Ghent University: Two Ghent University researchers have been awarded Proof of Concept grants

Kevin Braeckmans and Lieven Eeckhout have been awarded Proof of Concept funding to explore the commercial or societal potential of their research results.

55 grantees of the European Research Council (ERC) have been awarded Proof of Concept (PoC) funding to explore the commercial or societal potential of their research results. Among them, there are two Ghent University researchers.

What is their research about?
Using laser irradiation to bring molecules into living cells
The project of Kevin Braeckmans will explore the market potential of photoporation as new generation transfection technology, both in basic research as for cell-based therapies. Delivering macromolecular compounds into living cells in vitro or ex vivo is a common requirement for both fundamental biological research as well as biomedical applications. Examples include the intracellular delivery of gene editing molecules to unravel molecular pathways or to create engineered therapeutic cells.

Photoporation, which combines laser irradiation with light-sensitive nanomaterials, is an upcoming physical intracellular delivery technology for delivery of a variety of molecules into a broad range of cell types with high delivery efficiency, low cytotoxicity, single cell precision and minimal hands-on time.

After several years of research on photoporation, the INTRACYTE project is aimed at translating this technology for R&D as well as clinical applications connected to cell-based therapies. This includes further development of nanomaterials and instrumentation next to setting up international collaborations with key opinion leaders in various application areas. At the end of the project the aim is to have a clear view on the valorization opportunities for photoporation.

To better mobile, embedded and edge-computing markets
The goal of the project of Lieven Eeckhout is to demonstrate the innovation potential of the Forward Slice Core, which is a novel processor core microarchitecture that reorders instructions for fast execution in a hardware-efficient way. Our preliminary results suggest that Forward Slice Core has the potential to improve performance per Watt per euro by 15 times compared to a modern-day high-performance superscalar out-of-order processor. The Forward Slice Core offers interesting opportunities for the mobile, embedded and edge-computing markets.

Proof of Concept grants
The ERC Proof of Concept grants, worth €150,000 each, can be used for example to explore business opportunities, prepare patent applications or verify the practical viability of scientific concepts. This final injection of €8.25 million pushes the total number of ERC Proof of Concept funded projects for 2020 to 166.

This set of results is from the third and final round of PoC calls for 2020. The 166 Proof of Concept grants awarded in 2020 went to researchers working in 21 countries. The total PoC grants awarded in 2020 in Belgium is 8, of which 4 at Ghent University.

The budget for the whole 2020 PoC competition was €25 million, and in total, 510 proposals were evaluated, with an average success rate of 32%.