The Centro de Biología Molecular “Severo Ochoa” (CBMSO) is a biological research centre of major importance in Spain. Founded in 1975 as a mixer centre between the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (U.A.M.) and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones científicas (C.S.I.C.) under the initiative and tutelage of Dr Severo Ochoa, it brought together some of the most active groups in field of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology then working in Spain. Today, the distinct lines of research cover areas at the forefront of disciplines such as Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Virology, Molecular Microbiology, Neurobiology, Cell Signalling, and Immunology. The CBSMO is playing a very important role in the development of biomedical and biotechnological research in Spain, not only in terms of the results obtained in its laboratories, but also by making a very significant contribution to the modern and professional training of hundreds of young researchers who are undertaking or have completed their doctoral thesis at the Centre.
From the point of view of research, the most essential characteristic of the CBMSO is that its research lines cover basic and fundamental aspects of biology. The study of these basic mechanisms has a major social implications: first, disturbances of these basic processes lead to diseases that directly influence public health and quality of life, with associated economic affects; second, their study can give rise to important practical applications in the area of biomedicine and biotechnology. Diseases whose mechanisms are the object of study in our Centre include neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, inflammation, viral infections, and disturbances of the cardiovascular and immune systems.
Molecular Biology will be a key science of the 21st century, and the CBMSO must prepare and renew itself to maintain a leading role in the coming years.
History of the CBMSO
The CBMSO is the result of a long process of planning and study which converted into reality Prof. Severo Ochoa’s initiative to create a Molecular Biology Research Centre of international standing in Spain. El Centro de Biología Molecular “Severo Ochoa” (CBMSO) arose from the union of several research institutes: El Instituto Universitario de Biología Molecular(University Institute of Molecular Biology) at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), directed by Prof. Frederico Mayor Zaragoza; the Institutos de Biología del Desarrolloy Bioquímica de Macromoléculas (Institutes of Developmental Biology and of the Biochemistry of Macromolecules) of the CSIC (the Spanish Senior Scientific Research Council), directed by Profs. Eladio Viñuela and David Vázquez, respectively; and the CSIC Geneticsof Development Unit, directed by Prof. Antonio Garcia Bellido. Moreover, the CBMSO has included a Technical Department as a fundamental component since its inception: a pioneering move in Spainat that time. The Technical Department, planned and first directed by Javier Corral, equipped the CBMSO with a cutting edge experimental and technical infrastructure on a par with other prestigious international centres.
The CBMSO was opened on the 27th September 1975in a ceremony led by the then heirs to the Spanish throne, Don Juan Carlos y Doña Sofía. During the ceremony, their royal highnesses were presented with a book reviewing Prof. Severo Ochoa’s scientific career, and in which Don Juan Carlos wrote this dedication: “With my affection and admiration and that of Princess Sofía, assuring you that in the present and above all in the future we will follow the development of the Centro de Biología Molecular “Severo Ochoa” very closely and will watch over the progress of Science and Spanish scientists”.
The CBMSO is, then, a mixed centre between the CSIC and the UAM, in which researchers and teachers from both institutions believe that it is to the advantage of each partner to combine their efforts to reach a critical mass and to collaborate closely in the scientific and academic arenas. The permanent move of the CSIC’s researchers to the CBMSO took place in 1978.
During the two-year period from 1983-1984, the CBMSO changed its organisational structure, signing a new Framework Agreement between the CSIC and the UAM, and a Specific Collaboration Agreement within the scope of the Framework Agreement. Since then, all CSIC personnel at the CBMSO form part of the Instituto de Biología Molecular of the CSIC, formed by the fusion of the previously existing Institutes and Unit.
The governing body of the CBMSO is its Management Committee, chaired by the CBMSO’s Director. The Directors of the CBMSO since its creation, in chronological order, have been the following:
Federico Mayor Zaragoza (1975-8), Eladio Viñuela (1979), Antonio G. Bellido (1980), David Vázquez (1981-2), Juan Pedro G. Ballesta (1983), Galo Ramírez (1984-5), Pedro Ripoll (1985-86), Jesús Avila (1986-87), Luis Carrasco (1988-9), Ginés Morata (1990-1), Margarita Salas (1992-3), Esteban Domingo (1994-5) Miguel A. de Pedro (1996-7), Federico Mayor Menéndez (1998-2002), Jesús Avila ( 2002-2004), and Cecilio Giménez (since 2004).
From the outset, Prof. Severo Ochoa was the CBMSO’s Honorary Director (1975-93), and at all times we benefited from his inspiration, support and advice. Professor Ochoa settled permanently in Madridin 1985 and directed a research group in the CBMSO together with two former junior colleagues and collaborators from his laboratory in the United States. In the foreword to the biennial CBMSO Report for 1989-1990 Prof. Severo Ochoa wrote. “It is clear that in its few years of existence, the CBMSO has made remarkable progress and has become a prestigious and highly regarded institution both in Europeand in America. It fills me with pride to say that the Centro de Biología Molecular was my dream… Thanks to the CBMSO, its scientists and all its personnel, it can no longer be said that there is no research in Spain.”
From the very moment of its creation, the CBMSO has published a biannual Report (in Spanish and English) which summarises the scientific and academic work of that period.
Finally, it is important to highlight the institutional support provided to us by institutions such as the Fundación Ramon Areces (from 1998 up to the present time) and more recently the Santander Bank. This support permits the maintenance of the Technical Department.