Utrecht scientists lead two of seven new Gravitation programmes

Seven consortia with top scientists from various Dutch universities will receive a total of 160.5 million euros to conduct scientific research under the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science's Gravitation programme. Two of the seven consortia are led by researchers from Utrecht University.

With the Gravitation programme, the ministry drives fundamental research aimed at discovering new scientific knowledge.

FLOW - quality control in the human cell

The FLOW programme - led by Ineke Braakman, professor of Cellular Protein Chemistry at Utrecht University - focuses on the quality control system in cells of the human body. Health is not a given, the cells in our body are often threatened by faults in our own proteins. To prevent damage by such harmful proteins, they are normally repaired or removed by the cell's quality control system. When quality control fails, it results in diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cystic fibrosis and haemophilia, for example. FLOW's international team will map how certain proteins are guided from cradle to grave in the cell.

With this knowledge, we will soon have the fate of proteins at our disposal.

Adapt! - adaptability of societies in crises

The programme Adapt! - led by Beatrice de Graaf, professor of History of International Relations at Utrecht University - investigates the adaptability of societies to crises such as pandemics and terrorist attacks. These crises threaten not only the well-being and security of a society, but also the cohesion and unity within it. In the coming years, the Adapt! team will investigate what cultural, social and policy capacities are needed to cope with such crises.

During the pandemic, it became clear that the core values of open societies, such as freedom, equality and solidarity, can become eroded. We want to know how to prevent that and how to better respond to a crisis as a society.

World scientific top

According to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the awarded projects belong to the scientific world top in their fields of expertise or are on their way to it. Dijkgraaf: "With investments like these, we ensure that the Netherlands remains among the world's scientific top. This not only provides important new insights, but also strengthens our economy. And it brings innovations from which we all benefit. I am proud that we have such scientific talent in our own country. It is not something to be taken for granted. Truly something to be cherished."

Two Utrecht co-applicants

Apart from the two Gravitation programmes for which the UU is the lead partner, two Utrecht researchers are also involved as co-applicants in two other awarded projects. These are Professor Maarten Kole and Professor Petra de Jongh, both associated with the Faculty of Science. Maarten Kole is involved in the iCNS - Institute for Chemical Neuroscience project and Petra de Jongh in ANION: Advanced Nano-electrochemistry Institute Of the Netherlands.