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Six Leiden researchers receive ERC Starting Grant

Six researchers from Leiden University have received an ERC starting grant. This grant of on average 1.5m euros will enable the researchers to launch their own project, form their own research team and develop their best ideas.

In total the European Research Council (ERC) has awarded 636m euros in grants. Forty researchers in the Netherlands have received a Starting Grant. The Leiden laureates are:

Meta Roestenberg (LUMC, Parasitology)

Hundreds of millions of lives are afflicted globally by parasitic diseases such as malaria, particularly in poverty-stricken regions. Vaccines can help alleviate such diseases and their economic impact. But almost no anti-parasitic vaccines are currently licensed for human use. Professor of Human Models for Vaccine Development Roestenberg will use the grant to facilitate the development of vaccines against human parasitic disease.

Konda Babu Kurakula (LUMC, Cell and Chemical Biology)

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a rare, progressive disease that mainly affects women. It causes damage to the blood vessels and high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and thus affects the lungs and heart. The available therapies that dilate the blood vessels offer no cure or even substantial survival benefit to PH patients. Kurakula will use the 1.5m euros to research the molecular mechanisms that cause pulmonary hypertension in women.

Berthe Jansen (Humanities, Institute for Area Studies)

This project focuses on a collection at Leiden University Library. Johan van Manen collected these works from Tibet and the Himalayas in the first half of the 20th century. After his death in 1943 much of his personal collection passed to the University and the rest went to Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden.  The texts and artifacts reflect Van Manen’s interest in the religion and lives of Himalayan people. The aim of the project is to study this collection as a whole.

Jan Vonk (Mathematics & Physics, Mathematical Institute)

Vonk will use his grant to conduct fundamental mathematical research on general singular moduli. This is quite an abstract concept that predicts a sort of bridge between different mathematical disciplines like geometry and numbers theory. Such a collaboration can often lead to surprising new insights. Vonk wants this project to contribute to the search for singular moduli, a search that has brought us many powerful insights over the centuries.

Eduard Fosch-Villaronga (Law, Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law)

Fosch-Villaronga has received the grant for his SAFEandSOUND project in which he wants to make healthcare robots safe and sound for society. There is an increasing gap between the speed of the policy cycle’s speed and that of technological change, and this is particularly noticeable in healthcare robotics. SAFEandSOUND aims to connect the policy cycle with data generated in robot testing zones to support evidence-based policymaking for robot technologies.

Fenneke Sysling (Humanities, Institute for History)

The project of Fenneke Sysling is a comparative study of human subject research in colonial Southeast Asia in the period 1890-1962. While the most (in)famous instances of medical scientists conducting unethical experiments on human beings took place in Nazi Germany and the United States, advances in medicine more broadly relied on research on non-consenting human subjects – often in colonial contexts. Doctors in the Dutch, British and American colonies in Southeast Asia too did medical experiments that discounted the well-being of their research subjects but the region also has some of the earliest examples of informed consent. This project will be the first to study these practices.

Banner photo: Johan van Manen Collection

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