University of Dundee

SCILLS Scientist receives 1.4 million euros from ERC

13 Oct 2009

SCILLS Scientist receives 1.4 million euros from the European Research Council

A scientist at the Scottish Institute for ceLL Signaling (SCILLS) at the College of Life Sciences in Dundee has been awarded a 1.4 million euro grant from the European Research Council to support an innovative research programme that could lead to the development of a novel class of drugs to treat cancer.

Dr Thimo Kurz, a Programme Leader within SCILLS at CLS, has received the Starting Grant from the ERC for his research on types of protein modification in human cells.

Human cells contain thousands of proteins that perform a myriad of essential tasks, all of which must be tightly regulated to ensure that they function properly. One mode of regulation is the attachment of two small proteins, Ubiquitin and Nedd8, to larger proteins, in processes termed “ubiquitylation” and “neddylation”, respectively. These modifications can switch the function of a protein on or off, trigger its relocation to a different position within the cell, or even initiate its destruction. Defects in this system cause many diseases, including cancer.

“These grants are highly competitive and it is a great honour to be selected for this award, so I am very pleased that the ERC decided to fund my laboratory,” said Dr Kurz. “I am confident that our work will advance the understanding of how Ubiquitylation and Neddylation regulate cellular function. While we are carrying out fundamental research to understand these processes, our work may eventually lead to the development of new treatments against cancer.”

The grant will fund Dr Kurz’s research for the next five years and will enable the recruitment of three staff and the purchase of specialised laboratory equipment.

Sir Philip Cohen, the Director of SCILLS said, “I am really thrilled that Thimo has received this grant, as he was one of only ten young life scientists in Europe to be awarded a Starting Grant out of several hundred who applied in the field of biochemistry.  The award demonstrates the calibre of the Programme Leaders that we are recruiting to SCILLS. Although SCILLS was only founded 12 months ago it is remarkable that it has already received £2.2 million in external research funding.”