A Kick-Off meeting held 1st October, 2020, in the Biology Department of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, gave the starting signal to the EU programme Horizon-2020 FET-Open granted project “CIRCULAR VISION – Circular DNA in diagnosis and disease models”. FET (Future and Emerging Tecnologies)-Open is a part of the EU Horizon-2020 programme and supports the early-stages of the science research and innovation around new ideas towards radically new future technologies. The FET programme, EIC Pathfinder in the next Horizon Europe framework program (2021-2027), is integrated into Pillar III of Innovative Europe within the EIC (European Innovation Council).

“CIRCULAR VISION” is a cooperation between 7 EU-research partners led by Prof. Birgitte Regenberg from the University of Copenhagen with a budget of over 4 million €. The “CIRCULAR VISION” grant will pave the way for making circular DNA an effective biomarker for early detection, diagnosis and monitoring of disorders like lung cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

The Computational Biology and Systems Biomedicine research group of Prof. Marcos J. Araúzo-Bravo is the first group in IIS Biodonostia to be beneficiary of such a grant. IIS Biodonostia is the leader of one of the three major work packages of the project, namely “Evolution of circular DNA technologies” and the second largest beneficiary of the project.

It has been recently demonstrated that so-called circular DNA is a common component of human cells that is created from all parts of the human genome and is particularly associated with disease such as cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Circular DNAs are more specific than other DNA molecules, and circular DNAs are found in high copy number in tumour cells. Such features can make circular DNA an invaluable tool for early detection, diagnosis and monitoring of disorders where detection is otherwise late and painful. It will allow effective early-intervention treatments that could save lives and reduce the costs of treatment.

However, the technology for circular DNA isolation, detection and computational analysis is in its infancy.

To address this problem, this FET-Open project called CIRCULAR VISION will use lung cancer and inflammatory bowel disease to investigate the link between disease and circular DNA. Scientists will combine microscopy, DNA sequencing and bioinformatics to identify new biomarkers and develop novel approaches for cancer diagnosis. In CIRCULAR VISION, we will take a big leap forward developing technology for fast identification of circular DNA as novel and early biomarkers easily detectable in tumors and blood. This grant provides a unique opportunity for leading European experts to join forces and be on the forefront of technological inventions, scientific discoveries and commercialization in the emerging field of circular-DNA biology.

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