ERC Starting Grants to two researchers at KI
KI researchers Erik Melén and Georgios Sotiriou have received starting grants from the European Research Council (ERC) for conducting their own independent research.
The purpose of the ERC Starting Grants is to support talented early-career scientist, who have already produced excellent supervised work, into becoming independent researchers and the research leaders of tomorrow. The ERC Starting Grants are worth EUR 1.5 million, distributed over five years. In addition to that Georgios Sotiriou, who is the first KI grant recipient working within the field of physical science and engineering, receives EUR 312,500 to cover equipment costs.
New biomarkers for respiratory disease
Erik Melén is a pediatric allergist and an Associate Professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM). His ERC project, TRIBAL, aims to provide new knowledge for targeted prevention in children at risk of adult chronic lung disease, and to identify potential targets for new asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) drugs using omics-based biomarkers.
In children, asthma is the most common chronic disease and more than 300 million people are affected globally. There is no curative treatment available. Persistence of childhood asthma into adult life is associated with lung function impairment and increased risk of COPD.
“If you want to prevent adult chronic disease, you need to start early. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to receive ERC funding for this important work. Also, going through the ERC application process has been a very enriching experience for me as a scientist,” says Erik Melén.
TRIBAL is a follow-up project using data and repeated bio-sampling from the Swedish BAMSE study, a world-leading population-based birth cohort of 4,089 participants, also led by Erik Melén.
Fighting antimicrobial resistance with nanoengineering
Georgios Sotiriou, Assistant Professor at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, conducts research with the overall mission to develop nanobiomaterials, tools and methods for medicine using core engineering sciences. The key focus lies on flame aerosol engineering of smart nanoscale materials and devices for biomedical applications.
The aim of his ERC project, PROMETHEUS, is to employ flame nanoengineering and develop the next generation of antibacterial medical devices to fight infections and antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance constitutes one of the most serious public health threats with estimations to become the leading cause of human deaths in 30 years
“I am extremely delighted and honored to receive this grant that will enable me to work on the exciting field of nanoengineering for medicine and try to tackle tomorrow’s global health challenges”, says Georgios Sotiriou.
The approach of his and his colleagues’ research is multidisciplinary, combining expertise from material and process engineering, bioengineering and health sciences. This allows for the design of biomaterials and devices that exhibit the desired functionality in applications ranging from diagnostics (biosensors) to therapeutic interventions.
Text: Selma Wolofsky