Researchers Secure ERC Starting Grants

Posted on: 07 December 2015

Dr Lydia Lynch and Dr Aidan McDonald, researchers from Trinity College Dublin, have secured prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant awards under the Horizon 2020 banner.

ERC Starting Grants are awarded to early career, up-and-coming research leaders to help build research teams that will pursue ideas at the frontiers of knowledge.

The announcements mean that Trinity has received more ERC awards than any other institution in Ireland since their inception. Dr Lynch and Dr McDonald secured the 13th and 14th Starting Grant awards to go to Trinity, respectively.

Trinity researchers at a later stage of their research careers have won a further nine ERC Grants (four Consolidator Grants and five Advanced Grants) to bring the absolute total to 23.

Horizon 2020 is the largest ever EU research and innovation programme, which provides funding to raise the level of excellence in Europe’s science base.

Dr Lynch has been awarded around €1.8 million to find new ways of manipulating the immune system to prevent or treat obesity and type 2 diabetes.

She hopes to find fat ‘antigens’ that could be given to people as a new type of drug for type 2 diabetes; these may also cause weight loss in obese individuals, which may improve diabetes as well.

Dr Lynch said: “This ERC funding will allow me to bring my research from Harvard Medical School in Boston back to Dublin where I’m from. It will allow me to set up a world-class research lab in Trinity. I will recruit five new researchers including postdocs, PhD students and a research assistant/ technician and I will also establish an in-vivo metabolic core that doesn’t currently exist in Dublin.”

Assistant Professor in Inorganic Chemistry, Dr McDonald, has been awarded €1.5 million to investigate the fundamental aspects of the conversion of hydrocarbons – compounds containing carbon and hydrogen – from oil and natural gas feedstocks into high-commodity chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and materials. 

Dr McDonald said: “This funding will support five new researchers in my lab – two postdoctoral fellows and three PhD students. It will also provide critical infrastructural support to my five current PhD students. Most importantly, it will accelerate our investigations towards a fundamental understanding of hydrocarbon activation, a process that is presently performed at great (unsustainable) energetic, financial and environmental cost.”

European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, said: “We need to keep our most talented researchers in Europe while attracting the new and diverse perspectives of top researchers from elsewhere in the world. These grants ensure many of the world’s most exciting ideas are developed right here: giving researchers and scientists the freedom and security to pursue their careers and ambitions on our continent.”