Brain Sciences


UCL academic awarded almost €3.3M by European Research Council

17 November 2020

Professor James Rothman, from Queen Square Institute of Neurology, is part of a research team which has been awarded close to €11.4M overall by the European Research Council (ERC) to continue ground-breaking research in cell biology.

Cancer cells brain tumours

Professor Rothman and his research team join 34 other research groups are to receive a total of €350 million to address some of the world’s most formidable research problems spanning multiple scientific disciplines.

Professor Rothman’s laboratory is focused on understanding the biochemical mechanisms involved in regulating the release of neurotransmitters at synapses and the dysregulation that can occur in human synaptopathies. His team use well defined but simplified reconstituted systems to uncover the fundamental biochemical mechanisms involved and how they are altered to produce the synaptopathy.

In the cell, newly synthesised proteins are transported through a series of sequentially arranged compartments before being sent to their final destination. The research aims to decipher the mechanisms that drive the formation and organisation of this protein secretory pathway. This will help in understanding the many pathologies in which proteins are misdirected.

Professor Rothman said: “Receiving this grant is a unique opportunity for us - the four Project Investigators involved in this project - because addressing a problem of this magnitude cannot be achieved by a single lab and requires all of our multidisciplinary skills and resources on the scale of a Synergy grant.”

The President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, commented: The ERC Scientific Council devised the Synergy Grants to offer a space where ambitious researchers could join forces to tackle multifaceted scientific challenges. Each of the new teams is aiming at nothing less than an important breakthrough. I am especially glad to see that so many European laureates look further afield to involve top scientists and scholars working in North and South America, Australia and Japan. Not only can this enrich ERC-funded projects, but it also gives a new dimension to global research cooperation involving European teams.

ERC Synergy Grants are awarded to small groups of researchers who combine their complementary skills, knowledge and resources and focus on a highly ambitious research project. The recipients will be able to tackle some of the most complex research problems, spanning multiple science disciplines.

The 34 projects involve 116 researchers who will carry out their projects at 86 universities and research centres in 22 countries across Europe and beyond. The grants, each worth around 10 million euro, will help create some 1,000 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students, and other staff in the grantees’ research teams.