December 14, 2016

Two IST Austria Professors win ERC Consolidator Grants

Cell biologist Michael Sixt and neuroscientist Simon Hippenmeyer receive funding from the European Research Council (ERC)

Neuroscience has not yet found solutions to how the cerebral cortex with its multitude of cells and its sophisticated network of billions of interconnected neurons develops from stem cells and which mechanisms regulate stem cell development. IST Austria Professor Simon Hippenmeyer is set on solving these issues by applying MADM (Mosaic Analysis with Double Markers), a unique genetic technology that allows visualizing and manipulating neurons simultaneously in single cell resolution. For his research in the LinPro project he will receive a Consolidator Grant worth two million Euros. His ultimate goal is to present a model of stem cell development; which would be a breakthrough in explaining the principles underlying the development of the cerebral cortex. In 2012 Simon Hippenmeyer left Stanford University for IST Austria to lead a research group on “Genetic Dissection of Cerebral Cortex Development.”

IST Austria Professor Michael Sixt will also receive a Consolidator Grant worth two million Euros. It will be the second ERC funding for the cell biologist who joined IST Austria six years ago. Together with his research group he studies how single cells migrate through the body. During embryonic development, immune monitoring and metastasis of tumors, cells migrate along complex paths to fulfill their physiological function or cause pathological damage. Such cellular traffic is orchestrated by molecular “guidance cues” which are frequently available as gradients to point the cells in the right direction. To specify direction, the concentration difference of the guidance cues needs to be interpreted by the migrating cell. In his ERC project Micheal Sixt and his group will examine how cells identify these gradients and translate them into target-oriented motion. Life cell microscopy and genetic manipulations will be used to image cellular responses to engineered gradients of defined shape. Michael Sixt leads a research group on “Morphodynamics of Immune Cells”, passed the tenure evaluation in 2013, and has been Vice President of IST Austria since June 2014.

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