Koen Raemdonck is awarded ERC Consolidator Grant

(09-12-2020) Koen Raemdonck, researcher at Ghent University, wins ERC Consolidator Grant for his project 'RESPIRNA'.

The European Research Council (ERC) today announced the winners of its latest Consolidator Grant competition for mid-career researchers. The funding is part of the EU’s current research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, and worth in total €655 million. With this support, the new grantees will be able to consolidate their teams and have far-reaching impact.

The ERC received 2506 Consolidator Grant research proposals in 2020, from which approximately 13% will be funded overall. This new round of grants should create over 2000 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff working in the grantees' research team.

One of the grantees is Ghent University researcher Koen Raemdonck. 

RESPIRNA

Koen Raemdonck wins the Consolidator Grant for his project 'RESPIRNA' (REpurposing lung Surfactant Protein B for Inhalation therapy with RNA therapeutics), in which he aims to evaluate the repurposing of pulmonary surfactant for inhalation of RNA therapeutics.

Respiratory diseases are a global leading cause of morbidity and mortality. For many of these pathologies an unmet medical need exists, which could be addressed through the inhalation of RNA therapeutics. However, despite clear benefits for RNA inhalation therapy, currently no formulations are available to provide both safe and efficient RNA delivery in lung-related target cells.

The team of Prof. Raemdonck recently discovered that pulmonary surfactant, a biomaterial essential for breathing, can promote cellular RNA delivery. This novel finding has led to the conception of the multidisciplinary RESPIRNA project. The overarching aim of RESPIRNA is to gain fundamental insight into the cellular mode of action of this naturally occurring material to fuel the rational design of innovative bio-inspired nanomedicines for RNA inhalation therapy. Effective nanocarriers will be applied for therapeutic RNA delivery in relevant models of obstructive lung disease.

More about this year's Consolidator grants

Women applicants gain ground

37% of grants were awarded to female researchers, the highest proportion since the start of the Consolidator grant scheme. Overall, the success rate for women was 14.5% and for men 12.6%. There were also changes in success rates for two of the three domains into which projects are divided for evaluation purposes. In the Physical Sciences and Engineering domain the success rate of women exceeded that of men: it was 16.9% for women and 12% for men. In Life Sciences domain women won 15% and men won 12.9% of the grants.

Research projects in 23 countries

The grantees will carry out their projects at universities, research centres and companies in 23 different countries across Europe, with Germany (50 grants), the United Kingdom (50), France (34) and the Netherlands (29) as leading locations. For the first time, a project based in the Ukraine, a Horizon 2020 “Associated” country, will also be funded by a Consolidator Grant. The research projects proposed by the new grantees cover a wide range of topics in physical sciences and engineering, life sciences, as well as social sciences and humanities.

ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, commented: “This funding not only empowers bright minds from across Europe to pursue their most ambitious ideas at a critical stage of their careers, but also helps train the youngest generation of researchers as members of their ERC teams. To prepare for the challenges of tomorrow, Europe must stick to the vision of investing in frontier research, which has proved time and again its crucial added value. That is why so many count on Europe’s leaders to endow the “Excellent Science” pillar of Horizon Europe with the resources essential to strengthen Europe as a whole.”

Consolidator Grants

The ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to outstanding researchers of any nationality and age, with at least seven and up to twelve years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise. Research must be conducted in a public or private research organisation located in one of the EU Member States or “Associated” Countries. The funding - up to €2 million per grant, plus in some cases an additional €1 million for start-up costs - is provided for up to five years and mostly covers the employment of researchers and other staff to consolidate the grantees' teams.

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