05 September 2023

Three researchers at Linköping University have received European Research Council Starting grants awarded to promising researchers to enable them to establish their own research groups. Their research areas are new cancer treatment, materials development and how people are affected by grief.

Circuit with droplets.
   Thor Balkhed

Three researchers from Linköping University have received approximately SEK 17,8 million each from the European Research Council in so called Starting grants. In Europe as a whole, 400 out of 2696 applications, i.e. almost 15 per cent, were granted. A total of 19 applications from Sweden were granted.

“It’s exceptionally good that three researchers at LiU received this grant in the same call for proposals. ERC starting grants are among the most prestigious one can receive, and they give young researchers an opportunity to advance their careers as independent researchers,” says Josefin Fernius, head of unit at the Grants Office at LiU.

Rebecca Böhme, assistant professor at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences.
Rebecca Böhme.Rebecca Böhme, assistant professor at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences. Photo credit THOR BALKHED “Although everyone experiences grief at some point in their lives, there is very little research on grief and how to support those going through it. Part of my project will examine how the sense of self is affected in times of deep grief,” says Rebecca Böhme.

The first part of her project will examine how we react to the passing of our partner, and changes to how we perceive ourselves and our bodies, for example by investigating whether our feelings of autonomy, being in control of our actions, change. The other part of the project focuses on how psychedelic substances can restore our sense of self when affected by grief. It has already been established that psilocybin, the hallucinogenic substance in ‘magic mushrooms’, can be used to treat depression.

Johannes Bintinger, principal research engineer at the Department of Science and Technology.
Johannes Bintinger.Johannes Bintinger, principal research engineer at the Department of Science and Technology. Photo credit THOR BALKHED Medical drugs are currently usually given in the form of pills or intravenously, which means that the active substance spreads uncontrolled throughout the body and may cause serious side effects. Furthermore, conventional drug delivery methods can typically administer only one drug at a time, with limited control. But by combining so-called click-to-release chemistry with small ion pumps to precisely control the delivery of multiple drugs simultaneously, Johannes Bintinger aims to find new, efficient methods to treat cancer.

“This technology will enable the delivery of the right doses, at the right place, at the right time with electronic precision. I am really happy that the ERC has granted funding to develop the next generation cancer treatments that, in the long term, can hopefully make a real difference to patients,” he says.

It is called click chemistry because the molecules click together like a belt buckle. But the ‘click’ may also release one molecule from another, in this case a medical drug. Since they are released in the right spot at the right time, more potent drugs, that were previously too dangerous to spread throughout the body, can be used.

Florian Trybel, postdoc at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Florian Trybel.Florian Trybel, postdoc at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Photo credit Olov Planthaber Thanks to technology developments in recent years, new functional materials can be created under very high pressure and temperature. The new materials may have sought-after electrical and mechanical properties, and may be used in for instance electronics, hard coating, hydrogen gas storage, as superconductors and much more. But there is a major challenge to realising the potential of these materials, as their properties disappear with falling pressure and temperature.

“My goal is to develop a workflow that, through calculations, can identify the right conditions and starting materials for forming new functional materials that can retain their properties under normal pressure and room temperature,” says Florian Trybel.

Read more at erc.europa.eu

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