Four Oxford researchers awarded €2.5 million European Research Council Advanced Grants
Four University of Oxford researchers have been awarded European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants of €2.5 million each over five years to explore their most innovative and ambitious ideas. These grants recognise ground-breaking projects led by researchers with a track record of significant research achievements.
The ERC is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research, and the ERC Advanced Grants are amongst the most prestigious and competitive EU funding schemes. They provide researchers with the opportunity to pursue ambitious, curiosity-driven projects that could lead to major scientific breakthroughs. This latest call for proposals attracted nearly 1,650 applications, which had an overall success rate of 13.2%. Female researchers accounted for 23% of all applications, their highest participation rate in Advanced Grant calls up to now.
Maria Leptin, ERC President, said: ‘These new ERC Advanced Grantees are a testament to the outstanding quality of research carried out across Europe. I am especially pleased to see such a high number of female researchers in this competition and that they are increasingly successful in securing funding. We look forward to seeing the results of the new projects in the years to come, with many likely to lead to breakthroughs and new advances.’
Understanding evolutionary drivers of antibiotic resistance and predator influence on ecosystems
Two of the Grants have been awarded to researchers in the University of Oxford’s Department of Biology: Professor Craig MacLean and Professor Tim Coulson.
Professor MacLean said: ‘Antibiotic resistance has emerged as a fundamental threat to human health and responding to this crisis is a global scientific challenge. The project will involve a novel combination of clinical sampling, experimental evolution, and genomic analyses, generating unprecedented insights into the drivers of resistance during infection. This work will combat a knowledge gap and optimise interventions for combatting resistance, ultimately benefitting patients.’
Professor Coulson said: ‘Differing levels of predation pressure can cause striking patterns of ecological and evolutionary change such as rapid development of unique life histories and phenotypic traits. Research undertaken as part of this grant will consolidate evidence from different systems and timescales and inform understanding of predation regime change more widely. In turn, it is hoped that this information will give a better picture of what might happen if predators are removed or added to various ecosystems, helping to inform conservation or land management policies.’
New insights into disease progression
Professor Robinson said: ‘I am delighted to receive this award. It will allow us to explore unchartered territory with approaches that I have spent my whole career developing. I am grateful to all of my team members – their ideas and willingness to push boundaries have allowed us to propose entirely new directions. I look forward to working with them, as well as our new collaborators at the Oxford Cancer Centre, to achieve our goals.’
Investigating fundamental principles of gene regulation
Professor Neil Brockdorff said ‘The award of an ERC Advanced Grant represents an exciting opportunity to both advance our long-standing investigation of the mechanism of action of the ictRNA Xist, and to uncover the general principles underpinning the evolution of this unusual family of molecules, all of which have key roles in chromosome regulation during animal development. We are especially excited to exploit and further develop Micron Oxford, the world leading advanced microscopy network established in the Department of Biochemistry and across the Oxford Biosciences community.’
More information about the ERC Advanced Grants can be found on the ERC website.
The holding of ERC awards by researchers based at UK institutions is subject to formalisation of the UK’s association to Horizon Europe, which remains the stated priority for the UK Government, in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed between the UK and the EU in December 2020. In the event that association is not confirmed by the final date for signature of grant agreements then the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee will apply, with UK awardees receiving equivalent funding via UKRI.