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Young Investigator: Q&A with Clara Nogué about schwannomatosis cell lines

The Young Investigator Award (YIA) provides two-year salary support to early-career NF researchers to help them get established as independent NF investigators. Since its inception, several YIAs have made groundbreaking research findings and notable publications through this program, and many have advanced to become leaders in the NF research and clinical communities.

We’re pleased to introduce some of these researchers from the latest class of awardees: Clara Nogué (Anson, IDIBELL Spain) shares how this YIA-funded project aims to deepen our understanding of  schwannomatosis at the molecular level. 


What are you hoping to learn from this project?

I am hoping to dissect the molecular determinants of DGCR8-schwannomas and unveil new vulnerabilities that could be exploited for future therapy and clinical management of patients by integrating multi-omic profiling of patient samples with engineered cell line models.

Woman smiling on a balcony with city buildings in the background during the day.

What are your long-term research goals?

I hope to continue working in research, specifically focused either in rare diseases or novel research areas such as space medicine. Therefore, giving me the opportunity to collaborate and learn from other scientists, still with the aim of improving people’s life conditions and promoting visibility for these rare diseases.

Tell us about life in a research lab. What does a typical day look like?

Once I get into the lab, my day starts by checking my email and also the to-do list for the day. I am always hoping to receive an email saying that someone has a sample to be tested or a new patient to be diagnosed because of how rare the disease is and thus the natural difficulty it implies.

Then, I am ready to start my hands-on work. The very first thing I do is go to the culture room and control how the cells that I have growing are and see if they require anything to be done that day since they constitute an essential part of my project. The rest of the morning I am usually on the bench doing DNA or RNA extractions for clone screening, sample processing or protein analysis. After lunch, I usually go to the culture room again and I thaw cells to perform characterization experiments such as cell proliferation curves, clonogenic assays or CRISPR experiments. During the afternoon, I usually analyze previous data already generated during the week and I start preparing for future meetings or seminars that I will have during the week to discuss the obtained results. I end the day looking for new literature that would be interesting for my research.

What brought you to the NF research field?

During a summer internship where I started working with plant models, I discovered the importance of microRNAs in gene regulation and as well as in cancer and gene therapy. The very next year, while looking for a place to perform my thesis, I met Dr. Barbara Rivera who was just starting her Rare Tumors Laboratory in Barcelona. She had a very interesting project focused on the microRNA processing gene DGCR8, which was also, and for the first time, related to schwannomatosis. Then, I started learning more about this disease and the NF research field because of its rarity and all the possibilities and promising advancements that are underway. At that moment, I loved the idea of facing this challenge combining the possibility of starting a project from the very beginning together with the uniqueness and novelty of the research field and all together with the end-goal of improving and providing solutions to the NF community. I couldn’t be happier to continue working with the supporting and amazing team that I have and to see what is yet to come.

What do you like to do when you’re not in the lab?

In my free time, I love going to the beach and sitting while contemplating the sea. I also enjoy going for a walk with my friends, exercising and dancing. One of my passions is also learning more about space and everything that it is yet to be discovered about it and this is the reason why I am part of an association that guides student-led analog space missions.

What does it mean to you to receive this funding from CTF?

Receiving this funding from CTF is a privilege. It has given me the opportunity to finally start a PhD after all the work and effort that I put into starting my career as a researcher. Also, being recognized by a foundation that works hand in hand with patients and researchers to meet the needs of those affected by NF is an honor.

Being able to start developing my scientific career supported by the Children’s Tumor Foundation means having opportunities to meet amazing researchers in the field, to diffuse my results, and to have my work recognized, not only by fellow but also directly by the affected families, which means a lot to me.

I have always admired people who put all their efforts into improving people’s lives and specifically when every single new discovery could represent a step closer to finding a solution or at least a better diagnosis for patients. This is what encourages me to keep developing my skills in order to advance care for the NF community, and in particular for the patients affected by schwannomatosis.


Learn more about our latest investments in young investigators; click here for NF1 projects and click here for SWN projects (including NF2-related schwannomatosis). Click here to learn more about funding opportunities, including the Young Investigator Awards, from the Children’s Tumor Foundation.