group Leader

Mariona Graupera

Group Leader


2003 PhD in Biomedicine, University of Barcelona
2003-2009 Postdoc, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research & Barts Cancer Institute @ the Vanhaesebroeck Lab, London, UK
2009-2014 Ramon y Cajal Tenured Track Position, Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute, Barcelona
2015-2020 Group Leader, Biomedical Research Institute, Barcelona
2021- Group Leader, Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute , Badalona

I began to develop an interest in vascular biology during my PhD where I studied portal hypertension, a vascular syndrome associate with liver cirrhosis. Those studies led me to publish several first-author papers in high impact journals. I defended my PhD thesis in 2003 under the umbrella of the Hepatic hemodynamic unit at the University of Barcelona. Very early during my training, I was exposed to what is now called ‘translational research’. This has been very influential for my subsequent research career, in which I have always tried to translate basic science findings into therapeutic opportunities. My interest in signalling pathways in physiological systems led me to join the laboratory of Prof. Bart Vanhaesebroeck in London, first at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and then at the Bart’s Cancer Institute, where I performed my postdoctoral stay from 2003 to 2009. During this period, I unveiled the critical requirement of PI3Kα isoform during angiogenesis. This work, which has a very strong impact in the field, was published in Nature (Graupera et al. Nature 2008).  

Driven by my interest in the problem of cardiovascular diseases which are the cause of 45% of deaths in Western countries, in 2009 I embraced the opportunity to create a multidisciplinary laboratory devoted to study PI3K/PTEN signalling in physiopathological angiogenesis at IDIBELL with a Ramon y Cajal position. In this context, I have made instrumental discoveries leading to publish high-impact research (J Exp Med, Nat Commun, Clin Cancer Res, and Sci Transl Med), and that are likely to influence the clinical management of vascular-related diseases. In particular, our publication (Castillo et al. Sci Transl Med, 2016) has opened new therapeutic opportunities for venous malformations, a paediatric disease which lacks efficient therapy. To further develop this project, we set up and managed a unique collaboration between clinicians, basic scientists and pathologists which is being extremely fruitful.

In February 2021, I was appointed the Group Ledear of the Endothelial Pathbiology and Mincroenviroment Group to the Josep Carreras Lekeamia Research Institute where I combine my passion for biomedical research and vascular biology with the training of students and postdocs.  Our main future goal is to continue pursuing challenging projects and excellence science to understand the role of blood vessels in disease towards the development of therapeutic strategies to target the vascular compartment. This will allow our laboratory to train a new generation of talented researchers who will help the lab to fulfill the current gaps and conundrums in the vascular biology field. Specifically, the Graupera laboratory has strong interest in understanding i) physiological vessel growth and function, and ii) pathological contexts in which the vasculature plays a critical role either intrinsically (vascular malformations) or extrinsically (cancer). To meet our goals, we use an interdisciplinary approach that includes state-of-the-art mouse and zebrafish genetic models, cell culture of patient-derived endothelial cells, systems biology approaches, and high-resolution microscopy including live imaging.

Post Doc Fellows

Pilar Villacampa

Juan de la Cierva Fellow

I completed my undergraduate training in Biotechnology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain. I later joined Prof Fàtima Bosch lab in UAB, where I worked the characterisation of transgenic models of diabetic retinopathy and the development of gene therapy strategies. Then, I moved to UCL-Institute of Ophthalmology (London, UK) as a Marie Curie IEF postdoctoral fellow, where I joined Prof James Bainbridge’s group.  There, I investigated the role of HIF factors in myeloid cells in ischemic retinopathy. In 2017 I joined Graupera’s group as a Juan de la Cierva Fellow to research the impact of PI3K in pericytes in physiology and disease. 

Sandra Castillo

Junior PI (Junior leader "La Caixa")

I gained my undergraduate BSc degree in Biology at Universidad de Navarra (Spain). I undertook my PhD in cancer genetics at the CNIO in Madrid and PEBC-IDIBELL in Barcelona, in the lab of Dr. Montse Sanchez-Cespedes, studying the role of new oncogenes in lung cancer. Following my PhD, I joined the lab of Prof. Bart Vanhaesebroeck in London (UK) awarded with a long-term EMBO fellowship, at the Barts Cancer Institute-Queen Mary University of London and the Cancer Institute-University College London. There, I discovered new genetic events leading to vascular anomalies. In 2017, I joined the lab of Dr. Mariona Graupera with a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship, where I investigate the biology of vascular anomalies. 

