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ERC grantee Dr Kazuya Koyama, originally from Japan, tests gravity, specifically whether Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity can be applied beyond our solar system. At present general relativity works in our galaxy but is less convincing at the far borders of our universe which is rapidly expanding and needs weird energy to explain this. Dr Koyama is hoping that observations in deep space will show that the theory can be modified to work on a larger scale so that this strange 'dark energy' is not needed – removing one of cosmology's biggest mysteries.
On the occasion of the signing of a new agreement with the Japanese Science and Technology Agency to encourage top Japanese researchers to temporarily join ERC-funded teams in Europe, the ERC interviewed Dr Kazuya Koyama about his international career and how he believes this helps strengthen scientific partnerships between researchers in Europe and Japan.
Will spacecraft follow a similar evolution to computers? While information processing in the last century was performed by large mainframe computers, today, networked smart phones dominate the market. In spacecraft engineering a similar paradigm shift is apparent: from traditional single, large, and multifunctional satellites towards groups of very small satellites that cooperate together. Professor Klaus Schilling, in his ERC project “NetSat”, addresses crucial challenges to enable small satellite formations to self-organise. This offers innovative application perspectives in areas like Earth observation, science exploration or telecommunications.
Despite holding out promise for cancer treatments, nanomedicine lacks the means to predict patient response to tumour-targeting therapy. Prof. Twan Lammers has devised imaging which differentiates between those likely to benefit and those unlikely to do so. A significant barrier for the nanopharmaceutical industry tackling cancer is that while some patients treated with nanomedicine show major improvements in survival rates and quality of life, many others do not respond well. This can result in delays in receiving appropriate treatment. A step forward would be the ability to differentiate likely responders from non-responders, prior to their selection for studies or treatment.
An EU-funded project is exploring what keeps people committed to a task even when they get bored, distracted or are tempted to stop. The findings could foster productivity-boosting strategies, improve robot-human interactions and even help treat borderline personality disorder.
On 30 November and 1st December, the G20 2018 Summit will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The leaders and Ministers of finances of the World's major economies, including the European Union, will address the pressing concerns and challenges related to the global economy and finances. In this high decision-making forum, Prof. Irma Mosquera Valderrama has managed to make a place for her independent expertise, raising the voices of developing countries.
The amount of currently available biomedical data is overwhelming. Large databases exist at different scales, from genes, to proteins, to patients' histories. But what do scientists do with all this information? Serbian-born Professor Nataša Pržulj, from University College London, works with Big Data to establish patterns and gain knowledge that could revolutionise how we treat diseases.
Teaching is certainly one of the most important professions in our society, yet its status and attractiveness have been systematically diminishing in the last decades. At the Université catholique de Louvain, Prof. Xavier Dumay is using his ERC Starting Grant to investigate the cultural and institutional transformations that have led to this "teaching profession crisis".
With a diameter of around 143,000 kilometres and a mass 300 times that of the Earth, Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. Scientists have debated for decades how such giants formed. Now, astrophysicists of Universities of Bern and Zürich and of ETH Zürich, amongst which are ERC grantees Yann Alibert and Maria Schönbächler, proposed a solution to this puzzle. The research results, published recently in the magazine Nature Astronomy, provide crucial hints to long-standing questions about the formation of other planets in the solar system and beyond.
At the forefront of medicine, gene therapy is based on the insertion of genes into an individual's cells and tissues to treat a disease. Scientists are currently testing several approaches to this experimental technique. One of them, Prof. Seppo Ylä-Herttuala, intends to develop a novel method to treat myocardial ischemia by activating endogenous genes to propel angiogenesis. If successful, he will open a new era in gene therapy.
More than 100 million people worldwide suffer from valvular heart disease, affecting one or more of the heart’s four valves and causing breathlessness, chest pain, dizziness and fainting. If severe valvular heart disease is not properly treated, chances of surviving decrease, especially in the elderly. The only effective therapy is heart valve replacement, which may entail some risks and lead to revision surgeries. What can be done to improve safety and durability of artificial heart valves?