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Each year, the EU launches calls for postdoc research fellowships through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions. The prestigious two-year funding of Marie Curie fellowships attracts an enormous number of applications, which makes these fellowships very competitive. The typical success rate for an application is around 12%. VIB, however, manages to maintain a success rate of around 26%. An MSCA fellowship is an excellent springboard for the launch of a research career.

Asli Ayaz joins Vincent Bonin's lab (NERF, empowered by imec, KU Leuven, and VIB). In the ThaCSIS project, she will reveal neural circuits that allow the selection and processing of the right sensory information in the right context. ThaCSIS will reveal the routes of sensory information across cortical networks and identify key brain regions that are involved in gating of behaviorally relevant sensory information. Through her work, Asli will lay the foundation to study circuit dysfunction in complex cognitive disorders.

"I believe that the recent technical advances in neural activity measurements and specific neural circuit manipulations now allow us to ask fundamental questions about how multiple brain regions function together to drive sensory behaviors. I feel very excited to have the opportunity to pursue this ambitious project, also due to the fellowship."


Lisa Becker will join Peter Carmeliet's team (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology). The ECONOMY project will investigate the interactions between tumor endothelial cells with transcriptional signatures related to antigen processing and presentation and T cells. The effects of these interactions could open new therapeutic possibilities, utilizing already available pharmaceutical inhibitors. Lisa's research is expected to pave the way for exciting new combination treatment strategies for lung cancer.

"What makes the project most exciting to me is a potential link between endothelial cells' immune functions and their metabolism. I look forward to starting because we expect that we will be able to pave the way toward novel treatment strategies in lung cancer. Obtaining this prestigious and competitive fellowship is an invaluable credential for my future goal to become an independent group leader and applying for advanced European funding."


Christian Zwicker will be part of Charlotte Scott's group (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research). Through the project MACtivate, Christian will combine his expertise in host-microbe interactions with the expertise of the host lab in myeloid cell biology. Systemic microbial insult is proposed to lead to significant heterogeneity within the hepatic macrophage pool. Understanding the processes underpinning macrophage activation by microbes may allow Christian to manipulate these responses with the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes.

"In this MSCA project, I will use an integrative systems biology approach to dissect the liver macrophage response to microbes and microbial components. This fellowship provides a unique opportunity to do cutting-edge science and support me in becoming an expert in macrophage biology. It allows me to develop my technical repertoire as well as valuable transferable skills relevant for a successful career in a leading position."


Kathryn Waller will also join Charlotte Scott's group (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research). MAFLDCs is the project in which she will use single-cell technologies established to dissect conventional dendritic cell heterogeneity. Since metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) is accompanied by a change in the T cell subsets present in the liver and blood, Kathryn's work will elucidate the in vivo functions of these cells in MAFLD and determine their potential for therapeutic intervention.

"My project focuses on the role of dendritic cells in metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD), a disease not only predicted to become the leading cause of liver transplantation within the next ten years but also one that lacks therapeutics due to its ill-understood mechanisms. Being awarded such a prestigious fellowship is an excellent career-boost, which certainly contributes to my goal of leading my own research group in this field."


Aimée Bugler-Lamb joins the Martin Guilliams lab (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research). In the Liver ID3ntity project, she will unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying the crosstalk between Kupfer cells (KCs) and hepatocytes in the liver. With a genome-wide in vitro CRISPR screen, Aimée will pinpoint top candidates for genes regulating this crosstalk. With knock-downs for the most interesting hits from this in vivo screen using, she will unravel the role of specific KC-Hepatocyte interactions in liver homeostasis and pathology.

"I am honored to have been awarded such a prestigious fellowship alongside other talented scientists. The MSCA fellowship will not only open up fantastic opportunities for me in the future but will also give me the confidence to drive this project in an exciting direction. Martin Guilliam’s team are experts in his field, and this is a great opportunity for me to bring new expertise to the lab while gaining a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underpinning Kupffer cell identity in the liver."

Nicolas Doll reinforces Moritz Nowack's team (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology). Through the project END-osperm, he will disentangle the gene network underlying the controlled cell death that ends the development of starchy endosperm, the nutrient-filled tissue in many of our staple cereal grains. Nicolas will select promising transcription factors that regulate this cell death and functionally analyze them in maize, which could lead to many agricultural applications.

"I am eager to start this project because it addresses important questions in the regulation of plant development via cell death, especially in cereals of which little is known. This Marie Curie fellowship follows my current EMBO fellowship and gives me more time to pursue this project, which is undoubtedly useful when working on a species with a long generation time such as maize."


Shweta Yekondi becomes a member of Jenny Russinova's group (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology). With the endologistic project, she will perform proteomics and phosphoproteomics analyses on isolated endosomes. This will enable her to map and correlate endosomal-specific phosphorylation with changes in subcellular protein distribution. She will also identify components of both the PEPR1 signaling complex and endosomal or autophagy machinery, which will advance our understanding of how endocytosis controls immunity in plants.

"The focus of this project is developing an in-depth understanding of innate plant immunity. Women embracing motherhood have to often sacrifice their career/dreams in our present socio-economic structure.This prestigious fellowship helps me to re-establish myself as a researcher and the financial assistance gives a significant impetus to my career."


Two VIB'ers are also moving abroad with a Marie Curie fellowship

Oskar Marin Bejar goes from Jean-Christophe Marine's team (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology) to the Girogetti lab at IDIBELL (Spain). There, he will study GATA2 carriers and the transcriptional dynamics during cancer initiation/progression, leading to valuable insight into early detection and the design of novel personalized therapeutic strategies.

"What I really like about the research proposal of my MSCA fellowship is the interdisciplinary aspect, combining single-cell genomics, bioinformatics, and clinical patient information. It will be a great opportunity to put into practice all the knowledge and expertise about cancer plasticity and single-cell multi-omics methodologies I have acquired in Chris's lab at the VIB-KU Leuven Center of Cancer Biology." 


Katerina Rohlenova moves from Peter Carmeliet's lab (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology)  to the Institute of Biotechnology, BIOCEV center (Czech Republic), where she will explore de novo nucleotide synthesis and its relevance for cancer therapy.

"I will use the powerful combination of transgenic and patient-derived tumor models, single-cell omics, and genetic screens to map the metabolic interactions in tissues 'one cell at a time' and to search for new targets and fundamental concepts for lung cancer therapy. I hope I will manage to bring with me some of what I have learned at the VIB and contribute to making science here, at the Institute of Biotechnology (IBT) of the Czech Academy of Sciences, even more internationally recognized."

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