A double dose of ERC success for IBEC researchers

  • A researcher at IBEC has become one of very few scientists to be awarded back-to-back grants by the European Research Council
  • Xavier Trepat is one of just 8 researchers in Spain (114 in total) to receive the new Consolidator grant, which received more than 1200 applications from all over Europe
  • The highly-competitive ERC grants are considered Europe’s most prestigious research awards
  • The funded projects will shed light on the processes underlying human tissue growth and regeneration, and develop an improved method of protein quantification for countless applications in life science research

Xavier Trepat’s project “TensionControl: Multiscale regulation of epithelial tension” will receive €1.98m over five years under the ERC’s new Consolidator Grant scheme, which issued its first call in 2013 and constitutes a third core funding arm of the independent funding body, alongside their Starting and Advanced grants. The highly-competitive ERC grants are considered Europe’s most prestigious research awards.

Xavier’s project aims to provide a multiscale understanding of tension regulation in epithelial cell monolayers, to achieve more knowledge of the interplay between chemical and physical cues in the growth and remodelling of living tissues. “Among these cues, mechanical tension is emerging as a central regulator of cell fate and function,” says Xavier, who is also an ICREA research professor. “We’re going to look at two competing, multiscale mechanisms for regulation of mechanical tension – fluidization vs. reinforcement, and cell division vs. apoptosis – and study how local processes and interactions give rise to global patterns of tension.”

To do this, the researchers will develop an integrated experimental setup to map and perturb monolayer tension at different length scales, using techniques such as monolayer stress microscopy (MSM), which they invented in 2011 in collaboration with researchers from Harvard. They hope that this will reveal the full repertoire of mechanisms that epithelial tissues use to regulate tension and dynamics, and therefore shed light on the processes underlying tissue growth and regeneration.

Xavier’s group is also in line to receive up to €149k from the ERC for their project “Micro Gradient Polyacrylamide Gels for High Throughput Electrophoresis Analysis (MICROGRADIENTPAGE)” under the Proof of Concept 2013 funding scheme. This project proposes an improved method for the preparation of miniaturized electrophoresis gels, which are widely used in the life sciences. Their new technology, if it becomes a standard tool for high-throughput quantification of proteins, could generate sizeable revenue from the pharmaceutical, clinical, basic research and personalized medicine markets.

“This project is the result of a team effort by Raimon Sunyer and Xavier
Serra from in my group, as well as IBEC’s support services,” says Xavier, who already has an ERC Starting Grant, making him one of very few researchers in Europe to have received back-to-back grants from the prestigious independent funding body.

>> IBEC in the Media: