Interview with Dr. Vicente Arroyo_Esther Koplowitz Foundation
"Without Dña. Esther there would be no centre. The clinical hospital would still have 14 researchers per square metre"
What was your role within the Esther Koplowitz Centre?
I was the first director of the centre for 5 years, starting in 2010 when the centre first opened.
How did the idea come about for the Biomedical Research Centre?
It came about as a result of the clinical hospital's major need for a research space. In scientific terms, not only was the clinical hospital the most productive hospital in Spain but it was the most productive research centre in the country too. Back then, it had many researchers and only a 1,700-square metre area on which to carry out the work. This equated to between 10-15 researchers per square metre when there should have been one researcher to every 14 square metres; in other words, research was conducted in very difficult conditions.
What did the Esther Koplowitz Foundation bring?
The Esther Koplowitz Foundation provided enough money to build the research centre. After deciding to make a donation, Ms. Esther Koplowitz asked us how much the centre was going to cost, so we consulted hospital management and they estimated 16 million euros; and that was the donation she made.
Then, as the project got underway, things got complicated when the city hall wanted a garden to be created behind the centre. This also had to be built by the Esther Koplowitz Foundation. After having to allocate some land, they built the garden and turned the situation to our advantage. Instead of building only one 1,000-square metre basement, which is basically the floor for the Esther Koplowitz Centre, they built a 2,500-square metre basement with three floors. The other two floors are used as a parking space that is rented out to cover hospital costs.
What are your thoughts on the contribution from Ms. Koplowitz?
Without the donation there would be no centre. The clinical hospital would still have 14 researchers per square metre and there would be a lot less scientific output. I think that the clinical hospital would stop being a competitor for other European hospitals.
What is the Esther Koplowitz Centre like? How is it different?
The Esther Koplowitz Centre is a wonderfully designed building that amazes everyone who sees it. From an architectural perspective, the centre is modern with cutting-edge technology. All the researchers conduct their work in natural light and the centre has enough space for communal toilets on each research floor. The basement is used for scientific platforms which are huge research facilities shared by all of the centre's researchers, those from the clinical hospital and some researchers from Barcelona. There is a genomics unit, for example, and another important unit for cell separation.
What lines of research are conducted in the building?
The Esther Koplowitz Centre focuses on researching diseases instead of basic research. Diseases are researched through patients, animals, tissue, cells and intracellular structures. Research is carried out in different areas: haematological cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer and melanoma, as well as diseases such as cirrhosis, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular risk of heart attack, etc.
Why does the research carried out have an impact on the medical community?
It is the sort of research that can be quickly applied. When someone conducts basic research, they research a process that may take up to 10 years until it is used in the clinic. In clinical and translational research the application is either immediate or a few years after its discovery. This is why it has a major impact and rapid dissemination in the medical community.
What have been the main research projects carried out and how have they benefited people?
It is hard to say because there could be close to 38 research teams and 400 researchers. However, the research on melanoma is hugely significant in dermatology and the research on colon cancer has considerable importance for the digestive system, so, all in all, there is a significant impact. Research on cancer, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and cirrhosis have the most far-reaching impact.
What do you work as nowadays?
I am the director of the European Foundation for the Study of Chronic Liver Failure which aims to promote research on cirrhosis in different centres within Europe, including the clinical hospital and the Esther Koplowitz Centre.