Universiteit Leiden

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Grants to build large-scale research facilities

Five projects with researchers from Leiden University have received a grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to build or upgrade existing research facilities. They will work on, among others, the largest telescope in the world, organ and disease models based on human stem cells.

The projects are part of the National Roadmap for Large-Scale Research Infrastructure. Nine projects will receive 140 million euros to set up or improve large-scale research infrastructure. The Dutch research landscape set its priorities for investment in large-scale research infrastructure over the next ten years in the National Roadmap.

‘If you provide the right infrastructure, you can bring together parties that would not normally collaborate with one another,’ said NWO chairman Marcel Levi. ‘This makes research infrastructure a breeding ground for new developments and a key to innovation and resolving major societal issues.’

Leiden University is the main applicant for two projects that have been awarded a grant.

Largest telescope in the world

The Extremely Large Telescope will be the largest telescope in the world and will provide new insights into the Earth’s place as a living planet in the universe. The Dutch NL-ELT Consortium has been awarded a grant to develop instrumentation for the telescope. The package that they are developing will be carefully tailored to Dutch scientific interests and expertise, which will safeguard the Netherlands’s leading role in astronomy for decades to come. The Extremely Large Telescope is being built in the north of Chile and is expected to make its first observations in 2028. Ignas Snellen, Professor of Observational Astrophysics, is the main applicant for this project.

Organ and disease models based on human stem cells

Human stem cells can be used to create models that mimic the human body, allowing an understanding of healthy tissue physiology and disease mechanisms. This will make it easier to predict how the human body responds to treatments.

There are two types of stem cell: adult stem cells (ASCs) and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). Each has its strengths and weaknesses. The researchers believe that the weaknesses could be overcome by combining the two types of stem cell. hDMT INFRA StemCells will establish a national infrastructure to help researchers do this, and thus develop better organ and disease models. The main applicant of the project is Christine Mummery, Professor of Developmental Biology.

Partner in projects

Leiden University is involved as a partner in three other projects that have received a grant.

SSHOC-NL is a collaboration between the social sciences and humanities. This will make it possible for researchers to securely and ethically link and analyse a huge range of data.

The LISA gravitational wave observatory is an ambitious large ESA mission for the mid-2030s. It will revolutionise our understanding of how supermassive black holes grow and how the first inhomogeneities in the Universe’s structures came about after the big bang. In the GW LISA/ET project the Netherlands is providing a key contribution to an instrument known as an interferometer.

Recent developments in microscopy have made it possible to identify and manipulate processes in living cells, organoids and small animal models. NL-BioImaging will develop and integrate state-of-the-art microscopy technologies and services for all Dutch researchers.

Banner photo: Artist’s impression of the Extremely Large Telescope. Credit: ESO

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