Dr. Patrick Müller and Dr. Frank Chan, research group leaders at the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory in Tübingen, Germany, have been awarded prestigious ERC Starting Grants. Each scientist will receive 1.5 Million Euros over a period of five years for their excellent research. The ERC Starting Grants, awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), support the scientific independence of top researchers across Europe at an early stage of their career.
The Friedrich Miescher Laboratory (FML) is the smallest research institute on the Max Planck Campus in Tübingen, Germany. Two of its research group leaders, Dr. Patrick Müller and Dr. Frank Chan, have been awarded an ERC Starting Grant for their work in basic research, with prize money of 1.5 Million Euros over a period of five years. The selection process for ERC Starting Grants is highly competitive: only one out of ten project proposals receive funding.
Dr. Frank Chan, Friedrich-Miescher-Laboratorium Tübingen
Brigitte Sailer, Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
Patrick Müller’s research group combines genetics and biophysics with theoretical approaches to understand how signaling molecules pattern developing embryos and tissues. From 1999 to 2004, he studied molecular biology in Göttingen, Berkeley and New York. In 2007, he received his PhD from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and worked as a postdoc and research associate at Harvard University until 2013.
Among the honors he received are the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society, the Emmy Noether Program Award of the German Research Foundation (DFG), and a Career Development Award from the Human Frontier Science Program. Müller will use the generous funding from the ERC Starting Grant to recruit additional international experts for his research group.
Müller’s high-risk/high-gain approach has the potential to unravel general principles underlying self-organizing processes during development and will inform new strategies for human tissue engineering from embryonic stem cells. “This European award is also a positive sign for the excellence of Tübingen and for basic research in general”, he says.
Frank Chan focuses on understanding how genetic variations contribute to adaptation in vertebrates during adaptation, using the house mouse as a research model. Chan earned his PhD in Developmental Biology at Stanford University before his postdoctoral research as a Volkswagen-Stiftung research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön. Among other discoveries, his work has detailed how the genomes of some of the largest house mice in the world, the Farese house mice, differ from French and German house mice.
In the new ERC project, Chan’s group deploys an innovative approach to study mouse speciation genetics in petri dishes. Using the latest stem cell and tissue engineering techniques, Chan’s group will investigate how gene functions evolve and diverge between mouse species since 3 million years ago.
Studying this question in mice has been enormously challenging in the past, because speciation genes tend not to work across species and produce sterile mouse hybrids. “Not only will we find out how genetic changes contribute to the origin of species, this project has the potential to identify treatment strategies for infertility,” explains Chan.
The Friedrich Miescher Laboratory plays a unique role in the Max Planck Society by supporting the innovative research programs of four young research groups in an independent institute with generous resources.
FML scientists have enjoyed success in previous ERC Grant competitions, with awards also made in 2013 and 2014. The newly awarded ERC Starting Grants for Patrick Müller and Frank Chan underscore the scientific excellence at the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory: all four FML research groups are now funded with ERC grants.
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