Meet Ana Blanco, Quibim’s new Grants and Innovation Coordinator
We proudly present Ana Blanco, our new Grants and Innovation Coordinator. A pharmacist turned project manager, Ana brings magic and 20 years’ experience to help Quibim secure funding and international exposure to better impact healthcare.
Sowing seeds and calling unicorns
Pharmacists go by many names. In some countries, they’re called chemists, in other apothecaries. They’ve inspired famous characters in literature and pop culture. The ability to heal people by formulating medicine, so eloquently explained by science, fascinates the collective imagination. For some of us, this skill comes close to magic.
Quibim has found its white wizard in the person of Ana Blanco (white, in Spanish), a senior project manager who now works her own magic to make our dreams come true.
“Project managers have the magic to transform a regional project into an international one,” she said. “They can convert the objectives of an initiative to increase its visibility, funding and impact on society.”
With a PhD in molecular biology from University of Valencia in Spain, Ana completed her master’s degrees in executive innovation at EOI Business School and project management at ESDEN Business School in Madrid in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
Ana’s job consists in sowing seeds that grow into spectacular projects that improve healthcare. “Grants are the seeds for future collaborations, customers and research lines that could become products one day.”
A bag full of magic beans
For over seven years, Ana was head of the International Office of IIS La Fe, the Medical Research Institute of La Fe Hospital in Valencia, where she worked elbow-to-elbow with our co-founder Prof. Luis Martí-Bonmatí. In that time, she helped convert local initiatives into global efforts, plunging her hand into her bag of magic beans – as any good wizard would.
With a certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the U.S., she’s secured grants for a long list of projects, including one that received funding from the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation.
The scope of the HIST-BIRTH project originally targeted patients of Hospital Clínico of Valencia, but it turned into something much bigger, she recalled.
“The researchers had developed a basic PCR test to detect DNA histones that were indicative of sepsis for intensive care patients at the clinical hospital,” she said. “We looked for international funding and found Saving Lives At Birth, a grant for innovative ideas that can prevent death in mothers and newborns in developing countries.”
Ana, who was working at the Genetics Department of the University of Valencia then, helped adapt the procedure to mothers and newborns in Uganda. A solution was developed with a local partner to isolate DNA with gravity, as electricity is scarce in the country, and elaborate test strips with home-made antibodies, a low-cost strategy that doesn’t require trained personnel for its implementation.
With that international focus, the researchers secured 250K from the Gates Foundation, a milestone for Valencia at the time.
Ana also has an entrepreneurial mindset and, in 2012, co-founded Genera Biotech SL to help Spanish researchers obtain US grants, being herself a Spanish trainer for NIH grants.
Her company was successful and worked with La Fe Hospital for four years, but the financial crisis in Spain put an end to it.
“Researchers were penniless. All the grants we applied for were free of charge and we only earned money with the success of the project. It was very difficult to survive under those circumstances.”
Difficulty made her more assertive and obstinate, two qualities she values but doesn’t place first. “Kindness is probably the most important thing you need. Hard skills come after that.”
Rekindling the flame
With Quibim, Ana’s going back to entrepreneurship with passion. “You can do things more quickly in a private organization. I knew Quibim from previous cooperation with La Fe. I like the idea and the action.”
Thanks to grants, Quibim now has 60 international collaborators, including some of the finest organizations in science, research and innovation – the Imperial College London, University of Konstanz, Stony Brook University, to name a few. “These are our partners and maybe our future customers,” she said.
The seed for Quibim Precision®, our ecosystem that scans every body part, was an SME grant from the European Commission in 2016.
Grants also helped accelerate the development of QP-Prostate, our breakthrough AI-based MRI solution that supports increased accuracy of PI-RADS scoring with objective quantitative imaging tools.
Ana joined Quibim in March and she’s been working on all fronts to help us improve human health. She’s now refining a project management tool and is eagerly waiting for the resolution of several proposals worth more than €2M. She’s notably drafting two proposals for AI Missions (Misiones IA in Spanish), a highly competitive call funded by NextGenerationEU.
Ana could well target other strategic grants called Unicorns to help fund our research efforts. “These massive grants from the European Innovation Council could help us become a Unicorn company.”