Published: 08-09-2016 14:40 | Updated: 16-08-2017 10:47

ERC Starting Grants to KI researchers Magda Bienko, Simon Elsässer and Anna Wredenberg

Three researchers at KI have overcome stiff competition to clinch grants from the European Research Council (ERC) for starting their own independent research. The ERC Starting Grants are worth EUR 1.5 million for up to five years.

Magda Bienko, Simon Elsässer and Anna Wredenberg all work at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet and at SciLifeLab. Apart from their joy at being awarded an ERC grant, they share a passion for DNA and genetics.

With a focus on chromosomes

Magda Bienko’s research focuses on using mathematical models and advanced gene analysis to examine how chromosomes organise themselves in the cell nucleus, and how it affects gene expression. This, she hopes, will provide new knowledge on cell physiology.

“I feel privileged and delighted that my vision has been acknowledged by the ERC,” she says. “I now have to make sure that I make proper use of the grant.”

Molecular mechanisms

Anna WredenbergAnna Wredenberg is a clinician at the Centre for Inherited Metabolic Diseases at the Karolinska University Hospital which has specialised on rare genetic diseases involving mitochondrial dysfunction. Her research attempts to understand the molecular basis of disease formation, using primary patient cells or reprogrammed neuronal stem cells in order to investigate metabolic derangements in disease progression.

“Receiving the ERC starting grant is very special in many ways. Importantly it allows me and my group to explore an entirely new aspect of mitochondrial diseases,” says Anna Wredenberg.

Examining how DNA is packaged

Simon Elsässer uses new research methods in synthetic and chemical biology to examine the structure and function of chromatin, a DNA/protein complex that determines how DNA is packaged in the cell nucleus.

Chromatin is mainly made up of proteins called histones, and with the help of his ERC grant, Mr Elsässer will be continuing his research on how these histones control access to genetic information.

Competition for ERC Starting Grants is extremely tough, as is the selection process, which involves external expert assessments and panel interviews.

“It’s a complicated but very transparent process,” says Mr Elsässer. “I got constant feedback from the people reviewing my application, and that spurred me on.”

Text: Jenny Ryltenius

Read more about ERC Starting Grants.

Read more in a press release from ERC.

Read more about Magda Bienko's research.

Read more about Simon Elsässer's research.

Read more about Anna Wredenberg's research.