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ERC Starting Grant for DKFZ researcher Angelika Feldmann

No. 65c | 22/12/2023 | by Koh

Funding from the European Research Council (ERC) is regarded as an accolade for scientists at all career stages. With its "Starting Grants", the ERC aims to pave the way to an independent career for excellent young scientists. This year, Angelika Feldmann from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) has been awarded the prestigious grant: she wants to explore the molecular processes that are required during the development of an organism so that all cells can read the right genes at the right time. Defects in this process can result in developmental disorders or cancer.

Angelika Feldmann
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With its ERC Starting Grants, the European Research Council (ERC) supports talented young scientists. The funding of 1.5 million euros for up to five years is intended to help them set up their own working group at a recognized research institution in the EU. The ERC Starting Grants are awarded in a highly competitive process.

During all development and differentiation processes, cells must ensure that the right genes are always transcribed at the right time. The activity of the genes is controlled by genetic regions that are located some distance away on the chromosomes and are known as regulatory elements or enhancers. An enhancer contains a whole series of binding sites for various transcription factors, which in combination decide whether a particular gene can be read. According to current knowledge, the enhancers come into physical contact with the start site for reading a gene, the so-called promoter, presumably by looping the DNA strand.

However, although these processes are elementary for the organism, surprisingly little is known about the exact function of the enhancers. This is where Angelika Feldmann's research, which is now being funded by the ERC, comes in. A lot can go wrong in this highly complex process - with dramatic consequences for the organism: errors in the correct activation of genes can lead to developmental disorders or cancer.

Angelika Feldmann wants to find out how enhancers "know" which genes they need to activate. What exactly happens at the enhancer when it activates a gene and do these processes differ between the various enhancers in a cell? Is physical contact between enhancer and promoter really necessary? If so, when exactly does it have to take place? Feldmann assumes that the precise timing of the contact between enhancer and promoter is crucial in order to start transcription correctly. Ultimately, the scientist wants to find out how the influences of different enhancers on one and the same gene interact and what role the exact timing plays in this.

Angelika Feldmann studied Molecular Medicine at the University of Freiburg. She conducted her doctoral studies at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel from 2009 to 2014 and moved to the University of Oxford as a postdoc in 2014. Since the end of 2021, Angelika Feldmann has been heading the junior research group "Mechanisms of Genome Control" at the DKFZ.

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


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