IGC analysts get three out of six European Research Council grants

IGC analysts get three out of six European Research Council grants


  • Post By : Kumar Jeetendra

  • Source: Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia

  • Date: 11 Dec,2020

Since the establishment of the European Research Council in 2008, the IGC has secured 17 of the competitive grants (7 Beginning, 8 Consolidator and two Advanced). In 2021, with the beginning of the new grants awarded this month, it will have ten active grants.

The year of 2020 marks a total of 327 researchers chosen for the attribution of ERC Consolidator Grants from over 2000 submitted proposals over the years. This financing consolidates the scientific careers of the awardees and lets them find answers to great questions, in different research centers all over Europe. Women set the record of 37% of the awarded grants, the highest number ever. The jobs are distributed across 23 different countries and were awarded to scientists of 39 different nationalities.

Oriented by the curiosity of the researcher, the ERC approach allows scientists to identify new opportunities and directions in almost any field, instead of being directed by politically defined priorities. This is the fantastic impact and differentiating factor of this approach, which guarantees that the funds are channelled to new and promising areas having a great degree of flexibility.

Selected projects at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência:
LOFlu – 2.87M$

Vaccine development or antibody treatments are not necessarily the best way to fight predictable infections in humans due to new emerging viruses, such as the flu, corona or Ebola. Other approaches need to be identified, namely the development of specific treatments against the virus. The project plans to study the way viruses exploit the organisms they infect and detect the”Achilles heels” of their life cycles. The research team headed by Maria João Amorim was the first to propose, in a previous study, that the assembly of the genome of the flu virus occurs in specific places or”assembly factories” produced in infected cells after the instructions coded by the virus. The team found that these areas have liquid properties, suggesting the mechanism by which they form is like the phase separation that happens when you mix oil and vinegar, for instance. Now, Maria João Amorim and her staff,”define a new approach to examine viral infections that explores the concepts behind phase separation to better understand the”Achilles heels” of the virus, namely through the identification of factors and cellular processes of the host which the virus uses and shapes, and this way try to uncover methodologies to control viral infections”, explains the researcher. The results of the study might provide new treatments applicable to this infection as well as other ailments that rely on the same processes. They might also contribute to explain other aspects of biomedicine, like research on neurodegenerative diseases and some kinds of cancer. To Maria João, receiving this award”in the time of the critical situation of the pandemic we are confronting, is an enormous responsibility given the urgency of the question. With this funding we’ll have the ability to guarantee a better preparation of a future response in the fight against viral infections. Supporting this approach is essential and admired”, she concludes.

Maria João Amorim graduated in Biochemistry in the University of Porto and obtained her PhD in Virology at the University of Cambridge, followed by post-doctoral work in the National Institute for Medical Research and at the University of Cambridge, in the UK. She is the leader of this Celular Biology and Viral Infections group at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência since 2012. More information about the study group

Access to the genetic information encoded in the chromosomes is the cornerstone of life. However, there’s a period in the life of a cell in which the constant reading of this info is suddenly halted. How such silencing occurs remains to be clarified, together with the real intention of this sudden interruption in the transcription activity. Raquel Oliveira, given with an ERC starting Grant at 2014, secures again funding for her research from chromosomes, showing the importance of her work to the knowledge in the area. ChromoSilence, the project she will lead, utilizes a new approach to unravel how the process of transcription silencing during cell mitosis is established and controlled. The researcher aims at discovering how failure at the silencing of chromosomes during mitosis affects the fidelity of chromosome segregation and organismal development. According to Raquel Oliveira”it is quite gratifying to see, once more, my research awarded with this important funding. The knowledge we produce will bring about understanding how these two processes essential to life – mobile division and transcription of genetic information – relate between themselves and eventually discover new mechanisms that guarantee genomic stability or the control of gene expression”.

She developed her job at Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, at the University of Porto, in Portugal, as well as in the University of Bayreuth and the University of Oxford. She came at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in 2012 to establish her research team Chromosome Dynamics. More information about the study group

SelfDriving4DSR (Enabling Live-Cell 4D Super-Resolution Microscopy Guided by Artificial Intelligence)- 2M$

With the newly funded project, Ricardo Henriques will create a new type of self-driving microscope controlled by artificial intelligence. This technology will be able to follow the behavior of cells infected by viruses in spatial and temporal scales until now not possible. The creation of new technologies based on artificial intelligence, optics and cell biology will allow a new understanding of cellular behaviour and viral infection. The project led by Ricardo will focus particularly on the infection by HIV-1. This multidisciplinary project unites a new generation of theories from optical physics, artificial intelligence and cell and infection biology. In Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência and in Portugal, it is going to permit us to form a new generation of researchers capable of crossing the limits of our knowledge in medicine, able to do biological research with unprecedented technology”.

Ricardo Henriques graduated in Particle Physics and fell in love early on with Biology. It was during this route that he started working in the field of super-resolution microscopy and developed technologies capable of reading images of cells and viral structures. In 2013 he established his initial research group at University College London (UCL), in 2017 accepts the invitation to establish a second lab at the Francis Crick Institute and in 2019 becomes a professor UCL. He arrived at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in September 2020 to lead a new research team that will develop new technologies to let us see the invisible, like the biology of viral disease. More information about the research team.


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