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Maria Ballester Devis

Maria Ballester Devis

session, year:
2014 1st

Former fellow

Receiving laboratory:
GABI Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology, Jouy-en-Josas

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Download Curriculum Vitae

Mobility project

A step beyond dissecting the genetic architecture of immunity traits in swine: toward identification of Quantitative Trait Nucleotides (QTNs)

Genetic selection for health traits has emerged as a challenging trend in livestock breeding. Immunity traits (ITs) parameters measured in healthy animals may be considered as biologically relevant parameters to estimate immunocompetence. In the present project, interdisciplinary and state-of-the-art computational methodologies will be used to integrate heterogeneous data including phenotypic variation of a large range of ITs, SNP polymorphisms and blood transcriptome analysis recorded from Large White pig cohorts at INRA. The aim of the project will be to identify and functionally validate potential causal mutations influencing the phenotypic diversity of ITs in pigs. The expected results will represent an important step forward on understanding the genetic control of immunity in swine and provide insights into a better management of health status in farms.

Biography & research interests

After completing my degree on Veterinary Medicine at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), in 2005 I obtained a PhD on Animal Genetics at UAB (Extraordinary PhD award). Afterwards, I was granted with several postdoctoral fellowships (Beatriu de Pinos, Juan de la Cierva, AgreenSkills+) which allowed me to develop my research career in different fields (animal genetics, animal health, molecular and cell biology, etc) ranging from basic to practical research. During my research trajectory, I have participated in eighteen R+D+I projects (six of them international) and four R+D+I contracts with companies. The main research lines in which I have been working over the last few years have been focused on the identification, characterization and functional validation of genetic variants affecting important economical traits in livestock species using state-of-the-art genetics, genomics and bioinformatics methodologies. From September 2015, I am working with a Ramon y Cajal (RyC) senior postdoctoral contract at the Animal Breeding and Genetics Unit at IRTA (Spain). My research aims at medium-term perspective are focused on the immunogenetics field to identify genetic variants to be included in the porcine genomic selection programs to improve animal robustness and resistance to pathogens. In this line, in 2016, I got an R+D+I project in the Spanish National Programme for Research Aimed at the Challenges of Society.

Selected publications

 M. Revilla, A. Puig-Oliveras, D. Crespo-Piazuelo, L. CriadoMesas, A. Castello, A. I Fernandez, M. Ballester, J M Folch, 2018. Expression analysis of candidate genes for fatty acid composition in adipose tissue and identification of regulatory regions. Scientific Reports, 8, 2045. Doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-20473-3.

Y. Ramayo-Caldas, M. Ballester, J. P. Sanchez, et al., 2018. Integrative approach using liver and duodenum RNASeq data identifies candidate genes and pathways associated with feed efficiency in pigs. Scientific Reports, 8, 558. Doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-19072-5.

M. Ballester, A. Puig-Oliveras, A. Castello, M. Revilla, A. I Fernandez, and J. M Folch, 2017. Association of genetic variants and expression levels of porcine FABP4 and FABP5 genes. Animal Genetics, 48(6):660-668.

M. Ballester, Y. Ramayo-Caldas, M. Revilla, et al., 2017. Integration of liver gene co-expression networks and eGWAs analyses highlighted candidate regulators implicated in lipid metabolism in pigs. Scientific Reports, 7, 46539. Doi: 10.1038/srep46539.

Puig-Oliveras, M. Revilla, A. Castello, A.I. Fernandez, J.M. Folch, M. Ballester, 2016. Expression-based GWAS identifies variants, gene interactions and key regulators affecting intramuscular fatty acid content and composition in porcine meat. Scientific Reports, 6, 31803. Doi: 10.1038/srep31803.

Awards & patents


2016. Prize ISAG to the poster: Systems biology approach provides novel insights into gene networks controlling tenderness and meat quality traits across French beef breeds. Salt Lake City (Utah).

10/2012. International Training School Award (Rabbit and Pig Genome Analysis Reference). European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST action)

2011. Prize Microscopy at the frontiers of science to the poster: An approach to localize PCV2 in pig tissues at structural and ultrastructural levels. Aveiro (Portugal)

2009. Prize ESVP/ECVP to the poster: New rapid and sensible in situ hybridisation (ISH) protocol to detect African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV). Olsztyn-Krakow (Poland)

2007. Prize JAS to the poster: Étude de l’organisation nucléaire dans la glande mammaire. Tours (France)

2006. Prize ISAG to the poster: Use of SNP markers for individual identification and genetic traceability in the pig based on the SNPlexTM Genotyping System. Porto Seguro (Brazil)

2005. Award to the Best PhD Student in Animal and Food Sciences by the Autonomous University of Barcelona

1999. Third position in the European meeting organized by IAMS EUROPE, INC (Malta)

1998-1999. Award to the “Best of class in Nutrition”, IAMS EUROPE, inc.


“Torque Teno Virus Diagnostics” patented by INTERVET INTERNATIONAL BV. European patent Application 2011-05-31 as 11168280.3. Publication: 2012-12-05 as PCT/EP2012/060109. Main IPC Subclass: C12Q 1/70

Use of a genic and/or peptidic construction to manufacture a vaccine to prevent and/or control of African swine fever virus infection (VPPA) patented by CRESA. P26002ES00.mem 346863. 2011


Pig, Genetics, Genomics, Candidate Mutations, Immunity Traits, Molecular Phenotypes, Complex Traits, Molecular Networks