ERC Consolidator Grants for Laura De Laporte and Rafael Kramann
Prestigious funding from the European Research Council for the RWTH projects HEARTBEAT and TargetCKD.
RWTH researchers Professor Laura De Laporte and Professor Rafael Kramann will receive funding from the European Research Council – ERC for short – in the form of Consolidator Grants. These grants are considered one of the most prestigious funding programs of the European Union. Consolidator Grants provide funding for scholars when they are consolidating their own research team or program, according to the ERC. To be eligible for funding, scholars must demonstrate the pioneering features, ambition, and feasibility of their proposal.
Laura De Laporte and Rafael Kramann will now receive funding from the ERC for a five-year period. Both had previously succeeded in obtaining an ERC Starting Grant. Independent of their respective grants, De Laporte and Kramann are also collaborating in the Clinical Research Unit (KFO 5011) to investigate new in-vitro disease models for kidneys.
Professor Laura De Laporte
The chemist is a professor at the Advanced Materials for Biomedicine Teaching and Research Area at RWTH, Uniklinik RWTH Aachen, and DWI-Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials. With her HEARTBEAT research project, De Laporte and her team aim to break with conventional methods of manufacturing 3D biomaterials by assembling and crosslinking a variety of unique preprogrammed, rod-shaped, and interactive microgels instead of molecular building blocks. The goal is to achieve macroporous, aligned, activatable and, if needed, degradable constructs after automatic mixing of different microgels and stem cells, which is not possible with conventional hydrogels. A compatible high-throughput system is used to sift through the myriad combinations of design parameters and systematically investigate (stem) cell material and cell-cell interactions to grow complex tissues. In HEARTBEAT, De Laporte focuses on using bottom-up interactive microgel assemblies to generate vascularized pieces of beating heart tissue at a millimeter scale.
The project aims to explain how material properties, architectures, and microgel movement stimulated by external stimuli influence human cardiac tissue formation and vascularization, and how the construct must adapt to the growing tissue over time to create the correct extracellular environment.
De Laporte studied chemical engineering at the University of Ghent, Belgium. She received her doctorate from Northwestern University, Evanston, USA, where she engineered implants for nerve regeneration. At EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland, she worked on regenerative hydrogels in Professor Jeffrey Hubbell's Research Group. From 2013 to 2018, the scientist led a junior research group at the DWI-Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen. She was awarded a Starting Grant from the European Research Council in 2015. In October 2017, De Laporte completed her habilitation (post-doctoral lecturing qualification) at the Department of Chemistry at RWTH. She has been an adjunct professor there with her teaching and research area Advanced Materials for Biomedicine, which is also affiliated with Uniklinik RWTH Aachen, since December 2020. In 2018, she was one of five female scientists to receive funding in the Leibniz Professors Program.
Professor Rafael Kramann
Professor Rafael Kramann is head of the Institute of Experimental Internal Medicine and Systems Biology at RWTH and senior physician at the Clinic for Renal and Hypertensive Diseases, Rheumatological and Immunological Diseases at Uniklinik RWTH Aachen. The aim of the TargetCKD project is to use state-of-the-art methods to decode kidney diseases and develop both diagnostic and new treatment approaches. Chronic kidney failure affects over ten percent of the population in Europe, yet there are currently no reliable biomarkers that can predict disease progression or non-invasively diagnose specific kidney diseases. In addition, there are no suitable treatment options. Kramann and his team plan to develop new biomarkers as well as non-invasive diagnostic methods and new treatments thanks to the Consolidator Grant. The goal is personalized medicine for patients with chronic renal failure. Overall, the research focuses on understanding chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and organ fibrosis (Kramann Laboratory). State-of-the-art genetic fate mapping, genome editing, single-cell, so-called multiomics and systems biology technologies are integrated with clinical datasets to unravel mechanisms, identify new treatment targets, and develop targeted treatments for patients with chronic kidney disease, heart failure, and organ scarring.
Kramann studied medicine at RWTH and received his doctorate in cardiac imaging from the RWTH Faculty of Medicine. From 2011 to 2015, he conducted research at Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA. From 2015, he established an international research team at Uniklinik RWTH Aachen, while completing a further natural science doctoral thesis, this time at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. From 2017 to 2020, he was professor of Cardio-Nephrology and head of the Medical Clinic II – Renal and Hypertensive Diseases, Rheumatological and Immunological Diseases. In 2020, Kramann was appointed to the new RWTH Institute of Experimental Medicine and Systems Biology, which he leads as founding director. In addition to this academic position, he works as a senior physician at the Medical Clinic II at Uniklinik RWTH Aachen and heads a research group at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
RWTH researchers Professor Laura De Laporte and Professor Rafael Kramann will receive funding from the European Research Council (ERC) in the form of Consolidator Grants.