ERC Starting Grant for Neva Caliskan

HIRI junior professor to receive million-Euro funding from the European Research Council for her cutting-edge project "T-FRAME".

The European Research Council (ERC) is awarding the renowned funding, of up to 1.5 million euros over a period of five years, to Neva Caliskan.

The ERC Starting Grants are specifically designed to enable young scientists to advance their careers as independent top-researchers. Across all disciplines, the ERC awards a total of 436 Starting Grants in 2020, with a total funding amount of 677 million Euros. Approximately 13 percent of the applications across Europe were successful.

Role of altered reading patterns of genetic material in infections

Neva Caliskan heads the research group "Recoding mechanisms in infections" at the HIRI in Würzburg, a site of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), and holds a junior professorship at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg. With her project "T-FRAME", now funded by the ERC, she is investigating the relevance of so-called frameshifting in eukaryotic cells during infections. The segments of many genes in genetic material, that carry the code for certain proteins, also contain sequence elements that can hinder the production of proteins. However, these obstacles do not only cause problems, but also hold opportunities for the cell to increase the coding capacity of genetic material by using an “alternative reading grid” also known as programmed ribosome frameshifting. Frameshifting has been extensively researched in viruses and bacteria, but is poorly understood in humans. "I and my team would like to use the newly approved ERC Starting Grant to investigate the basic principles of translational frameshifting in humans, especially in response to infections," says Caliskan. "A better understanding of the effects on infections and innate immunity will in the long run provide us with new tools for synthetic biology and new opportunities for RNA-centric antiviral and immunotherapies.

"I am extremely pleased with the great success in raising the ERC Starting Grants and would like to congratulate the award winners," says Prof. Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HIRI mother centre HZI. "The results speak for the excellent quality and social relevance of the submitted research projects, which can now be carried out in the best possible way with these grants.”

ERC Starting Grants:

ERC Starting Grants are funding instruments of the European Research Council to support young scientists and researchers in their efforts to become independent and self-employed top researchers. At the time of application, a maximum of seven years may have passed since the candidate has obtained their doctoral degree. The only explicit evaluation criterion is the scientific excellence of the researchers and the proposed project. The successful projects are funded for up to five years with a total amount of up to 1.5 million euros. For further information: https://erc.europa.eu/funding/starting-grants

The ERC:

The European Research Council, established by the European Union in 2007, is the first European funding organization for excellent cutting-edge research. Each year it selects and funds the best and most creative researchers of any nationality and age to carry out projects based in Europe. The ERC offers four core-funding programs: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept Grant Program, the ERC helps grant holders to bridge the gap between their frontier research and the early stages of commercialization. For further information: https://erc.europa.eu/