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163 million to excellent research at the University of Gothenburg

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Malignant melanoma, the development of rain drops, the role of non-coding RNA molecules in tumour development and the effects of electromagnetic radiation on the cell skeleton. These are some of the research areas at the University of Gothenburg that will share funding worth SEK 163 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The Foundation has granted a total of SEK 1.2 billion to excellent Swedish research.

‘We’re of course very happy. This shows that we have some top-notch researchers,’ says Staffan Edén, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Gothenburg with responsibility for issues regarding research.

The grant will enable Martin Bergö, professor of molecular medicine, to continue developing his research on malignant melanoma.

‘Malignant melanoma is one of few cancers that have increased in both incidence and mortality over the last 30 years, despite the development of new treatments and medicines. The grant will enable us to continue our work and increase our understanding of the development of the disease,’ says Bergö.

Patients with malignant melanoma can be cured by removing the primary tumour cell. Yet, if tumour cells spread to other parts of the body, the mortality rate becomes very high. In the project A Two-Front Attack on Malignant Melanoma, Bergö and his colleague Jonas Nilsson will study the mechanisms behind malignant melanoma using innovative animal models with an aim to identify new treatment strategies. The project will receive SEK 42 million over the next five years.

Another five-year grant, worth nearly SEK 41 million, goes to research on non-coding RNA. Genes are small pieces of DNA that contain blueprints for protein, which in turn perform important functions in the cell. The mapping of human DNA has surprisingly shown that only about 3 per cent of the genetic material consists of protein-coding sequences. The function of the remaining 97 per cent is largely unknown. However, research has shown that a great deal of this DNA gives rise to so-called non-coding RNA molecules, which in turn can regulate the expression of our protein-coding genes. What it comes down to is an entirely new level of regulation of gene expression, which is about to revolutionise our view of how the genetic material works. In the project Master Regulatory Long Non-Coding RNA Molecules in Cellular Differentiation, Chandrasekhar Kanduri, professor of medical and clinical genetics, and his colleagues will study how non-coding RNA affects the development of tumours. The work will hopefully lead to improved cancer diagnostics and new targets in the development of medicines.

The project Bottlenecks for Particle Growth in Turbulent Aerosols, where Bernhard Mehlig, professor in physics, and his colleagues will study how water drops grow larger in clouds, will receive SEK 33 million over five years. The process is of relevance in several areas, for example for the development of climate models. The size distribution of the drops affects the proportion of the sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface, which in turn affects the climate. It is already well-known how small droplets are formed in clouds and how very large drops grow by falling and colliding with smaller drops. But the researchers still don’t know how the drops can get so big they can continue to grow by falling through the cloud. This is one question that will be studied in Mehlig’s project.

Richard Neutze, professor of biochemistry, will study how the skeleton of cells – the cytoskeleton – is affected by electromagnetic radiation. The project Coherent Cytoskeleton Dynamics Captured with Cutting Edge X-ray Methods will receive SEK 26.5 million. The interior of cells contains tens of thousands of different molecules that control the complex chemistry that is required for life to be possible. There are different spaces for different activities. For example, the cell nucleus stores all genes and the cell is controlled from there. The mitochondria generate energy, and old and destroyed molecules are broken down in the lysosomes, which therefore resemble small dumping grounds. The cytoskeleton consists of long criss-crossing fibres that for example serve as transport paths. A completely new research area will open up if the researchers can learn how to manipulate the skeleton.

The project NMR for Life, a joint initiative by Umeå University and the University of Gothenburg focusing on magnetic resonance, will receive a continuation grant of SEK 21 million.

An additional four researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy are participating in projects granted funding from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation: Mikael Elam, Johan Wessberg and Justin Schneiderman, who are part of a project at Chalmers University of Technology that has been granted over SEK 34 million to develop a new way to measure brain activity, and Göran Bergström, who is involved in SCAPIS – the Swedish CArdioPulmonary bioImage Study – at Uppsala University. The project has been granted SEK 100 million.

For more information please contact:
Ulrika Lundin, Press Officer, University of Gothenburg
Tel: +46 (0)31 786 67 05, +46 (0)707 75 88 51
E-mail: ulrika.lundin@gu.se

Projects granted funding at the University of Gothenburg
Project: ‘A Two-Front Attack on Malignant Melanoma’
Grant: SEK 41 941 000 for a five-year project
Principal Investigator: Professor Martin Bergö, University of Gothenburg

Project: ‘Master Regulatory Long Non-Coding RNA Molecules in Cellular Differentiation’
Grant: SEK 40 846 000 for a five-year project
Principal Investigator: Professor Chandrasekhar Kanduri, University of Gothenburg

Project: ‘Bottlenecks for Particle Growth in Turbulent Aerosols’
Grant: SEK 33 151 000 for a five-year project
Principal Investigator: professor Bernhard Mehlig, University of Gothenburg

Project: ‘Coherent Cytoskeleton Dynamics Captured with Cutting Edge X-ray Methods’
Grant: SEK 26 470 000
Principal Investigator: Professor Richard Neutze, University of Gothenburg

Project: NMR for life granted (continuation grant) SEK 21 million.