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Lab Members


Maria Ikonomopoulou

Principal Investigator

Dr. Maria Ikonomopoulou is a Senior Research TALENTO Fellow (Program of excellence in research by the Madrid Government) and Head of the Translational Venomics Group at IMDEA-Food Institute in Madrid. She is Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, Co-ordinator of the Stakeholder Engagement Committee and in the Core Management of the COST Action CA19144 EUVEN – European Venom Network as well as supporter of STEMM WOMEN in Australia. She is also On Deck Longevity Biotech Fellow, belonging to a community of ambitious founders, operators, and investors looking to build, join, and invest in revolutionary longevity biotechnology startups. She has international research experience in biology and biotechnology from Australia, Spain, Greece, Ireland and Malaysia and has been successfully collaborating with the industry for over ten years. Dr. Ikonomopoulou is a former Marie Curie “AMAROUT” Fellow (2017-2018) in Spain. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Technology from the Technological Educational Institute in Western Macedonia in Greece and part of her degree was conducted in the Biotechnology Department at the Teagasc-Moorepark Research Centre in Ireland (Leonardo Da Vinci EU Program). She has a MSc in Zoology from the University of Tasmania (2003) and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Queensland (2009) (UQ & APAI Fellowships) in Australia. She has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Queensland and QIMR Berghofer.

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Javier Moral Sanz

Research Associate

Dr. Javier Moral Sanz (PhD, BSc) is a Research Associate in the Translational Venomics Group. He holds a Bsc in Pharmacy (2007) and a PhD (Hons) (2012) from the University Complutense of Madrid. Dr. Moral-Sanz has scientific training by The Medical University of Graz (Austria) and The University of Manchester (United Kingdom). He conducted his postdoctoral studies at The University of Edinburgh (2013-2018), where he joined Prof. A. M. Evans’ group to lead a project on the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in the pulmonary vascular physiology and pathophysiology. During his postdoctoral period, he developed an increasing interest in cellular senescent that took him to the IMDEA Food Institute (2019), where he joined the Translational Venomics group to better understand cellular senescence in health and disease and to explore a new generation of venom-derived senolytics.


Rachael Ryan

Doctoral Student (Alumni)

Ms Rachael Ryan (BSc(Hons)) is a Doctoral Student in Immunology at the Griffith University and the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University in Australia under the supervision of Prof. John Miles, Dr. Maria Ikonomopoulou and Prof. Alejandro Lopez. Her thesis focuses on “the immunological and physiological effects of venom on mammals”. Rachael was awarded “First Class” in her Bachelor of Science (Honours) and this degree was supported by a competitive Scholarship (2015). Rachael has also been granted twice by Griffith University an “Academic Award for Excellence” (2014 & 2015).

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Sabela Fernández Vila

Doctoral Student

Ms Sabela Fernández Vila (BSc) is a Doctoral Student in Molecular Medicine at the University of Santiago de Compostela under the supervision of Prof. Laura Sánchez Piñón and Dr. Maria Ikonomopoulou at IMDEA-Food Institute. On her project she investigates the antitumoral activity of various spider peptides in different tumorigenic cell lines and in zebrafish xenograft models of cancer. Ms Fernández Vila is a qualified High school teacher and teaches “Molecular biology” to laboratory technicians. She holds a degree in nursing and an MSc in genetic, environmental, and nutritional conditions from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

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Isabel Fernández

Doctoral Student

Ms. Isabel Fernández (BSc) is a Research Assistant in the Translational Venomics Group. She holds a degree in Biotechnology (Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, 2019) and a Master's degree in Neuroscience (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2021). In 2019, she joined the Research group of Prof. Dr. Ivan Dikic, studying the non-canonical ubiquitination process carried out by different pathogens in the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences in Frankfurt. Later, she carried out her master's thesis in Teresa Iglesias´ group at the IIBM Alberto Sols in Madrid. In that project she studied the molecular mechanisms involved in neurodegeneration triggered by the elimination of PKD1 in neurons. In 2021, she joined the Translational Venomics group at IMDEA Food Institute.

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Claudia Camarero-Hoyos (Alumni)

Masters student

Ms Claudia Camarero-Hoyos is a Masters student in the department of Pharmacology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, and she is undertaking her research project in the Translational Venomics Group under the supervision of Dr. Ikonomopoulou. Her project is focusing on the cytotoxicity of novel venom peptides and their therapeutics potential to arrest melanoma metastasis. Claudia holds a BSc in Biology from the Autonomous University of Madrid. During her bachelor’s degree, Claudia conducted a research stay at the University of Manchester in 2019. Afterwards she carried out her end-off degree thesis on the identification of novel ribbon worm toxins through differential gene expression analysis and under the supervision of Dr. Aida Verdes. This project sparked her research interest in the field of venomics.


José Luis López

Research Animal Technician

José Luis López is a highly qualified technician, with more than seven years of experience in managing mouse colonies and a wide range of experimental techniques in murine models. He has previously worked in the Comparative Medicine Unit at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research – CNIC in Madrid. Currently, José Luis is responsible for all mouse experiments. He coordinates the mouse colonies housed in different animal facilities (CNB, CNIO, UAM, URJC) in Madrid, carrying out specific experiments and implementing different techniques. He also supports different lines of research using various molecular and cell biology techniques.

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