Vidi grants for three LUMC researchers

13 July 2021• NEWSITEM

Three LUMC scientists receive a Vidi grant from science funder NWO. These grants of over 800,000 euros are distributed each year to experienced and excellent researchers who carry out challenging research. Three grants go to LUMC researchers Anna Alemany, Meta Roestenberg and Ulrich Scherer.

The recipe for cell types

Our body is made up of different types of cells with different functions, even though all cells contain the same genetic information. For example, a heart cell functions very differently from a skin cell. How is this possible? Anna Alemany, researcher at the Department of Anatomy & Embryology, studies with her research group the mathematical rules underlying cell differentiation.

"The understanding of how the different identities are originated will allow us to generating desired cell types from patient-derived stem cells," says Alemany. She is very happy with the Vidi grant. "This Vidi represents a step forward towards the strengthening of fundamental science embedded within medically-oriented institutions. With this grant I can build my own research group and explore how the combination of mathematics and biological experiments can improve our understanding of cell differentiation.” 

Silencing cells

Rheumatologist Uli Scherer performs research on rheumatoid arthritis. In this chronic disease, your own immune system turns against healthy cells in your body. After tapering the medication, a large proportion of patients suffer a recurrence of the disease. Researchers have discovered that, despite treatment, specific immune cells in patients remain chronically active. Scherer and colleagues will use the so-called single cell technology to understand this immunological disease activity and search for ways to silence it, thereby halting chronicity.

"For me, the Vidi is a very important appreciation of the success and quality of the line of research in which we as a team and department ultimately want to cure rheumatism and other autoimmune diseases," says Scherer. "It gives me the freedom as a physician to be active in science, and it is also very nice that in this way I can give something back for the trust placed in me by the LUMC and my mentors."

Weakened parasite, powerful vaccine

An effective malaria vaccine is urgently needed. Genetically altered malaria parasites cannot cause disease and are therefore very suitable for training the immune system. Professor Meta Roestenberg wants to make very powerful vaccines from weakened malaria parasites. "Our aim is to improve better recognition of the parasite-vaccine by the immune system."

"The Vidi gives an important boost to malaria vaccine research and gives us the opportunity to develop and test new vaccine concepts." Together with Chris Janse and Blandine Franke-Fayard, Roestenberg will create new genetically weakened parasites that can be safely used as vaccines. And with Fijs van Leeuwen, she will use chemical tools to make malaria parasites more visible to the immune system. "It is an incentive for me to keep pioneering in this complex field of parasitic vaccines."

Vidi grants

Vidi is aimed at experienced researchers who have carried out successful research for a number of years after their PhD. Together with the Veni and Vici grants, Vidi is part of the NWO Talent Programme. A total of 78 research projects were awarded in this round.

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