Leonor Gouveia

Swedish Research Council Fellow

I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal and my Master’s degree in Medical Science at Uppsala University, Sweden. For my PhD, I joined the lab of Prof. Christer Betsholtz at Uppsala University, Sweden, where I studied the role of PDGF-A signalling during lung development. I joined Graupera’s group in 2019 as a Postdoctoral Fellow supported by the Swedish Research Council to study the vasculature of adipose tissues and its contribution to the development of obesity and systemic metabolic disorders.

Ana Angulo-Urarte

Post doctoral Investigator

I started my research career as BSc student in Dr. Marisol Soengas´s lab at the CNIO (Madrid, Spain). There, I took part in a very exciting research project, led by Dr. David Olmeda, studying how lymphoangiogenesis contributes to melanoma metastasis. Later, I joined Dr. Mariona Graupera´s lab at the IDIBELL (Barcelona, Spain) for the MSc and for the PhD, aiming to understand the function of the PI3K signaling in angiogenesis. During my PhD, I also visited the laboratory of the Prof. Markus Affolter and Dr. Heinz Georg Belting with an EMBO Short-Term Fellowship to image vessel formation using transgenic zebrafish embryos. In 2017, I joined the group of Dr. Stephan Huveneers at the AMC in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) where I have studied how force-dependent membrane deformation at cell-cell junctions can contribute to the coordinated physiological process of sprouting angiogenesis.

Since 2020 I joined the Graupera’s group to study the pathogenesis of PIK3CA-mutant vascular malformations developing novel mouse models.

Judith Llena


I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Biomedicine in 2016 at Barcelona University (UB). As an ungraduated student I did my practical training in the Advanced Chemistry Institute of Catalonia from the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (IQAC-CSIC), whit Dr. Mª Teresa García. After that I got a fellowship to participate in the IDIBELL Summer Training Program, when I joined for the first time Graupera’s Lab. Later, I had the opportunity to work in the Advanced Therapies Divison of the Blood and Tissue Bank of Catalonia (BST), where I studied the lymphocytical immunomodulation upon mesenquimal cells and their ability to become reprogrammed into a bone-like phenotype. In 2017 I received my master’s degree in Translational Biomedical Research from Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and I re-joined Graupera’s Lab to do my final master thesis studying the metabolic impact of deleting PTEN in endothelial cells.

Currently, I am focused on the study of the role of PI3K in tumour angiogenesis and the effects of promoting this process.

PhD students

Helena Sabata

PhD student

I completed my undergraduate training in Biotechnology at Universitat de Barcelona (UB). During this period, I was granted a five-month research training placement at Egbert Oosterwijk laboratory in Radboud University Medical Center (RadboudUMC) in Nijmegen, The Neetherlands, as part of an Erasmus programme scholarship. Then I did a MSc in Translational Biomedical Research in Vall d’Hebron Institut de Recerca (VHIR), Barcelona, and I joined Graupera’s laboratory. Currently, as a PhD student, I am working on the characterization of PI3K driven vascular malformations.

Anabel Martínez

PhD student

I obtained a BSc in Biology with special mention in Molecular biology at 2017 and an MSc in Biomedicine with special mention in Oncology at 2018; both performed from the Universidad de Barcelona (UB), Spain. I completed my degree thesis at Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) studying the histology and cellular composition of lung cancer. I continued with this branch of research during my master thesis at Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) but, this time, focusing the research on the epigenetic and molecular biology of LC. Finishing the master, I achieved the grant IDIBELL Summer Training Program to continue with the project for three months.

Currently, I’m a PhD student in the Vascular Signalling group led by Dra. Mariona Graupera, although my project is codirected by Dr. Arkaitz Carracedo from CIC bioGUNE in Bilbao, Spain. My research is based on the prostate cancer microenvironment, specially focusing on pericytes and blood vessels at different levels of tumour progression.

Odena Vilalta

PhD student

I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Biomedicine at Universitat de Lleida (UdL). During this period I was able to stay in different research teams (Neuroscience and Microbiology). Additionally, I was granted with an Erasmus+ fellow at Yihai Cao’s lab in Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. In 2018, I did my Master’s degree in Biomedicine (Translational Research in Cancer) at Universitat de Barcelona (UB). In that time, I joined Ethel Queralt’s lab in IDIBELL, Barcelona and I got the IDIBELL Summer Training fellowship.

Currently, I’m in Graupera’s lab as a PhD student. My current work is focused on the pathogenic and pharmacologic study of cutaneous capillary malformations and Sturge-Weber syndrome.

