ERC grants to three Uppsala researchers



The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded 313 new ERC Consolidator Grants for projects in 24 different countries. Among the winners are two researchers at Uppsala University: Maria Tenje and Fabien Burki. In addition, Ingela Lanekoff has received an ERC Starting Grant.

The ERC Grants are part of the EU’s Horizon Europe programme. The funding supports mid-career researchers and is intended to help them consolidate their teams and conduct pioneering research on topics and using methods of their own choosing.

The grantees will carry out their projects at universities and research centres across 24 EU Member States and associated countries, 15 of them in Sweden and two at Uppsala University.

Maria Tenje, professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, receives funding for her project PHOENIX. The focus is on developing novel microfluidic tools for high-throughput and fully controlled organoid generation. Organoids are self-assembled 3D cell models that can be used as alternatives to animal testing for drug development and basic biomedical research.

In PHOENIX, Professor Tenje will further expand the droplet microfluidics tool box her lab has pioneered during the last ten years to gain control of the cellular architecture of the organoids by using integrated acoustics. For the project, she will collaborate with researchers at KI, Lund University and Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Fabien Burki, Associate Professor at the Department of Organismal Biology, receives funding for his project PlastidOrigin on the origin of photosynthetic organelles in eukaryotes. Both plants and algae transform light into chemical energy, a process known as photosynthesis. But how did eukaryotes – organisms such as animals and plants but also the myriads of microbes with complex cellular organisation – acquire photosynthesis more than 1.5 billion years ago? This event resulted in an explosion of diversity on the planet, transforming life as we know it. However, in spite of the importance of photosynthesis, we still know little about the origin of the photosynthetic factory in cells, according to Fabien Burki.

“This ERC project will give us the capacity to go back in time and address missing pieces in our understanding of the origin of photosynthetic organelles, using a variety of advanced approaches including environmental sequencing, genomics, and spatial proteomics to access the vast diversity of microbes, most of which have never been seen or even detected.”

Recently, it was also confirmed that Ingela Lanekoff, professor at the Department of Chemistry – BMC, will receive an ERC Starting Grant. In her ERC project, she will develop a novel analytical approach for time-resolved metabolomics of individual living cells. This approach will enable controlled exposure of a single cell at a pre-defined time prior to analysis. Furthermore, metabolomics, lipidomics, secretomics, and transcriptomics will be combined in analysis of the same cell to understand the origin and action of the cell’s behaviour.

“After developing the system, I will use it to decipher the dysfunctional intracellular metabolism of b-cells in type 2 diabetes with the goal of identifying therapeutic targets for b-cell recovery,” says Lanekoff.

In this call, Ylva Söderfeldt, Senior Lecturer at the University’s Department of History of Science and Ideas, also received the ERC Starting Grant. Read an article about her project here.

Annica Hulth

Facts: ERC

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds research projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation.

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