Five out of thirteen NWO ECHO grants to Utrecht researchers

The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded thirteen ECHO grants to excellent chemical researchers, five of whom are Utrecht researchers. The ECHO grants offer researchers the opportunity to develop creative, risky ideas that can be the seed for research themes of the future.


Sense & Sensitivity: Studying ligand binding at the cellular surface by high-sensitivity solid state NMR
Marc Baldus and Paul van Bergen en Henegouwen

The cell surface contains protein receptors that bind to surrounding molecules in order to stimulate specific cellular functions. The researchers will use high-sensitive solid-state NMR to gain, for the first time, detailed information in these dynamical processes and how they are influenced by pharmaceuticals in a natural cell environment.

Using diffuse scattering data in crystallographic structure refinement to determine correlated molecular motion through the super cell approach
Loes Kroon-Batenburg

In this project the researchers envisage to incorporate diffuse scattering data for the refinement of macromolecular crystal structures. This allows to obtain information about correlated movements of parts of protein molecules, something that is impossible with current crystallographic techniques. This will give  a more complete picture of the role of proteins in complex forming, ligand binding and enzymatic reactions.

Tackling infections with cut and paste
Alice Sijts

Infected cells in the body break down the proteins of pathogens to activate the immune system. Recently, it was found that one third of the produced protein fragments are not the result of simply cutting, but a combination of cutting and pasting activities. In this proposal, the researchers study the role of this kind of ‘cut-and-paste products’ in the defense mechanisms against measles infection.

Self-organization of nano-building blocks with a switch
Willem Kegel

Viruses consist partly of proteins. There is strong evidence that these proteins have switches which can prevent that viruses fall apart or that defective viruses occur. In this project, the researchers will make building blocks with such switches in the lab and study the produced structures.

Earth-abundant materials for the sustainable catalysis of CO2 to fuels and chemicals: Linking computation to experiment
Nora de Leeuw and Mariette Wolthers

Enzymes use ingenious sulfide catalysts to convert carbon dioxide in organic molecules. Similar sulphides have supposedly catalysed the formation of the first amino acids. The researchers will combine computational modelling and experiments to investigate how we can use these examples to convert carbon dioxide in new materials for alternative sources of energy and chemicals.