Dr. Natalie Elia from the Department of Life Sciences was awarded a prestigious Horizon 2020 ERC Starting Grant in collaboration with Dr. Eyal Arbely from the Department of Chemistry, for the project entitled, “Quantitative Nanoscale Visualization of Macromolecular Complexes in Live Cells using Genetic Code Expansion and High-Resolution Imaging”.
A short description of their research: Recent developments in fluorescence microscopy, generally termed Super Resolution Microscopy, enable resolving the structure of small macromolecular complexes inside cells. However, these techniques have limited capabilities for live imaging of mammalian cells. We propose to engineer the genetic code to include a new, non-natural amino acid, to allow fluorescence labelling of specific proteins in live cells. This will enable us to use Super Resolution Microscopy for documenting at superb resolution the macromolecular structure of molecular machines during the course of their physiological action in live mammalian cells.
The European Research Council (ERC) selected 328 first class scientists to receive its prestigious Starting Grants, worth up to €2 million each. The awarded €485 million contributes to supporting a new generation of top scientists in Europe developing so-called "blue sky research": ambitious high-risk, high-gain research projects in any field.
This year, grants were awarded to researchers of 38 nationalities, hosted in 180 different institutions throughout Europe. In terms of host institutions, Germany (70 grants) and the UK (55 grants) are in the lead, followed by France (43) and The Netherlands (34). Researchers are also hosted in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey, along with one project in CERN in Switzerland.
This is the first Starting Grant competition under the EU's Horizon 2020 programme, the seventh to date. This call attracted 3273 applications, 10% of which were successful. Among the grantees, 143 are in the domain 'Physical Sciences and Engineering', 124 in 'Life Sciences' and 61 in 'Social Sciences and Humanities'. This year, the share of female grantees rose to 33%, from last year's 30%.
ERC Starting Grants are awarded researchers of any nationality with 2-7 years of experience since completion of PhD (or equivalent degree) and a scientific track record showing great promise. Research must be conducted in a public or private research organization located in one of the EU Member States or Associated Countries. The funding (maximum of €2 million per grant), is provided over up to five years.