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Three Leiden researchers receive ERC Synergy Grant

Leiden researchers Arjen Doelman, Tom Huizinga and Manfred Wuhrer have been awarded ERC Synergy Grants worth millions of euros for their research on preventing tipping points being reached in ecosystems and helping eradicate rheumatism.

Synergy Grants are subsidies for senior researchers who conduct interdiscipliary research. Research proposals have to be new, original and groundbreaking.

From savannah to desert

Leiden Professor of Applied Analysis Arjen Doelman, together with Max Rietkerk (Utrecht University), Ehud Meron (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) and Isla Myers-Smith (University of Edinburgh), has received an ERC Synergy Grant worth ten million euros for the Resilience project. For this project, the researchers will investigate whether and how tipping points are reached in ecosystems, and whether they can be avoided through spatial processes and the formation of spatial patterns. 

Tipping points are situations where damage to ecosystems cross a particular threshold, causing dramatic and irreversible changes to take place. This damage is often the result of climate change due to human activity. On a large scale, tipping points can cause savannahs to flip over into deserts and tundras turn into forests, resulting in even more climate change. Disciplines such as ecology, maths, physics, information science and data science are working together in this research. 

Read more about the research in an interview with Arjen Doelman.

Preventing rheumatoid arthritis

Professor of Rheumatology Tom Huizinga and Professor of Proteomics and Glycomics Manfred Wuhrer from the LUMC will receive ten million euros for their project on GlycanSwitch: Glycans as Master Switches of B Cell Activity in Autoimmunity.  They share the subsidy with Salome Pinho (University of Porto) and Gordan Lauc (Genos and Zahreb University).

The researchers are hoping that their work will eradicate rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammation of joints. They are building further on the discovery that in the years before rheumatism patients experience symptoms, they have saccharified antibodies in their blood. If the factories that make these antibodies are inhibited, rheumatism can in principle be prevented.  

This research is an interdisciplinary collaboration by experts from the field of rheumatism, immunology and the functions of structure and carbohydrate groups. Read more about this project in an interview with Huizinga and Wuhrer.

Banner photo: Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, a savannah. Photo via Unsplash.

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