NWO grant for research into biomass and mRNA

Razvan Cioc and Suzan Ruijtenberg to receive NWO Open Competition ENW XS grant

NWO Domain Science has awarded 24 applications in the Open Competition XS. Among them, two Utrecht researchers from the Faculty of Science: Razvan Cioc (Chemistry) and Suzan Ruijtenberg (Biology). The grants are meant encourage curiosity-driven and bold research involving a relatively quick analysis of a promising idea.

Razvan Cioc

A new approach to the sustainable manufacturing of valuable chemicals

Biomass shows tremendous potential as renewable carbon source for the sustainable manufacturing of chemicals. Unfortunately, due to the challenging reactivity of bio-derived molecules, the current biomass upgrading routes take detours via intermediates. These multistep processes are tedious, energy-intensive and wasteful. In this project we aim to develop a novel strategy that enables the direct conversion of bio-derived building blocks into valuable chemical products, such as plastics monomers. If successful, this work would give great impetus to the design of circular, environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes based on biomass as key natural resource.

Suzan Ruijtenberg

Live recording of gene expression: visualizing and tracking individual mRNA molecules in real time

The human body consists of trillions of cells. The behavior and health of cells is determined by ‘gene expression’ the process where parts of our DNA are converted into RNA. The goal of this project is to make this crucial process visible in ‘real-time’ in living cells. Using a new, CRISPR-Cas-based technique I will fluorescently label individual RNA molecules in living cells and even in a living animal. State-of-the-art microscopy allows us to observe, follow and count these individual molecules. This will increase our fundamental understanding of gene expression dynamics: a critical step towards development of new gene therapy-based treatments.

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