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2023-09-05 at 13h00

European Research Council funds seven Portuguese science projects

The ERC – European Research Council – will find 400 projects selected in the Starting Grants 2023 competition, to a total sum of 628 million euros. Of these, 7.7 million euros will be allocated to four projects by researchers in Portugal, and 4.5 million euros to three projects headed by Portuguese researchers abroad. 

Carlos Minutti, of the Champalimaud Foundation, will receive 1.8 million euros to study how dendritic cells function and develop, which are associated with the start of the immune responses to pathogenic agents and tumours, for his project "Conventional Dendritic Cells – Ecology, Diversity, and Function". Inês Pereira, of Coimbra University, will have at her disposal 2.5 million euros to research the subject of the tectonic evolution of plates and try to answer the question of when these arose on planet Earth ("FINGERprinting cold subduction and Plate Tectonics using key minerals"). 

Giulia Ghedini, of the Gulbenkian Science Institute, wishes to evaluate how the metabolic responses to competitors affect the co-existence and community functioning of marine phytoplankton with the project "Mapping metabolic responses to understand coexistence and community functioning". For this, they will receive funding of 1.5 million. Lastly, 1.9 million euros were allocated to the project "Trafficking mechanisms and physiological factors mediating a direct gut microbiota-brain neuron interaction", by Ilana Gabanyi, also from the Gulbenkian Science Institute, to try to decipher the direct microbiota-brain communication. 

Fernando Santos, Diana Pinheiro, and Ana Gomes, respectively of Amsterdam University, the Vienna Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, and the Montpellier University and CNRS were also given this grant that was set up to assist scientists at the start of their career develop their projects.

Fernando Santos studies the effect on the long run of link recommendations on social media and new algorithms for social benefit ("Responsible Link- Recommendations in Dynamic Environments"); Diana Pinheiro researches the biophysical mechanisms associated with embryo formation and development ("Coupling morphogen dynamics with mechanics in the control of form and pattern"), and Ana Gomes focuses on the cycle of cell division coordinated and controlled in the plasmodium, the agent that causes malaria ("Cell cycle progression in malaria parasites"). 

For the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education Elvira Fortunato, this is clearly a reason of pride for Portugal, especially for the researchers at the start of their career to develop their own projects, set up their teams, contributing to the strengthening of the National Science and Technology System (SNCT).

With these results, Portugal reaches the landmark of 78 million euros granted in the European Research Council competitions since the beginning of Horizon Europe (2021- 2027), the European framework programme to fund research and innovation.