Pau Cerdà

Medical doctor and PhD student

I completed my medicine degree in 2012 in Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and after I applied for a specialization post which I obtained in Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge (HUB) in 2013. During the next 5 years I finished 2 years of a biostatistics master in UAB and I completed my specialization in Internal Medicine in 2018. After working as an Emergency Department doctor for 6 months, I had the opportunity to work in Hemorrhagic Hereditary Telangiectasia (HHT) Unit in HUB which is coordinated by Dr. Riera-Mestre. It is a multidisciplinary unit that keeps a tight relation with basic research. Under the research FIS grant he received in 2017 (PI17/00669) to study new mutations identified sequencing the whole exome from Hemorrhagic Hereditary Telangiectasia (HHT) patients, and thanks to a post specialization grant from research committee in HUB for 2 years we received in 2019, nowadays I am developing a PhD related to HHT.  It is a project based on translational medicine that begins in the HHT Unit patients to return them back the knowledge we get in the laboratory. For this reason, I split my time in clinical assistance in the hospital and basic research in Dr. Graupera laboratory. Both researchers are my thesis directors.



Marta Fidalgo

ITN PhD student

I completed my bachelor degree in Genetics and Biotechnology, where I did an internship in the Molecular Microbiology lab at Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde (i3S), in Porto (Portugal). I have done my master’s in Molecular Medicine and Oncology at the Faculty of Medicine of Porto’s University. For my master thesis, I developed a project in the field of Developmental Biology at Dr. Cláudio Franco ‘s lab, the vascular morphogenesis lab, in Instituto de Medicina Molecular (IMM), Lisbon (Portugal).  The main aim of this project was to understand how blood vessels develop in the lungs, particularly after birth. I stayed in the Cláudio’s lab for 2 more years and during that period I finished my master thesis project and continued working in trying to understand how filopodia formation is regulated in endothelial cells. In September of 2021, I joined Mariona Graupera’s lab as a PhD student, funded by EVOMET, an ITN Marie Skłodowska-Curie Programme. My PhD project is done in collaboration with Roger Gomis (a group leader in IRB, Barcelona) and we are interested in understanding how endothelial cells can modulate breast cancer latency in the bones. Besides doing science, I love to be surrounded by people, good weather and to see the sea.

Hielke Van Splunder

ITN PhD student

Biotechnology is awesome. With those thoughts I started my BSc Biotechnology at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in 2014. During my undergraduate studies, I particularly enjoyed a five-month exchange in Toronto (Ryerson University), and an industrial placement at Synthon Biopharmaceuticals (Nijmegen). After my Bachelor’s, I continued to study Medical & Process Biotechnology, and my interest in biotechnology developed into a fully-fledged passion for biomedical research and development of therapeutics. I did my MSc thesis at the Antibody Research & Technology (ART) department of Genmab A/S (Utrecht), where I studied the process of antibody-induced receptor co-localization on the cancer cell surface, using the complement system as ultimate read-out. One month ago, I found myself where I am now, at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia research institute (IJC) in the lab of Dr. Mariona Graupera. Here I try to understand the role of vascular cells in castration naïve metastatic prostate cancer as part of the EVOMET innovative training network (ITN), which aims to transform how cancer metastasis is understood and treated.

In my free time I like to explore new places. Hiking up a mountain, getting lost in a forest or wandering the city streets. I enjoy biking and rock climbing, and recently got myself into craft brewing.

Louis Maes

ITN PhD student

I am a first-year Ph.D. student and a fellow of the PIPgen ITN. In the lab, I study the effect of mutations in PI3Ka on vascular diseases. In 2015, I graduated from high school and went to study English for two months in Boston. Afterwards, my scientific carrier started when I decided to study Biochemistry & biotechnology at the University of Antwerp, specializing in cellular biology and physiology. In my first year of Master’s, I studied in Stockholm University, focusing on the properties of proteins. In my second year of Master’s, I got the opportunity to join two different labs, where I got to develop my lab skills; first, I studied a GPCR through mass spectrometry (PPES lab, Prof. Stuart Maudsley), and then I investigated the involvement of a chromatin remodeler in ferroptotic cell death (PPES lab, Prof. Wim Vanden Berghe).

Emanuele Maria Nola

ITN PhD student

I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of Bologna and then I enrolled in the Molecular Biology and Genetics master course at the University of Pavia. During the two years Master I had the opportunity to work in the Professor Maga’s laboratory at the National Research Council of Pavia (Italy). Here, I worked in depth with the DDX3X helicase, which is involved in viral replications, tumorigenesis and also in the newly discovered mental syndrome, the “DDX3X syndrome”. This period in the Maga’s lab strengthened my interest in the translational research field, so after my Master graduation I was granted with an Erasmus+ Traineeship fellow at Gauthier’s lab in CABIMER, Seville. Here, I investigated the LRH-1 role in the Langerhans’ Islets morphogenesis.

