The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) researchers Vivek Malhotra and Thomas Surrey are part of two international consortia that have received an ERC Synergy Grant, worth 10 million euros each. This year the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, has given away 34 such grants, out of 440 submissions. Both researchers are going to embark in projects that re-create core cell biology processes in vitro in order to fully understand them.
Malhotra will join a project coordinated by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) with participation from University College London and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. They will test their hypothesis that the ER/Golgi system is fundamentally a liquid with a phase‐separated internal organization – rather than being membrane compartments that reproduce from pre-existing one, as has been the believe for 50 years. The scientists plan to synthesise the ER/Golgi system from pure proteins that have the properties to form liquid condensates in vitro and in intact cells.
“If we confirm our hypothesis, it will literally rewrite the history of cell biology”
Vivek Malhotra – ICREA Research Professor, CRG
Surrey will form part of another research group coordinated by the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund with participation from the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. They will try to re-engineer in vitro and model in silico one of the most fundamental processes in life – cell division.
“Just like engineers do, we aim to understand how the cell divides by putting back together the engine of division from its individual parts”
Thomas Surrey – CRG
The Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) will be coordinating the 5-year project Improving Cognition in Down Syndrome (ICOD), which will receive 6 milion euros and was one of 75 projects selected during the last year of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. The project, led by Rafael de la Torre and with collaboration frrom six institutions from Spain, France and Italy, will trial a new therapy to treat cognitive deficits in Down Syndrome sufferers. This treatment comprises a new pharmacological class, never before tested on humans, involving the specific signalling inhibitors of the cannabinoid1 receptor (CB1-SSi).