Six Utrecht-based researchers receive Vici grant

Laureates at Faculties of Science, Social and Behavioural Sciences and the UMC Utrecht

The Dutch Research Council (DRC, in Dutch: NWO) has awarded Vici grants to six researchers from Utrecht University, the UMC Utrecht, the Princess Máxima Centre and the Hubrecht Institute. They will each receive up to EUR 1.5 million for research.

Vici is one of the largest personal scientific grants in the Netherlands. Advanced researchers in the Netherlands can apply for it. The award offers laureates the opportunity to develop an innovative line of research and further develop their own research group over the next five years. A total of 35 researchers will receive the Vici grant.

Laureates and research topics

Shaping our memories: resolving the nanoscale organization of neuronal synapses in memory circuits

How does the brain form and store memories for hours, days or even a lifetime? I am very excited that with this Vici project we can study the nanoscale molecular processes that lead to the lasting imprinting of memories in the brain.

Our memories shape who we are. However, we still do not fully understand how memories are stored in our brain. The researchers will use advanced microscopy techniques to uncover the structure of the connections between nerve cells, synapses. They will investigate how molecular changes in synapses underlie the formation of new memories. This research will yield valuable insights into how our memory works and could contribute to finding new ways to alleviate conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. 

Transparent and Reproducible AI-aided systematic reviewing for the Social Sciences (TRASS)

Our goal? Less work, more reliability, and accessible results for everyone

The number of scientific articles is growing rapidly, taking months of work. The process may contain errors because we humans are not necessarily good at repetitive screening tasks. We can improve this process with the help of artificial intelligence, such as large language models. Our project explores how scientists can collaborate with such a language model, and we will test how well they work and what model to use for what type of data. Our goal? Less work, more reliability, and accessible results for everyone so that together we can track scientific output faster using scientifically based AI methods.

In vivo gene editing: beyond deLIVERy

In this project, innovative technologies will be used to develop gene-correction tools to treat metabolic diseases.

Metabolic diseases affect >10.000 families in the Netherlands and represent a major cause of child death. Treatments are desperately lacking. Unprecedented technological progress now makes it possible to correct the genetic root cause of almost all these diseases. In this project, innovative technologies will be used to develop gene-correction tools to treat metabolic diseases. To deliver these tools in the human body, delivery systems will be developed for important organs (brain, bone marrow, eye). Gene-correction efficiency and safety will be tested for 3 model diseases. This will pave the way for efficient and safe therapies for patients with genetic diseases.

Tracing the etiology of longterm toxicity in childhood cancer survivors

Childhood cancer survivors suffer from chronic health problems due to their lifesaving treatment. In this project, Ruben van Boxtel will study from his appointment at the Princess Máxima Centre how damaged tissues regenerate in children treated for cancer and identify the mechanisms underlying the late adverse effects of chemotherapy. This knowledge is crucial for the development of cancer treatment strategies with minimized long-term toxicity.

Recording the past, understanding the present, predicting the future: charting the multiscale organization and function of spatial genome-organization across developmental time

What is the role for chromosome organization in determining cell identity? Every cell contains 2 meters of DNA that needs to be condensed into the tiny space of a cell’s nucleus. This organization is unique to every cell and for new traits to arise different regions of the DNA need to become accessible and active. With this proposal Jop Kind will investigate from his appointment at the Hubrecht Institute the coordination of this dynamic process by implementing new sensitive methods to study these events in single cells. This knowledge is essential to yield understanding of the mechanisms by which new cells arise during development and what the processes are that may result in establishing pathologies like cancer.

Replication of unconventional DNA structures: mechanisms that maintain genome integrity

Resolving dangerous DNA structures: the majority of the genetic material in a cell is folded into a uniform double helical structure as determined by Watson and Crick. Sometimes however, DNA folds into non-canonical shape that can be dangerous. This project by Puck Knipscheer, appointed at the Hubrecht Institute, reveals novel mechanisms that unfold these alternative DNA structures to ensure genome stability.

More information
NWO Vici for 35 researchers