Trinity Scientist Awarded Prestigious European Research Council Starting Grant

Posted on: 23 November 2011

Dr Carola Schulzke, Assistant Professor in Trinity’s School of Chemistry, has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant worth up to €2 million.  The awards aim to support the most talented early career researchers to carry out pioneering work and are open to all fields of research.   Dr Schulzke beat off competition from 4080 applicants to secure a grant and is one of six successful Irish based researchers awarded a starting grant. 

Dr Schulzke’s research focuses on two rare but fatal paediatric diseases, Moco-deficiency (MocoD) and human isolated sulfite-oxidase-deficiency (hiSOD), which are caused by a failure at different levels of the natural development of a certain group of enzymes.  If untreated, the life expectancy of affected babies is approximately one year.  MocoD patients have been successfully treated by injection of an organic molecule that takes part in the proteins’ biological production however there is currently no cure for hiSOD.  The Trinity College based research aims to develop substitutes for the very sensitive metal based part of these enzymes.  By testing their potential for generating an active enzyme together with the biotechnologically produced enzyme-peptide it will be possible to evaluate the resulting semi-synthetic enzyme’s applicability as a treatment.

Congratulating Dr Schulzke on the award, Head of the School of Chemistry Professor David Grayson said: “This major award, which is the second ERC grant to be obtained by members of staff of the School, opens up the prospect of exciting new developments in the area of bio-inorganic chemistry and its application to the treatment of disease.  It reinforces the central role that Chemistry plays in the life-sciences arena, a role that should be greatly expanded within Trinity as part of the School moves to state-of-the-art new laboratories in the recently-opened Biosciences Building. It is a reflection, also, of the very high calibre of our staff, and we are delighted to congratulate Carola on her success.”

The ERC received a total of 4080 applications from researchers across Europe for an ERC Starting Grant.  This scheme comprises an investment of €670 million over the next five years to fund cutting-edge research activity in life sciences, social sciences and humanities, and physical sciences and engineering.   Of the total 480 projects selected 46% of applicants were selected in ‘Physical Sciences and Engineering’ category, 35% in ‘Life Sciences’ and 19% in ‘Social Sciences and Humanities’. The projects selected range from understanding how economic media interpret financial crises in the second half of 20th century, to analysing new routes and behaviours of traffickers of cultural goods, and exploring the exceptional properties of biological nanomaterials in order to use them for other purposes.