The EU is putting up millions in funding for immunology, mathematical life sciences and pure mathematics projects
Another big success for the University of Bonn in securing grants from the European Research Council (ERC), with three researchers receiving an ERC Consolidator Grant. Two of those grants go to ImmunoSensation2 researchers: Professor Jan Hasenauer of the LIMES Institute and Professor Florian I. Schmidt of the Institute for Innate Immunity.
Using simulation technology in oncology
Every tumor is unique and its response to therapies is determined by innumerable changes within cells and their interactions. “Therapies tailored to specific mutations of a tumor can effectively extend, and in
some cases even save, the lives of cancer patients,” reports Professor Jan Hasenauer of the Life and Medical Sciences Institute (LIMES) at the University of Bonn. Newly emerging immunotherapy approaches in particular hold tremendous potential. Until now, decisions as to which therapy to pursue for a given individual have been made on the basis of simple statistical models, but these do not allow for a reliable prediction of therapeutic success.
Professor Hasenauer is therefore working to develop simulation models for predicting tumor treatments in his project “INTEGRATE”, which has received roughly 1.9 million euros in funding. The project concentrates on breast, stomach and kidney cancers—which account for approximately 30% of cancer cases in Europe. To improve the prediction accuracy, Professor Hasenauer will use machine learning to render more data available for training the simulation models. These data sets will come from clinical practice, clinical studies and projects like The Cancer Genome Atlas. “My vision is to create digital twins of the cancer patients in order to achieve better treatment outcomes,” he explains.
Professor Hasenauer studied Technical Cybernetics at the University of Stuttgart, where he earned a doctorate in engineering. After working at Helmholtz Munich and the Technical University of Munich, he became Professor of Mathematics and Life Sciences at the University of Bonn in 2017. In 2022 he then assumed a preeminent Schlegel professorship, created as part of the Excellence Initiative. Professor Hasenauer is a member of the Transdisciplinary Research Areas Modelling and Life and Health, and of the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics and ImmunoSensation2 Clusters of Excellence.
When pathogens invade the human body, the immune system responds with inflammation to fight them off. Autoinflammatory diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, however, are characterized by the immune system turning against the body itself, triggering inflammation without any apparent reason, which causes pain and long-term damage. “To treat such diseases, we need to understand how the body halts or prevents inflammation on its own accord,” says Professor Florian Schmidt of the Institute of Innate Immunity at the Universityof Bonn and University Hospital Bonn.
Professor Schmidt will investigate the foundations of the immune system in his project DEFLAMMATION, which is funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant with around 2 million euros. “My hypothesis is that complex signaling networks interpret information which can prevent or regulate the inflammation response,” he elaborates. Understanding these elusive processes requires new cell biology tools, which Schmidt intendsto develop and utilize in the project. A member of the Transdisciplinary Research Area Life & Health and of the ImmunoSensation2 Cluster of Excellence, Professor Schmidt commented that“The ERC Grant funding will allow me to explore an entirely new field of research and develop new methods that will have relevance in many other areas.”
Florian I. Schmidt studied Biochemistry at the Technical University of Munich before completing a PhD in Virology at ETH Zurich. He worked as a postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and came back to Germany as an Emmy Noether Group Leader at the University of Bonn. In 2022, he was appointed as a professor at the Institute of Innate Immunity.
ERC Consolidator Grants
The European Research Council (ERC) awards ERC Consolidator Grants annually to fund projects of outstanding early-career researchers whose high-level scientific work is on par with international peers. The Grantfunding is provided to enable building solid, independent research teams. For more information visit https://erc.europa.eu/apply-grant/consolidator-grant
Full press release at the University of Bonn: https://www.uni-bonn.de/en/news/220-2023