Three UCC researchers have secured ERC funding totalling €4.75m

Three UCC researchers have secured funding totalling €4.75 million for their respective research projects.
Three UCC researchers have secured ERC funding totalling €4.75m

Pictured are the UCC researchers who won the awards: Dr. Mar’a Aburto, Dr. Piotr Kowalski and Dr. Lijuan Qian. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

University College Cork (UCC) researchers have won highly competitive European Research Council (ERC) funding totalling €4.75 million.

Three UCC researchers won the highly prestigious discovery research grants competing against over 4,000 proposals from the world’s brightest scientific minds, which were reviewed by panels of renowned researchers.

The UCC scientists work is focused on new discoveries around the next generation of RNA medicines, the relationship between the brain and gut microbiome, and protecting the music of threatened indigenous cultures.

These ERC Starting Grants, administered by Europe’s leading research funding body, are awarded to emerging research leaders across Europe who are at the stage of growing their own independent research teams, so that pioneering research can be conducted.

The three UCC researchers who were awarded ERC funding today are Dr Maria Rodriguez Aburto of APC Microbiome Ireland, SFI Research Centre and UCC Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, Dr Piotr Kowalski of UCC’s School of Pharmacy a d APC Microbiome Ireland and Dr Lijuan Qian of the School of Film, Music and Theatre.

Pictured are the UCC researchers who won the awards: Dr. Lijuan Qian, Dr. Mar’a Aburto and Dr. Piotr Kowalski. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision.
Pictured are the UCC researchers who won the awards: Dr. Lijuan Qian, Dr. Mar’a Aburto and Dr. Piotr Kowalski. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision.

Dr María Aburto was awarded for her research project examining the relationship between the brain and the gut which could have ground-breaking implications for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Speaking about the project, she said she believes that understanding how gut microbes communicate with the developing brain “will provide a new lens to view neurodevelopment”.

Dr Piotr Kowalski, who is developing a cutting-edge circular RNA technology and new delivery methods to tackle unmet medical challenges such as sepsis, said that RNA-based drugs “are a new class of biologics on the path to becoming a major platform in drug development” and his ambition is to help reshape the future of RNA therapies.

Dr Lijuan Qian is examining how Indigenous cultures are widely threatened worldwide through cultural imperialism, situations of technological change and political and economic disadvantage.

ERC funding is the only route for a researcher in the Humanities who needs to form a team to work in-depth on a societal challenge like this from initial set-up all the way to the measurement of social impact.

"It will provide a testing ground for a new model that could have widespread application in minority cultures worldwide," he said.

Congratulating the researchers, President of UCC, Professor John O’Halloran said that the funding is “excellent news” and that the researchers’ talents “will help secure our future through blue skies research and discovery”.

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