Three LMU researchers among the winners

27 Mar 2019

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Advanced Grants to three principal investigators at LMU.

Proposals submitted to the ERC by Professors Donald Dingwell, Karl-Peter Hopfner and Steffen Massberg have been chosen for funding in the latest round of ERC grants. Each investigator receives an Advanced Grant. Both Donald Dingwell and Karl-Peter Hopfner have now received two of these much sought-after research awards.

ERC Advanced Investigator Grants are each worth up to 2.5 million (in exceptional cases as much as 3.5 million) euros over 5 years, and are intended for established researchers in all disciplines who wish to undertake highly ambitious and innovative projects that promise to break new ground in their respective fields.

The winners and their projects :

Donald B. Dingwell holds the Chair of Mineralogy and Petrology in the Faculty of Geosciences at LMU. His research interests center on the physical processes that are responsible for volcanic eruptions and their consequences, including the impact of volcanic ash on the environment and human affairs. He takes an experimental approach to these questions, and has built a facility with which he and his colleagues can ‘replay’ real-life eruptions in the laboratory. These studies have made a significant contribution to efforts to forecast the repercussions of volcanic eruptions.

In his new ERC project, which bears the title Experimental Access to Volcanic Eruptions: Driving Observational Potential, he intends to develop this strategy further. The acronym chosen for the project (EAVESDROP) indicates its goal – enhancing our ability to eavesdrop on – and interprete the signals emanating from – active volcanoes. More generally, the aim is to construct a model that captures all stages of the process by which magma makes its way from deep within the Earth’s interior onto the planet’s surface. This promises to yield new insights into the dynamics and the hazards of pyroclastic flows.

Donald B. Dingwell studied Geology and Geophysics at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and did his doctoral work at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He subsequently held the post of Scientific Manager of the Bavarian Geosciences Institute at Bayreuth University, where he completed his Habilitation in 1992. He moved to LMU in the year 2000. Donald Dingwell has won many awards for his innovative research. In 2009, he received his first Advanced Grant from the ERC, and he also served as ERC Secretary-General from 2011 to 2013.

For further information on Professor Donald Dingwell’s research, see : Deconstructing disasters

Karl-Peter Hopfner is Professor of Biochemistry at LMU‘s Gene Center. His research is devoted to the structural bases of gene regulation, DNA repair and the recognition of nucleic acids by the innate immune system. In 2016, he received the Leibniz Prize from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for his contributions to structural and molecular biology.

His new ERC project looks at the Mechanism of ATP-Dependent Chromatin Modelling and Editing by INO80 Remodellers. As its acronym (INO3D) indicates, it is devoted to understanding the structural mechanisms that underlie the functions of the multiprotein complex INO80, which shapes how the genetic material is packaged in the cell’s nucleus. The INO80 complex plays a crucial role in structuring and regulating access to the genetic material, and is therefore essential for vitally important biological processes including gene expression, the repair of DNA damage and the replication of DNA prior to cell division.

Karl-Peter Hopfner studied Biology at Regensburg University and Washington University in St. Louis (USA) and obtained a PhD in Biochemistry at the Technical University of Munich. He subsequently held research posts at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry and the Scripps Institute in La Jolla (USA), before being appointed to a professorship at the Gene Center in 2001. He has held the Chair of Biochemistry since 2007, and in 2015 he became Director of the Gene Center. Karl-Peter Hopfner has received many distinguished awards for research, including his first ERC Advanced Grant in 2012.

For further information on Professor Karl-Peter Hopfner’s work, see : Chromatin structure: Slip-sliding away … The art of unpacking

Steffen Massberg holds the Chair of Internal Medicine/Cardiology at LMU, and is the Director of Medical Clinic I at the LMU Medical Center. His research focuses on the role of the immune responses in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases. He is Deputy Coordinator of the Collaborative Research Center on “Trafficking of Immune Cells in Inflammation, Development and Disease” (SFB 914) and Coordinator of the Clinician Scientist Programme (PRIME), both of which are funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

His new ERC project (short title: Immunothrombosis) will explore the functional interactions between platelets and immunity and their implications for host homeostasis and defense. Blood platelets play a major role in the coagulation process and are also involved in aspects of the immune response. The primary goal of the project is to identify the links between the signaling pathways that mediate thrombosis and inflammation, with the aim of finding new approaches to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disorders.

Steffen Massberg studied at LMU, where he obtained his doctorate and worked as a Research Associate until 1999. Following a stint as a Heisenberg Fellow at Harvard Medical School in Boston (USA) during the period 2005-2007, he took up a position at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). From 2010 on, he served as Senior Physician and Deputy Director of the Department of Cardiology at the German Heart Centre in Munich and the TUM Medical Centre (Klinikum rechts der Isar), before returning to LMU in 2012. He is a founding member of the Munich Heart Alliance and a member of its Supervisory Board, and has received many awards for his contributions to research.

For further information on Professor Steffen Massberg’s research, see: The body’s street sweepers