In January 2022 I joined the Graupera’s lab as a PhD student , funded by PIPgen, an ITN Marie Sklodowska-Curie Programme. I am under the supervision of Sandra Castillo and my project is focused on understanding the paediatric PI3K-related vascular malformation and cancer.

Ane Martínez

PhD student

I completed my BS in Biochemistry in 2020 and a MS in Computational Biology in 2021 both performed in the University of Navarra (UNAV) in Spain. I started gaining interest in computational biology in my last year of collage, when I realized that I was needing a change in my way of thinking, and the idea of being able to do research with coding was fascinating. Where I gain more experience in the bioinformatics field was during my master thesis. During these period I was able to familiarize myself on how to work with gene expression data and the different analysis that are performed. My master thesis was focus on studying the tumor microenvironment in lung cancers lacking target therapies. When I finished my master I worked in the Faculty of Engineering of University of Navarra improving my coding skills. Afterwards I joined the Graupera Lab as a PhD Student. My research in the lab is focused on the development of new tools for the study of the tumor microenvironment using both single cell and spatial transcriptomics data.​

Support Staff

Laia Muixi

Lab and ITN Project Manager

I received my PhD in Immunology at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) in 2009. During my PhD in the lab of Dra Dolores Jaraquemada at the Institut de Biotecnologia i de Biomedicina “Vicent Villar Palasí” (IBB, UAB) I studied the peptides presented by HLA-DR in autoimmune human Thyroids. In 2010 I joined Dra. Angels Sierra lab at IDIBELL where I focused my postdoctoral research on the design of a microarray prototype to detect brain metastasis biomarkers. After two years I decided to take a break and I went to Guinea Bissau to work as a volunteer for an ONG. Then I got back to IDIBELL to work as a research technician at Angels Sierra’s and then at Cristina Costa’s lab until December 2016, when I joined Dra. Graupera’s lab to work as project Manager of an H2020 MSCA-ITN. Currently I’m combining my work as lab manager with the managing of an MSCA-H2020 ITN.

Saray Varona

Support Researcher

I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Biology at Universidad Complutense de Madrid where I started my research career in the immunology field thought a research internship. Later, I obtained my master’s degree in Biomedicine at Universidad de Valladolid- Instituto de Biología y Genética Molecular (IBGM). There, I gave my first steps into cardiovascular diseases working how the immunology system impacted into aortic stenosis. Following in this cardiovascular field, I joined Dr. Rodríguez group at Institut de Recerca (IR) de Sant Pau de Barcelona where I could undertake my PhD working in the physiopathological role of the cardiovascular remodelling in the abdominal aortic aneurysm and cardiac hypertrophic, characterizing the epigenetic role in these pathologies. Following my PhD, I stayed at this same laboratory three years more and kept on with the search from new therapeutics targets and biomarkers in the abdominal aortic aneurysm. During those years, I consolidated a strong background in animal experimentation, in the manage the mice colony and valuables skills in microsurgical and different mice cardiovascular models.

In 2021, I joined Graupera’s group as a Mouse colony manager and a support researcher.

Tanit Devant


I obtained my higher education certificate in Clinical and Biomedical Laboratory in 2022 at Institut Bonanova (Consorci MAR – Parc Salut del Mar). Throughout that training, I did an internship during my first and second years at Graupera’s Lab in Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, where I started to consolidate functional concepts commonly performed in the lab.

In September 2022, I joined Graupera’s Lab. As a Laboratory Technician, I support PhD students in their projects while I help with mouse colony genotyping and histology tasks.


Laura Medrano

Medical Affairs Trainee at Novartis

Erika Monelli

Postdoctoral Researcher at IDIBAPS

Jasmina Zanoncello

Project Manager

Adriana Soler Salas

Medical Scientific Liaison

Novartis, Rheumatology.

Ana Raquel Martins Figueiredo Fonseca

Post doctoral Investigator

Instituto de Medicina Molecular (IMM), Vascular Morphogenesis 

Helena Serra Busquet


Farmàcia Helena Serra Busquet, Barcelona.


Iñigo Chivite

Post doctoral Investigator

Open positions

We welcome applications from motivated and enthusiastic students and post-doctoral scientists who are interested to join our lab.

Please contact Mariona Graupera to discuss the possibilities.