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Four FSE researchers receive NWO XS grant

19 December 2022

Four researchers of the Faculty of Science and Engineering have received an XS grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The four researchers are Dr. Sonja Billerbeck of the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB), Prof. Filippo Fraternali of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, Dr. Sebastian Lequime of the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES) and Dr. Anika Nagelkerke of the Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy (GRIP). The grant consists of EUR 50,000.

With the XS grants, NWO strives to encourage curiosity-driven and bold research involving a quick analysis of a promising idea. A special aspect is that the applicants themselves assess the other applications.

Dr. Sonja Billerbeck (GBB) | Uncovering the genetic code for new antifungal chemistry

Fungal pathogens pose a threat to human health and food security. Few antifungals are available, and resistance to these is rising. There is an urgent need for new chemically diverse antifungals. Yeasts – such as our common baker’s yeast and related species – have evolved a large set of antifungal molecules to compete against fungi in the environment, still, yeasts have been ignored as a source for antifungal discovery over the last decades. Billerbeck and her team have bio-mined over 125 yeast with antifungal activity and here she wants to identify the biosynthetic pathways encoding these molecules towards discovering new catalysts and chemistries for antifungal design.

Prof. Filippo Fraternali (Kapteyn Institute) | A modern Mercury anomaly as a testbed for dark matter

Most matter in our Universe is not in the form of atoms and electrons: the ordinary matter of which we have direct experience. Instead, it consists of 'dark matter', whose nature is still unknown. Our current dark matter theory explains well the formation of most galaxies in the Universe except for so-called ultra-diffuse galaxies that show an anomalous behaviour. In analogy to the anomaly in Mercury’s orbit that 100 years ago opened the path to Einstein’s General Relativity, this project will explore whether these galaxies may indicate a crack in our current theory and unveil the nature of dark matter.

Dr. Sebastian Lequime (GELIFES) | Can ants be a reservoir of honey bee viruses?

Insect pollinators, especially honey bees, face significant threats and are currently declining worldwide, putting our agriculture and ecosystems at risk. Among the factors behind this decline, viruses play an important role as deadly pathogens for bees. In this project, Lequime will explore if ants, belonging to the same group of insects as bees, could play a role as reservoirs and spreaders of bee viruses in the Netherlands. Understanding the transmission dynamics of these viruses is critical to set up efficient control measures and prevent their spread to new regions.

Dr. Anika Nagelkerke (GRIP) | Cancer-in-a-box: how cell shape affects therapy response in cancer

One of the most striking features of the cells in our bodies is the diversity in their shape and size. It is not surprising that cell morphology remains the basis for diagnosis of certain diseases, cancer being a prime example. Interestingly, cancer cells also change their morphology as the disease progresses and therapy resistance develops. Here, Nagelkerke will explore whether the shape of cancer cells can also influence their response to therapy. She will force cancer cells to adopt a certain shape and assess whether cancer cells of a certain shape are more responsive to therapy than others.

Last modified:19 December 2022 10.53 a.m.
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