Three New EU Projects with Universität Hamburg Researchers

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The structure-function dynamic of proteins, the cultural history of artificial cooling, and new methods for analyzing Buddhist texts: the European Research Council is funding 3 new projects through its ERC Synergy Grants. Three researchers from Universität Hamburg are taking part. The well-funded grants support outstanding research groups in the European Union.

The funded researchers and their teams will work on innovative research issues while also cooperating with various scientific institutions. The project groups will bundle their different skills, knowledge, and resources in an innovative way to tackle research questions together. Funding can amount to up to €15 million and be granted for a duration of up to 6 years.

University president Hauke Heekeren: -Universität Hamburg-University of Excellence stands for outstanding research and the Universität Hamburg researchers involved in the 3 new EU projects are carrying the banner. These extraordinary researchers and their outstanding scientific achievements and projects in top-level research have now been duly recognized with these ERC Synergy Grants-among the most prestigious scientific grants offered by the European Research Council. I congratulate all of the recipients on this success, which underscores Universität Hamburg’s thematic spectrum.-

Arwen Pearson and Dr. Irene Fernandez-Cuesta: Time-Resolved Imaging of Membrane Transporter Dynamics under Physiological

 Ionic Gradients (GRAIL)

The cells of all living systems interact permanently with their environment. But what happens exactly when proteins do their work? The researchers will try to answer this question in their new ERC research project GRAIL. The grant will be used to research gradients, the constantly changing chemical conditions within and outside the lipid membranes surrounding cells. The researchers want to find out how the structure and function of gradients influence the integral membrane proteins embedded in the cell membranes. These proteins are important targets for the development of medication, for example, to treat Parkinson’s or cancer, or to overcome resistance to antibiotics.

-Despite their significance, it has not yet been possible to observe the structural dynamics of the proteins under the direct influence of a gradient. In the GRAIL project, we would like to close this fundamental gap by developing new methods to observe membrane proteins in action and in the presence of a gradient,- explains Arwen Pearson, professor of experimental biophysics and head of GRAIL. She is doing research in the Department of Physics and in the Cluster of Excellence: CUI: Advanced Imaging of Matter at Universität Hamburg together with the CUI group leader Dr. Irene Fernandez-Cuesta, who will design and build a nano contraption to observe the membrane proteins in action. In the project, they will work closely with Dirk Slotboom and Dr. Wiktor Szymanski from the University of Groningen. GRAIL will receive roughly €11 million for 6 years.


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