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ERC Grant Success Continues for Helmholtz Zentrum München

Helmholtz Zentrum München won two ERC Consolidator Grants for pioneering biomedical research in the fields of metabolic health and bioengineering. In 2020, the European Research Council (ERC) awarded the center with a total of eight ERC Grants. This is a significant success for Helmholtz Zentrum München and a remarkable result in the international competition.

Paul Pfluger (left) and Andre Stiel, © HMGU/Stiel

“Helmholtz Munich is a world-class health research center fully committed to generating positive impact on society. Today, the ERC has again recognized the outstanding work of two of our top researchers contributing to our vision – a world without diseases”, says Prof. Matthias Tschöp, CEO of Helmholtz Zentrum München. “The fact that Helmholtz Munich has won 8 ERC Grants this year alone and 39 in total is proof that our innovative strategy is working. We are proud to serve as a visible flagship for translational health research in Germany and worldwide.”

With its Consolidator Grants, the European Research Council aims to support researchers with 7-12 years of experience since completion of their PhD and a promising scientific track record who seek to build up or strengthen their own research group. The grants may be awarded up to 2 million Euros for a period of 5 years.

The Helmholtz Zentrum München winners and their projects:

Prof. Dr. Paul Pfluger, Metabolic Health:
Globally, the prevalence of obesity and its comorbidities are a major burden to human health. People who are trying to lose weight through dieting often regain weight afterwards. Paul Pfluger aims to reveal the molecular processes behind this Yoyo dieting effect. To this end, he will focus on two major areas: First, the molecular underpinnings for leptin resistance (a hormone responsible for food intake and body weight) and the potential of leptin sensitizing weight loss drugs. Second, the epigenetic mechanisms of Yoyo dieting and the role of specific neurons in this process. Pfluger aims to use CRISPR-Cas9 technology to test whether the epigenetic memory for obesity can be reset by manipulating these neurons. With this approach, Pfluger’s goal is to provide the groundwork for future sustainable anti-obesity therapeutics.

Learn more about Paul Pfluger’s research group: www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/nbd/index.html

Dr. Andre C. Stiel, Bioengineering:
Biomedical research strongly depends on high-quality imaging. Current imaging methods, however, cannot provide sufficient information about cells and chemicals throughout the entire living animal. Optoacoustic imaging overcomes those limitations by delivering deep penetration, high resolution and large fields of view. Despite these advantages, optoacoustics lacks the necessary toolbox of genetically encoded reporters and sensors that enable visualization of specific cells or the distribution of chemicals for research purposes. Stiel aims to leverage on his expertise with reporters based on photo-switchable proteins. These proteins can react to light delivered from the outside of the animal, switching the signal of the reporter on and off – a unique mechanism which allows to separate the reporter signal from the background (e.g. blood) and thus make the background virtually invisible. This opens up new ways to follow cells over time, visualize their interactions, and image the distributions of chemicals in vivo. Stiel envisions his technology to be used in cancer research, neurobiology and to better understand the functioning of the immune system.

Learn more about Stiel’s research group: www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/ibmi/laboratories/cell-engineering/index.html

Read the ERC press release: https://erc.europa.eu/news/CoG-recipients-2020


https://erc.europa.eu/news/CoG-recipients-2020