BIST Community researchers awarded ERC Consolidator Grants

Dr. Elvan Böke (CRG) and Dr. Fran Supek (IRB Barcelona) have been awarded European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grants for 2022, worth €2 Million each.

ERC 2022 Consolidator Grant recipients from the BIST Community. Left: Dr. Elvan Böke (CRG), Right: Dr. Fran Supek (IRB Barcelona).

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced the recipients of its Consolidator grants for 2022, which have gone to 321 researchers across Europe. Spain has been awarded 24 grants of the total and ranks third among the EU countries in the number received. Of these 24, 10 have been given to centres in Catalonia.

Exploring how human egg cells remain healthy for decades

Human egg cells have the ability to survive for up to 50 years in the ovaries without losing the ability to fuse with sperm and give rise to new generations. However, the molecular mechanisms that underpins how the cells maintain pristine conditions for this period of time remain unknown.

Our limited understanding of how human egg cells work means that around one in four female fertility problems are unexplained. Understanding the intricate cellular machinery that underlies the function of human egg cells can shed light on what happens when things go wrong and eventually fail with advanced age.

Dr. Elvan Böke heads the Oocyte Biology & Cellular Dormancy group at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), which is working on identifying these cellular mechanisms and unravelling the mysteries of human egg cells. The research group recently showed in the journal Nature that the cells use alternative metabolic pathways to generate energy never before seen in other animal cell types. The group will advance their research with the help of the ERC Consolidator Grant.

Studying cancer and aging-related DNA structural changes

Dr. Fran Supek, ICREA researcher and head of the Genome Data Science lab at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), has been awarded the ERC Consolidator Grant to carry out project STRUCTOMATIC over the next five years. Dr. Supek’s project will focus on studying structural variants, an impactful mutation type involving the modification of large DNA regions, which can change the regulation of multiple genes at once. Structural variants, also called rearrangements, cause cancer and certain other genetic diseases and might play roles in ageing.

In particular, structural variants participate in the progression of late-stage cancers, such as metastatic ones. The researchers led by Dr. Supek will focus on studying the role of these variants in different types of cancer, including lung, prostate, head and neck, ovarian, oesophagus, and triple-negative breast cancers, as well as sarcoma.

This grant is an outstanding opportunity to increase our understanding of this very common and yet poorly studied type of mutation and how it relates to cancer evolution,” says Dr. Supek. “The support of the ERC makes a true difference in the consolidation of laboratories like ours, allowing us to focus on ambitious, exciting scientific questions and to perform at our best. The rigorous evaluation of project applications means the ERC is a benchmark for promoting excellence in science,” he adds. This year, 14.4% of the ERC Consolidator applications received funding from the Council.

Learn more:
CRG newspiece
IRB Barcelona newspiece
ERC Starting Grants 2022 full list of winners