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25-09-2019 | © picture 4 mins read

How do you make plants drought-resistant without stunting growth?

Stressed plants typically stop growing. With her ERC grant, Prof. Ana Caño-Delgado has developed and is applying an innovative approach to generate drought-resistant plants that continue growing. This could play an important role in ensuring food security when water is scarce.

24-06-2019 | © istockphotos.com 2 mins read

Your mother’s microbes protect you

Maternal microbiota is crucial for the future health of a child. The transmission of microbes to offspring is a process that begins in the uterus and is influenced by the delivery method, breastfeeding and the mother’s diet. However, the mechanisms behind the protective role of maternal microbes on the baby’s health are not yet fully understood.

17-06-2019 | Research illustration ©iStockphoto.com/ClubhouseArts | Portrait ©Melanie Verlinden/Reinhart Ceulemans 3 mins read

Biomass crops are energy efficient and climate friendly

EU-funded researchers planted, harvested, processed and analysed the life cycle of woody crops to establish how efficient and environmentally friendly they are as a source of fuel for electricity and heat.

07-08-2017 | © picture 2 mins read

Slovak scientist of the year

In only three years’ time, Dr Jan Tkač went from being the first ERC grantee in Slovakia to obtaining the “2015 Scientist of the Year” award. His research in the field of glyconomics could emerge as a turning point for the diagnosis of cell-related diseases.

24-03-2017 | © picture

Riding a Trojan horse against cancer

Magdalena Król is Professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW) in Poland. She specializes in cancer research. Since 2006 Professor Król and her team have been investigating canine mammary cancer with particular focus on cancer metastasis and tumor microenvironment. Now she develops innovative cell-based method of drug delivery to solid tumors. Her discoveries about interactions between immune cells and cancer cells may one day revolutionize the treatment of cancer.

Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."

21-02-2014 | Research illustration ©Melanie Verlinden | Portrait ©Melanie Verlinden/Reinhart Ceulemans 4 mins read

Biomass by numbers

The use of biomass from plants as a renewable energy source is not new. Yet surprisingly, the positive net economic and environmental benefits of biomass energy exist only on paper. This is about to change thanks to the largest experimental tree plantation in the world, which takes place in East Flanders. Professor Reinhart Ceulemans and his team are working to get the numbers needed to inform evidence-based decisions on the role of renewables in future energy policies.

08-11-2013 | © picture 4 mins read

Getting to the roots of better crops

Almost 842 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The world faces huge challenges if it is to achieve food security for a global population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050. With ERC help, Professor Malcolm Bennett of the UK’s University of Nottingham is trying to improve crop yields through better understanding of roots and the way they grow.

14-08-2013 | The skeletons of the siliceous sponges, here of Euplectella aspergillum, ©picture and illustration: W.E.G Müller 3 mins read

Sponge enzymes: nature’s little bio-builders

Sponges seem an unlikely source for innovation, yet they may hold the key to new nanotechnologies, innovative optical devices and new ways of regrowing human bone and preventing bone disease. Difficult to believe? Not for Werner E.G. Müller. In the BIOSILICA project, he and his team are developing ways to adapt the complex processes that natural glassy sponges use to build their wondrous biosilica structures for use in biodegradable implants that would facilitate bone healing after surgery or fractures.

14-06-2013 | © picture 3 mins read

Sweet solutions for detecting disease

In Bratislava, the team of Dr Ján Tkáč is developing the weapons to fight back in a cellular ‘cold war’ by using new early-detection technologies – helped by the first ERC grant awarded in Slovakia. Glycans are sugar molecules that carry the information human cells need to stay healthy and fight infections. Information rich, and with sophisticated storage and coding commands, they are a vital early-warning system for triggering an organism’s natural defensive systems at the first sign of attack. So it is not surprising that infectious pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, and cell-related diseases such as cancers, have developed subterfuges to bypass this first line of defence. For example, HIV viruses do this by cracking the glycan’s molecular code, and stealing its identity – allowing the pathogen to go unrecognised by cells until the infection is well advanced.

29-01-2013 | © picture 2 mins read

Doctor in a cell

By combining computer science and molecular biology, researchers have been able to work on a programmable biological computer that in the future may navigate within the human body, diagnosing diseases and administering treatments. This is what Professor Ehud Shapiro and his team have called a ‘Doctor in a cell’.