ERC Starting Grant

Prestigious European grant for two young Erasmus MC scientists

Molecular radiation biologist Dr. Julie Nonnekens and developmental psychologist Dr. Charlotte Cecil have both been granted a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). With the prestigious grant the young scientists of Erasmus MC can expand their research projects.

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Nonnekens gets the ERC Starting Grant for her research on targeted radionuclide therapy for cancer. She is an assistant professor in the departments of Molecular Genetics and Radiology & Nuclear Medicine.

Radionuclide therapy uses radioactive substances to deliver targeted radiation to tumor cells. It is a promising therapy for metastatic cancer. Nonnekens will use the ERC Starting Grant to map out the underlying radiation biology and corresponding dose calculations of radionuclide therapy in more detail. This fundamental knowledge is needed to enhance therapy strategies and refine administration regimens.

Julie Nonnekens | Photo by Frank van der Panne

Dream come true

For Nonnekens, being awarded the grant is ‘a dream come true’. She says: ‘This ERC grant gives me the opportunity to further expand my team so we can gain knowledge in this relatively new field of research. I am very curious about all the mechanistic discoveries we will do and how we can start using it to make an impact for patients as soon as possible.’

Charlotte Cecil

Cecil was granted the ERC Starting Grant for her research on the role of epigenetics in children’s mental health. She is an assistant professor in the Departments of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Epidemiology.

Epigenetics is a biological mechanism that modifies the function of a gene without changing the genetic code itself. You can think of epigenetic changes as on and off switches of genes.

Charlotte Cecil

Cecil’s project builds on the discovery that epigenetic patterns measured in blood at birth are associated with the emerge of mental health problems in children. Curiously, the link between the same epigenetic patterns and mental problems disappears later in development.

Cecil sets out to solve the puzzle of this mysterious discovery. She says: ‘The ERC Starting Grant will equip me with the necessary resources, team and infrastructure to develop my own ambitious, interdisciplinary research program and pursue what I believe to be one of the most exciting and potentially ground-breaking new discoveries in the field of psychiatric epigenetics. By solving the ‘time puzzle’ of epigenetic effects on mental health, we may be able to open the door to new ways of detecting psychiatric risk earlier and better, before symptoms emerge, and to probe the developmental origins of mental health problems.’

ERC Starting Grant

ERC Starting Grants are awarded annually to promising scientists who are at the beginning of their careers. The grant consisting of at least 1.5 million euros gives them the opportunity to launch their own projects, form teams and pursue their best ideas. This year, the European Research Council is investing 619 million euros in 397 researchers.

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