Jesús Jiménez-Barbero
Jesús Jiménez-Barbero
Ikerbasque Research Professor
Address: Bizkaia Science and Technology Park,
building 801A, Derio (Bizkaia)
Scientific Director's OfficeChemical Glycobiology Lab

Earlier in his career, JJB worked at CERMAV-CNRS, Grenoble, 1986 (Predoc); Univ. Zurich (Switzerland), 1987 (Postdoc); National Institute for Medical Research (UK) 1988 (Postdoc; and Carnegie Mellon Univ., USA; 1990-92 (Postdoc and visiting). After working at IQOG-CSIC (1992-2002) as tenured and senior research scientist (1996), he held a CSIC Research Professor position at CIB-CSIC since 2002. He has also held Visiting Professorships at École Normale Supérieure, Paris (2004), Univ. Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris VI, (2009), and Univ. Milano-Bicocca (2010-12). From the management perspective, he was the President of the Royal Society of Chemistry of Spain (Jan 2012-Jan 2018), and was Secretary General of the same Institution (2004-11). He has been the Head of the Chemistry Panel of the National Plan for Research of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness between 2009 and 2018, and the representative of Spain in the CMST committee of EU-COST (2012-14). He is ChemPubSoc FEllow (2015) and Member of the European Academy of Sciences (2017). Besides managing his research group, with already 25 PhD students supervised as well as more than 30 postdocs, he was serving as Head of Department of Chem & Phys Biol Dept. at CIB-CSIC from 2009-2014. He was appointed Ikerbasque Research Professor in 2013 and therefore, he moved to the Basque Country to become Scientific Director of CIC bioGUNE (Nov 2014).

From the scientific perspective, the research group is focused in exploring molecular recognition events from the chemical perspective, mostly in unravelling the molecular basis of the recognition of glycans by receptors in solution.

The group employs a multidisciplinary approach, using the synergic combination of organic synthesis, protein biochemistry and molecular biology, biophysics, molecular modeling, and NMR, using a wide network of collaborations with specialists worldwide.

Major contributions in the field include our systematic studies on the interactions of glycans with specific lectins (the 1st reported NMR structure of a glycan/lectin complex was achieved in his lab in 1995). Such detailed investigations have contributed significantly to our global understanding of glycan-mediated interactions in health and disease, including infectious and inflammatory processes. These studies conducted to the 2010 International Whistler Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry, following the Bruker award of the NMR division of RSEQ (2008) and the Janssen-Cilag award of RSEQ (2003).

The group does not only apply, but also develop, NMR methods for studying the structural and dynamic properties of ligands and their interaction with relevant proteins. Particularly, the fine chemical details of the interactions between sugars and proteins have been explored, with special emphasis on the relative role of sugar-aromatic stacking forces in the recognition process.

The origin and relative importance of the forces that mediate these interactions are still under study and are a key part of the research in the group. Recent advances in our research are focused on disentangling how receptors recognise a given epitope in complex N-glycans, which present multiple epitopes. This has lead to the use of a precise NMR methodology, even using living cells, assisted by molecular dynamics and biophysical and structural biology methods, including X-ray crystallography. Recent methodology developments have permitted to use paramagnetic metals (lanthanides) to unravel hidden conformational features of N-glycans and to detect their molecular recognition events. The use of lanthanides is complementary to the employment and generation of other chemical novel NMR-sensitive tags, especially those based on 19F nuclei. The expansion, exploitation, and generalization of these novel concepts is generating a breakthrough in the field, with huge possibilities in the molecular recognition arena, permitting the access to the detailed study of the interactions of large and complex glycans, which were previously inaccessible to the study by NMR or other means, due to their intrinsic flexibility.