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ERC Consolidator Grant:

Six million euros for three scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München

Neuherberg, Germany, 22.02.2016. The European Research Council (ERC) is supporting three scientists in their research projects at the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) with a total sum just under six million Euros. Prof. Dr. Daniel Razansky, head of the "Multiscale Functional and Molecular Imaging Group" at the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging, PD Dr. med. Irmela Jeremias, head of the "Apoptosis" group in the Gene Vectors Research Unit and Prof. Dr. Mathias Heikenwälder, head of the "Inflammation induced tissue damage" junior group at the Institute of Virology have each received just under two million euros for their research projects.

Source: ERC

The HMGU has been awarded 14 ERC grants up to this year, placing it at the top of the Helmholtz Association in terms of the number of grants. The HMGU’s particularly remarkable triple award of the ERC Consolidator Grants underscores the Center's scientific excellence. This type of grant is intended to support young scientists on the way to consolidate their independent research and also to counteract the “brain drain”, where talent disappears abroad. For example, Razansky is examining a new, non-invasive method to visualize fast spatio-temporal activity patterns of large neural cell populations in whole living brain. "Observations of this type are currently not possible. If our work is successful, vast progress in our understanding of brain’s function and development of new treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders is expected," says Razansky.

Jeremias is examining, how tumours of individual patients are treated in a targeted fashion. "The challenge is to understand which genetic anomalies are crucial for individual tumours," explains Jeremias. "If we align the treatment against an essential lesion, we make tumours shrink." Using acute leukaemia as model illness and tumour cells from Munich patients, she develops precise, personalized treatments.

Heikenwälder received the award for research into the cellular and metabolic activation of the immune response in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver and liver tumours in humans. "With the steady rise in the population’s obesity, we are seeing increased occurrence of non-alcoholic fatty liver and the metabolic syndrome associated with it, as well as diabetes and liver cancer," Heikenwälder explains. “The origin of the illness is not precisely known, however, and consequently there is currently no efficient treatment to reduce the fatty liver and liver cancer development." Heikenwälder is tracking down an interaction between immune system cytotoxic T-cells and liver cells that lead to the liver disorder. In his project he is investigating molecular mechanisms that lead to fatty liver disease and liver tumours. A better understanding of these processes is opening up new approaches to further treatments.

Further information

TheERC (European Research Council) supports the highest quality research in Europe with competition-based financing. Its objective is to establish and solidify European research as cutting-edge research. erc.europa.eu

As  German Research Center for Environmental Health,  Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,300 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members.

TheInstitute for für Biological and Medical Imaging (IBMI) conducts research into in vivo imaging technologies for the biosciences. It develops systems, theories and methods of imaging and image reconstruction as well as animal models to test new technologies at the biological, preclinical and clinical level. The aim is to provide innovative tools for biomedical laboratories, for diagnosis and for the therapeutic monitoring of human diseases.
Link to portait and video von Prof. Daniel Razansky

TheInstitute of Virology (VIRO)  German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München investigates viruses that chronically infect humans and can cause life-threatening diseases. The research activities of the institute focus mainly on the HI virus which causes AIDS, on endogenous retroviruses, which are integrated into our germline, and hepatitis B and C viruses, which cause liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Molecular studies identify new diagnostic and therapeutic concepts to prevent and treat these viral diseases or to prevent the formation of virus-induced tumors.
Link to portrait and video of Prof. Dr. Mathias Heikenwälder