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Dr Joaquim Alves Gaspar is a man of the sea. After many years in the Portuguese Navy, he gave up plans to become an admiral in favour of pursuing a PhD in the History of Cartography. This second career led him to receive an ERC Starting Grant, the first awarded in this budding discipline. With his highly multidisciplinary team (he likes to say that, to work with him, one must be a mathematician fluent in Latin), and the experience obtained as a navigator and navigational instructor, Dr Gaspar hopes to understand how and when the first nautical charts were created. The MEDEA-CHART team is the best place in Portugal, and probably in the world, to study the history of nautical cartography, hoping that this work will provide the domain with its rightful recognition within world history.
The use and misuse of antibiotics has accelerated the emergence of drug-resistant bacterial strains, threatening our ability to treat common diseases. EU-funded research has shed new light on the mechanisms behind these microbial mutations, with implications for our understanding of diseases and resistance to treatment.
Maria Brandão de Vasconcelos, together with her colleague Filipa Matos Baptista, Henrique Veiga-Fernandes (ERC grantee), Diogo Fonseca Pereira and Sílvia Arroz Madeira, founded StemCell2MAX in 2015. The company is a biotechnology start-up, specialised in cell based therapies, including novel solutions to multiply the scarcely available blood stem cells, addressing an enormous demand for research and cancer treatment. StemCell2MAX technology is based on Prof. Veiga-Fernandes's ground-breaking discoveries in hematopoietic stem cell biology.
Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."
Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs) are blood cells located in the bone marrow. These cells are extensively used in research to develop treatments for many severe diseases, including HIV and multiple sclerosis, and their transplant is a key therapy for certain types of cancer like leukemia and multiple myeloma. However, the use of HSCs is seriously constrained by their limited availability since growing them in the lab does not produce very large quantities. There is therefore an urgent need for methods allowing scientists to multiply HSCs, without losing any of their properties.
ERC grantee Marta Moita and her team use cutting-edge experimental procedures to investigate how rats and flies learn to appropriately respond to danger from other individuals. The results of her study may teach us a lot about our own brains, and shed light on diseases that impair social behaviour.
Since the early 1990s almost 2000 planets have been detected outside our solar system. These discoveries led to a new area of universe sciences which is rapidly expanding. Astronomers are currently searching for extra-solar planets using a huge array of telescopes and instruments. Funded by the ERC, Prof. Cardoso Santos’ team has developed new tools to be used in both ground- and space-based facilities, to detect and study these planets.
Pursuing a sustainable development and broadening social justice and cohesion are some of the challenges that Europe is currently facing. What if we could learn how to solve these challenges by using the social and political innovations taking place in different corners of the globe? Professor Boaventura de Sousa Santos suggests that a new approach can be developed in Europe based on the diversity of practices elsewhere.
Forget USA, Japan; the field of transparent electronics has put Portugal well and truly on the map thanks to Professor Elvira Fortunato and one of the largest grants awarded to a Portuguese scientist. The European Research Council grant contributed to the installation of the recently opened NOVA Nano-Fabrication Laboratory, of which Prof Fortunato is the Director.