ERC Starting Grants aim to support early career researchers in developing their own careers and making the transition from supervised to independent and autonomous research. Applicants of any nationality must have 2-7 years of experience after completing their PhD and show a promising academic track record. Outstanding research projects are funded with a sum of up to 1.5 million euros over a maximum project period of 5 years.
One of the award winners is Dr. Maria Rohm, who conducts research on diabetes and cancer: Almost one third of all people suffering from cancer die of cachexia. Cachexia is marked in particular by the severe loss of adipose and muscle tissue. Until today there is no effective cure. Maria Rohm therefore aims to identify cachexia biomarkers and underlying metabolic pathways to treat the disease at an early stage. To this end, she builds on research results from her group in understanding metabolic dysfunction in cachexia. Current data suggest that tumors trigger cachexia by activating energy costly substrate cycles in the fat cells, which leads to an energy deficit and subsequent systemic metabolic disorder. This also affects the glucose and lipid metabolism. Maria Rohm aims to use cell cultures, cachexia mouse models and patient samples to better understand and target cachectic metabolism and explore lipids as potential disease biomarkers.
Dr. Michael Menden, who also supports the DZD with his team for computational biomedicine, is also sponsored. His ERC Starting Grant relates to a cancer research project.
The other prizewinners deal with biological and medical imaging and epidemiological questions of allergic diseases. “With this wonderful recognition, the ERC honours our outstanding early-career talents. It also validates the ambitious strategy our research center has developed: All four winning projects develop and employ next generation technologies in order to prevent, treat and cure environmentally triggered diseases”, says Prof. Matthias Tschöp, CEO of Helmholtz Zentrum München. “Digital approaches ranging from deep learning to organs on a chip, reside at the heart of these projects and will accelerate the emergence of personalized medicine in a rapidly changing world.”