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News categories: Honors & Funding

ERC Proof of Concept Grants for UNBIAS

European Research Council is supporting the journey from basic research to application

Prof. Bernardo Franklin from the Institute of Innate Immunity at the University Hospital Bonn has been awarded a Proof of Concept Grant by the European Research Council (ERC) as part of a program designed to help researchers translate their ideas from previous ERC projects into commercial applications. The project is awarded with a funding of €150,000, provided over a period of around one year.

ImmunoSensation2 member Prof. Dr. Bernardo S. Franklin studies hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which develop into different blood cells through processes of cell division and differentiation. “Bouts of inflammation that a person experiences as they get older will damage these stem cells,“ Bernardo S. Franklin says. “Processes like this cause hyperactivation of the innate immune system in the elderly.” This phenomenon, known as “inflammaging,” increases the risk of conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, he adds.

“Wiping” the immune system’s harmful memories of inflammation

The project that has now secured ERC funding, which is entitled “Nanobodies to prevent hematopoietic stem cell bias and hyper-inflammation” (UNBIAS), aims to return HSCs to their original state in order to “wipe” the immune system’s harmful memories of inflammation. The researchers are using customized “mini-antibodies” known as nanobodies to achieve this. These antibodies, which are very small in relative terms, are taken from the blood of alpacas and can break up the places where inflammation develops.

Back in 2017, Franklin received a much-sought-after Starting Grant from the ERC worth some €1.5 million in funding. The Proof of Concept Grant will now build on this work already done. “Our aim is to validate the use of nanobodies to combat inflammaging and license this technology or its applications for industrial partners,” Franklin says. He believes that the project has the potential to alleviate the effects of inflammation and thus potentially save countless lives and the economic cost of illness.


Prof. Dr. Bernardo S. Franklin

Institute for Innate Immunity

University Hospital Bonn

Phone +49 228 28751981


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