Competitive ERC Advanced Grant awarded to Bart Lambrecht to study the role of protein crystallization in asthma

6 April 2018
Prof. Bart Lambrecht (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research) is awarded an Advanced Grant. To qualify, a scientist has to be able to prove exceptional leadership and a solid track record of significant research achievements over at least 10 years.  To leverage their impact, individual ERC grants provide considerable amounts of money, up to €2,5million for an Advanced Grant, for example. With a budget like that, researchers can embark on a dream project that would otherwise remain out of reach. 

Innovative Project
Spontaneous protein crystallization is a rare event in biology. Eosinophilic inflammation such as seen in the airways in asthma, chronic rhinosinusitis and helminth infection is however accompanied by accumulation of large amounts of extracellular Charcot-Leyden crystals. These are made of Galectin-10, a protein of unknown function produced by eosinophils, hallmark cells of type 2 immunity. In mice, eosinophilic inflammation is also accompanied by protein crystal build up, composed of the chitinase-like proteins Ym1 and Ym2, produced by alternatively activated macrophages.

Prof. Lambrecht and his team will challenge the current view that these crystals are just markers of eosinophil demise or macrophages activation. They hypothesize that protein crystallization serves an active role in immunoregulation of type 2 immunity. To investigate this further the Lambrecht lab will work in close collaboration with the team of Prof. Savvas Savvides at their Center for the structural biology part in this project.

Prof. Bart Lambrecht (VIB-UGent): “Our program at the frontline of immunology, molecular structural biology and clinical science combines innovative tool creation and integrative research to investigate the structure, function, and physiology of galectin-10 and related protein crystals. We chose to study asthma as the crystallizing proteins are abundantly present in human and murine disease. There is still a large medical need for novel therapies that could benefit patients with chronic steroid-resistant disease, and are alternatives to eosinophil-depleting antibodies whose long term effects are unknown.”
The research team of prof. Lambrecht also acquired funding from UGent and EOS to collaborate with clinicians.

51 ERC grants for VIB
The European Research Council (ERC) was created to fund highly challenging projects, whether in terms of their envisaged scientific goals or in terms of the creativity and originality of the proposed approaches. Bart Lambrecht’s grant brings VIB’s total number of ERC grants to 51. Nearly 1 in 3 VIB group leaders have had their excellence acknowledged by ERC – further proof that VIB is in the top league of European research institutes. 

Bart Lambrecht
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