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Veni grant for ten Leiden researchers

Ten Leiden researchers have been awarded a Veni grant by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The grant, of up to 280,000 euros, will enable them to elaborate their ideas over a period of three years.

The Veni laureates are going to conduct research into topics such as ice in space, nose levels in the brain and why only a small minority of the people with a specific genetic predisposition to dementia actually develop the disease. The Veni grants are awarded annually by NWO. Due to a hack and the pandemic, NWO had to change its planning for the Veni rounds. Other Veni awards will therefore be announced at a later date.

Read below about the research projects that have already been awarded a Veni grant.

How do we perceive sounds? A comparison between humans, monkeys and birds.

Michelle Spiering,  Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL)

How we perceive sounds is strongly influenced by biases in our brain. For example, we all start hearing a beat in a continuous string of notes that never contained a beat. How did such biases evolve? To answer this question, Spiering will study whether animals have similar biases. Biases that are shared amongst species, are most likely to have strong evolutionary roots.

Read more about Michelle Spiering's research.

Targeting the viral sweet tooth

Zach Armstrong, Leiden Institute of Chemistry (LIC)

Our cells are coated with a thick layer of sugars that viruses bind to infect our cells. When released, viruses modify these sugars so they can proceed to a new target. This research will design and test molecules that stop viruses from modifying sugars, creating a new class of anti-virals.

Geometry of the moduli of twisted K3 surfaces

Emma Brakkee, Mathematical Institute (MI)

Twisted K3 surfaces are two-dimensional objects that are very important in geometry. Their moduli space describes how many twisted K3 surfaces there are and how they relate to each other. Brakkee will use the properties of this moduli space to answer questions about twisted K3 surfaces.

Sulfur ice in space

Ko-Ju Chuang, Leiden Observatory

In the laboratory Chuang will investigate the evolution of interstellar ices to provide a broader picture of how and when the building blocks of life form in space. A special focus is on sulphur-bearing molecules that play an important role in connecting interstellar organics to biologically relevant macromolecules on Earth.

Towards illuminating and modulating chemokine receptor fate

Natalia Ortiz Zacarías, Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR)

Chemokine receptors are relevant target proteins in cancer and many other diseases. A novel strategy to inhibit these receptors is to remove them rather than to block them. This research will shed light on the cellular fate of these receptors and will ultimately lead to a novel therapeutic strategy.

Innocent bystanders or key players?

Vera Kemp, Medicine/LUMC

Oncolytic virus therapy is a promising recent anti-cancer approach, in which viruses destroy cancer cells and leave normal cells unaffected. However, a tumour contains not only cancer cells, but also up to 90% connective tissue, which is mainly formed by cancer-associated fibroblasts. Kemp will study how these fibroblasts influence the effectiveness of oncolytic virus therapy.

Noisy brains, noisy choices?

Anne Urai, Social and Behavioural Science

Brain activity changes as people age, which can lead to cognitive decline. By measuring and comparing brain data from mice and humans, Urai will investigate how the brain’s noise levels change with age and affect choice behaviour.

Anne Urai on her Veni subsidy and open science.

Dementia or not?

Julie Rutten, Geneeskunde/LUMC

Approximately 25 million individuals worldwide have a specific genetic predisposition to strokes and dementia. However, only a minority of these individuals will develop dementia. Rutten will analyse why some individuals develop dementia at a young age, whereas others with the same genetic predisposition remain healthy up to high age.

Rules of engagement

Fiamma Salerno, LUMC

The immune system protects us against infections and cancer. We can boost the function of our immune cells by administering vaccines. Salerno aims to identify key molecular cues in CD4 T-cells that may help optimise vaccination strategies by simultaneously improving formation of cytotoxic CD8 T-cells and antibody-producing B-cells.

Smart microscopes to see the quantum world

Kaveh Lahabi, Leiden Institute of Physics (LION)

What if we could also see electricity, magnetism and temperature, all at the same time? Lahabi will develop a novel microscope to make this possible at the atomic scale, and unveil the hidden quantum phenomena that shape our world.

Veni - NWO Talent Programme

The Veni grant is part of the NWO Talent Scheme, together with the Vidi and Vici grants. The Veni is for researchers who have recently obtained their PhD. Within the Talent Scheme reserachers are free to conduct research of their own choice. This gives innovative and curiosity-driven research a boost. NWO selects researchers on the basis of the researcher’s qualities, the innovative nature of the research, the expected impact of the research proposal and the possibilities for knowledge utilisation. A total of 89 researchers have been awarded a Veni grant.

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