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Five ERC Starting Grants for young researchers from Leiden

The ERC has awarded a Starting Grant to five promising researchers from Leiden. Two are from the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, one is from the Faculty of Humanities/Governance and Global Affairs, one from the LUMC and one from the Faculty of Science.

An ERC Starting Grant of up to 1.5 m euros will enable the young researchers to further explore their subject matter. The five laureates are:

Alanna O'Malley

Alanna O'Malley, Institute for History/Security and Global Affairs

Rewriting the history of the UN
Of the 193 member states of the United Nations (UN), over half belong to the grouping known as the Global South (also called the Developing World or Third World). Since its creation in 1945, Global South actors have sought to redefine political dynamics and change normative practices through the UN. Yet, histories of the organization are predominantly from the Western perspective. Alanna O’Malley wants to reveal how actors from the Global South contributed to the development of the UN between 1945 and 1981. Her project has three closely related objectives: 1. To examine how actors from the Global South changed the UN by developing its functions in the areas of decolonization, economic development and human rights; 2. To trace the ways in which Global South actors challenged the liberal world order as they pursued these rights; 3. To analyse why Global South agency at the UN led to the promotion of some issues and actors and excluded others and ask what the consequences were for order within the Global South.

The research will elucidate histories of the ordering role of institutions at a moment when global governance is in crisis and the liberal world order appears to be fragmenting. Its primary impact will be in decolonizing the historiography by highlighting the historical agency of Global South actors, and transposing the importance of the organization in the longer history of the latter half of the twentieth century to provide a truly global history of the UN.

Annemarie Samuels

Annemarie Samuels, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology

Palliative care: a global comparison
In the last few decades, palliative care has become widely associated with a good death in high-income countries. At present, there are increased calls from international health organisations to make this originally UK-based form of end-of-life care globally available. Anthropologist Annemarie Samuels will study how palliative care policies, discourses and practices are translated and reconstituted in diverse socio-cultural settings. How do existing notions of end-of-life care and a good death impact this process of professionalisation of care at the end of life? Which models of care are emerging under the header of Global Palliative Care? What kind of ethical, economic, and social issues arise from this process? This comparative ethnographic study includes case studies in three countries with emerging palliative care services: Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Matthew Di Giuseppe

Matthew Di Giuseppe, Institute of Political Science

What determines whether governments reduce their debt?
The global economy is increasingly vulnerable to future debt crises. At some point in the near future, many governments will have to legislate debt reduction or risk a government debt crisis. What will determine which governments can successfully reduce their debts? Matthew Di Giuseppe proposes that in order to understand why politicians fail or succeed to restrain and reduce government spending, we first need to understand what voters are thinking (or not thinking) about government debt. From an understanding of the psychological and material foundations of citizen preferences for long-term policy investments, the project then explores how these preferences interact with political institutions to produce policies that exacerbate or mitigate debt crises and influence the preferences of bond traders

Roxanne Kieltyka

Roxanne Kieltyka, Institute of Chemistry

Developing chemical strategies to modulate the mechanical properties of supramolecular materials
Supramolecular biomaterials show great promise to mimic the structural and biological features of the natural extracellular matrix due to their inherent dynamic character that provides opportunities for modular design and responsiveness to physiological signals. However, these materials are often mechanically weak and brittle, which prevents them from recapitulating stiff and tough adult tissues. Kieltyka will develop new chemical strategies to modulate the mechanical properties of supramolecular materials spatiotemporally and introduce actuation for their use in the differentiation and maturation of cardiomyocytes from induced pluripotent stem cells, ultimately yielding a bioprinted miniature heart ventricle. This platform will unravel the effects of active and passive mechanical cues on cell fate, opening the door to their application in the modelling of complex tissues and diseases or cell therapy.

Noel de Miranda - LUMC, Pathologie

Making immunotherapy suitable for more cancer patients
In immunotherapy, the immune system is used to fight cancer cells. It has revolutionised cancer treatment, but despite this success, under 15% of cancer patients ultimately benefit from it. The goal of De Miranda, who heads the Immunogenomics group at the Department of Pathology at the LUMC, is to develop new forms of immunotherapy and to make existing ones suitable for more patients.

One of the goals of his ERC project is to find out in detail what the immune cells that recognise cancer cells look like. He then hopes to isolate them and using them in treatments. The group will also develop new immunotherapies that target an unexplored portion of genetic material in cancer cells. He also wants to discover new types of immune cell that may help fight cancer.

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