I graduated in Chemistry (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) in 1982 from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, where I also obtained my PhD (in 1990). My training was completed in several places, but mainly at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, USA) and at the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (Madrid, Spain). Before my ICREA appointment I was Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Bergen (Norway). Currently I am an ICREA Research Professor at the Universitat de Barcelona, Departament de Genètica, a position that I hold since the year 2003. The area of my research is the Evolution of Developmental Mechanisms.
In our group we are interested in understanding how animals have evolved over time. We assume that the morphological changes have occurred as a consequence of modifications in the use of different genes during development. In this context, the main aim of our research is to study the origin of the bilateral animals, from radial ancestors. We compare the expression of genes in bilateral and radial animals, hoping to find what changes may have occurred when that transition happened (more than 500 million years ago). Recently we have extended the analysis using genome comparisons. We have sequenced the genomes of several basal bilaterian animals (members of the phylum Xenacoelomorpha) and are in the process of analyzing, and comparing, all types of genomic features. They should give us key insights into the mechanisms that underlie the origin and diversification of animals. The origin of the centralized nervous system is, at present, the major focus of our research efforts.