University of Groningen researchers have been awarded five ECHO grants each worth €
260,000 by research funder NWO.
Three went to biomedical research and two to research on sustainability & technology.
The ECHO grants (‘Excellent CHemisch Onderzoek’ – Excellent Chemistry Research) are intended to enable innovative research, which could form the basis of future scientific themes.
Professor Ben Feringa of synthetic organic chemistry was awarded a grant for research on catalysts that can be switched on and off with light. A catalyst speeds up a chemical reaction. Some reactions can result in two types of final product, which are each other’s mirror image. When the final product is a medicine, often one of the two forms is active whereas the other form can cause serious side effects. The catalysts that Feringa wants to investigate can make both forms or one of the forms. You can guide what they make with light pulses.
Professor Sjoerd Harder of molecular inorganic chemistry
is going to study the characteristics of magnesium hydride. This compound is of interest for the storage of hydrogen. Hydrogen, for example when created from water with the help of wind and solar power, could be a green alternative to fossil fuels, as long as it is efficiently and safely stored. Harder wants to find out more about how magnesium absorbs and releases hydrogen by studying tiny molecular clusters of magnesium hydride.
Enzyme on a string
Marco Fraaije (tenure-track professor of biochemistry and molecular biology) is working with colleagues from the UMCG on a way to link enzymes to an electrode. Via the electrode, it should be possible to turn the enzyme on and off. His particular interest is in enzymes that break down drugs in the body. The breakdown products can be useful, but also damaging. The system with the electrode should make it possible to study the breakdown products in detail.
Siewert-Jan Marrink, professor of molecular dynamics wants to improve the simulation programmes used to calculate the interaction between atoms. He is interested in the way proteins and biological membranes (which consist of fats) react to each other. Simulations at the moment are usually fast or detailed, not both. The ECHO project should result in simulations that are very detailed where necessary.
Reaction vessels in the cell
Professor Ida van der Klei of molecular cell biology is going to study the creation of peroxisomes. Peroxisomes are a kind of reaction vessel in a cell, and one of their tasks is to make poisonous waste unharmful. Peroxisomes that do not work well can lead to disease and early death in some people. More knowledge about the way that peroxisomes are created from ‘endoplasmatic reticulum’ could help to better understand these types of disease.
In total, NOW Chemical Sciences awarded € 8.5 million
in grants, divided over 27 projects
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