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NWO grants awarded to six University of Groningen researchers

08 May 2014

Six researchers from the University of Groningen have been awarded substantial grants by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Two of them will receive TOP grants worth € 780,000. Only five of these TOP grants have been awarded nationwide.

Prof. Siewert Jan Marrink has acquired a TOP grant (€ 780,000) for research into Computational microscopy of cellular membranes.

To see inside a biological cell with atomic resolution, scientists need virtual microscopy. A virtual microscope, a computer cluster capable of simultaneous multiscale simulations, enables researchers to understand the finer details of cellular processes.

Prof. Adriaan Minnaard has also received a TOP grant (€ 780,000) for his research theme of Palladium catalysis enabling chemical biology.

The selective modification of large biomolecules such as carbohydrates and proteins is a huge challenge in organic chemistry, which requires new palladium-based catalysts to be developed. Selective oxidation and further modification of existing aminoglycoside and glycopeptide antibiotics should enable researchers to sidestep the existing bacterial resistance mechanisms. In addition, a chemical method for protein phosphorylation and sulfation will be developed.

Prof. Egbert Boekema has received an ECHO grant (€ 260,000) to pay for a postdoc appointment for 3 years. The subject is: a large photosystem I supercomplex active in cyclic electron transport.

This research focuses on biological supercomplexes, large protein systems accommodating enzymes that function as such. The idea is that supercomplexation is important to aspects such as regulation. Photosynthesis is of global importance. The photosystem 1 and 2 and cytochrome b6f protein complexes are responsible for the first steps in the conversion of sunlight to energy. Boekema wants to use electron microscopy to examine how a supercomplex of photosystem 1-cytochrome b6f works in plants and how it functions efficiently in membranes.

Prof. Syuzanna Harutyunyan also receives an ECHO grant (€ 260,000) for her research into catalytic asymmetric methods for the synthesis of diaryl alcohols, diarylamines and amino esters with quaternary stereocenters.

Hydrophobic diaryl methyl alcohols and diarylmethylamines are in great demand in the pharmaceutical industry on account of their use as inhibitors of a wide range of targets. The catalytic systems to be developed in this project should result in new methods for synthesizing the small, enantiopure molecules relevant for industrial synthesis and the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr Anna Hirsch and Prof. Lubbert Dijkhuizen have been jointly awarded an ECHO-STIP grant (€ 260,000) for their research into selective small-molecule inhibitors of glucansucrases as chemical probes and potential toothpaste additives.

Cavities are caused by bacteria producing acids that dissolve the tooth enamel. They attach themselves to the tooth surface via a polysaccharide layer. Hirsch and Dijkhuizen are going to develop new molecules that prevent these polysaccharide layers from forming. Adding these molecules to toothpaste could be an effective way of preventing cavities.

Last modified:15 January 2018 10.48 a.m.
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