Leiden University: Vidi grant for seven researchers from Leiden University

From malaria parasites as a vaccine to how top-level bureaucrats reach their decisions: seven researchers from Leiden University have received a Vidi grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). This 800,000-euro grant will enable them to develop their own innovative line of research over the next five years.

The Vidi grant is for experienced researchers who have already spent several years doing postdoctoral research. Together with the Veni and Vici grants, the Vidi is part of the NWO Talent Programme, which aims to stimulate curiosity-driven, innovative research. A total of 78 researchers have been awarded a Vidi this year. The projects of the seven Leiden researchers are outlined below.

Finding a recipe to fabricate cell types on command – Anna Alemany
All cells in our body share the same genetic information but have different functions and morphologies. The understanding of how the different identities are originated will make us better at generating desired cells from patient-derived stem cells. Anna Alemany will investigate the mathematical rules of cell identity establishment.

Droplets and fibers: the physics of neurodegeneration – Louise Jawerth
To more fully understand and treat neurodegeneration, Jawerth and her team will investigate the mechanisms through which liquid‐like protein phases found in healthy neurons could cause, promote or hinder harmful fibre growth associated with the disease.

The EU fundamental right to ‘freedom of the arts and sciences’: exploring the limits on the commercialisation of academia – Vasiliki Kosta
Universities increasingly act like enterprises competing on the market, are managed like corporations and are understood to serve politico-economic interests. The Covid-19 crisis may amplify that. In this project Kosta will determine the content of the EU fundamental right to ‘freedom of the arts and sciences’ to test this evelopment’s legality.

Skeletal archaeology of inequality, health and early states – Sarah Schrader
Social inequality directly impacts health outcomes in the modern world. This project examines health inequality using human skeletal remains in the ancient Kushite culture (2,500-1,500 BCE). Schrader and her team will question the role that state formation and social inequality had on health, applying a deep time perspective to our understanding of health inequality.

Attentive bureaucrats? How top-level bureaucrats prioritize societal issues, define problems, and generate solutions – Joris van der Voet
Top-level bureaucrats operate amidst an abundance of information and unclear political objectives. Their attention allocation explains if and how government responds to societal issues. Van der Voet will investigate (1) which issues bureaucrats prioritise, (2) how they define the relevant characteristics of a problem, and (3) how they generate policy solutions.

Malaria parasites taking the tollway – Meta Roestenberg
An effective malaria vaccine is urgently needed. Malaria parasites that are genetically altered cannot cause disease but can be used to train the immune system. To make genetically altered parasites into a very potent vaccine, Roestenberg aims to improve better recognition of the parasite-vaccine by the immune system.

Digging beyond the surface – understanding chronicity in rheumatoid arthritis – Uli Scherer
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that will flare when treatment is stopped. Researchers have already discovered that specific immune cells remain chronically active in patients despite treatment. In his project, Scherer will use single cell technology to unravel this immunological disease activity and search for ways to silence it, thereby halting chronicit

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