Mar Albà

Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques

Life & Medical Sciences

Mar Albà graduated in Biological Sciences at the University of Barcelona (UB), and obtained her PhD at the same University in 1997. During 1997-1999 she studied for the MSc in Bioinformatics and Molecular Modeling at Birkbeck College while working as a postdoctoral researcher in the group of John Hancock at the MRC Clinical Research Centre, in London. Later she joined the group led by Paul Kellam at University College London to develop new computational tools to study herpesvirus evolution and function. She was awarded a Ramón y Cajal tenure track position in 2002 to work at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). In 2005 she was appointed ICREA Research Professor. She has directed 10 doctoral thesis and is author of more than 80 publications.

Research interests

As a result of a continuous process of gene birth and death, the genomes from different species contain different sets of genes. Some of these genes encode new functional proteins and facilitate the adaptation to a changing environemnt. Some new genes originate by gene duplication, but others emerge de novo from previously non-coding genomic sequences. We study the different mechanisms of gene birth using a combination of comparative genomics, high throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) and ribosome profiling data (Ribo-Seq). We have shown that transcription and translation are pervasive and result in many putative precursors of novel proteins. We are aiming at a quantitative and qualitative description of the still poorly understood process of de novo gene formation.



Selected publications

– Faherty SL*, Villanueva-Cañas JL, Blanco MB, Albà MM* & Yoder AD 2018, ‘Transcriptomics in the wild: Hibernation physiology in free-ranging dwarf lemurs’, Molecular Ecology, 27, 3, 709 – 722.

– Ruiz-Orera J, Grau-Verdaguer P, Villanueva-Cañas JL, Messeguer X & Albà MM 2018, ‘Translation of neutrally evolving peptides provides a basis for de novo gene evolution’, Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2, 5, 890 – 896.

Selected research activities

During 2018 I was invited to give talks at the following meetings: “XVIII Jornada de Biologia Evolutiva” (Societat Catalana de Biologia, Barcelona), Workshop “Genomic parasite and non-coding RNA in evolution and disease” (Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, Baeza) and “IX Argentininan Meeting of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology” (Mar del Plata, Argentina). I also gave seminars at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (Group Leader series), Universitat de Girona (Descobert a Girona – Cicle de conferències) and Universitat de Barcelona (MSc in Genetics and Genomics).

I wrote the article “New proteins on the test track” in the Nature Community Blog (March 19 2018), about our work “Translation of neutrally evolving peptides provides a basis for de novo gene evolution” published in Nature Ecology and Evolution in 2018.

I supervised the MSc project “Novel transcript discovery in yeast using sequencing reads from Oxford Nanopore Technologies in comparison to Next Generation Sequencing” by Audald Lloret Villas (Sep 2018), Master of Science in Omics Data Analysis, Universitat de Vic.