25 February 2021

Two BRIC researchers receive the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie individual fellowship

Congratulations to Denise Serra and Daniela Mayer who have received the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie individual fellowship.  This year, 2 out of 3 of the research proposals from BRIC were funded and one is on the reserve list. The overall success rate for the life science panel was 16.23% in DK and 18,3% at UCPH.

In the last 4 years, BRIC has received 14 fellowships out of 25. One key element to succeed is to realize that MSCA-IF is not just a research fellowship, but a training fellowship with 3 components: the applicant, the host and the project. In other words, the project can only be successful with the combined expertise of the applicant and the host. 

Denise Serra, Jensen group

Project FBXW7-InReg: Defining the role of FBXW7 in intestinal epithelium regeneration

Daniela Mayer, Jensen group

Project ScrIntOR: Genome wide CRISPR/Cas9 screen in intestinal organoids for identification and molecular characterization of therapeutic targets to enhance tissue regeneration

Denise Serra

Tell us why your topic is important and what you and Kim’s group bring that makes the project feasible?

In the past years it has become evident that repairing cells of the intestinal epithelium, and of other tissues, re-acquire foetal-like properties. But how these cells transition back to an adult state once homeostasis is re-established remains an open question. Preliminary data from the lab suggest that a key protein plays a role in regulating the reversion to the adult state. Kim and his group have already progressed the understanding of intestinal epithelial regeneration using mouse models of colonic injury. During my PhD I worked a lot with organoid cultures and high-throughput imaging, and I can make use of this experience in the project. By characterising this protein, we could allow the identification of ways to efficiently induce and control tissue repair in patients affected by chronic intestinal bowel disease, and prevent the expansion of unrestrained proliferating foetal-like cells. 

What does it mean to you to receive the Marie Curie fellowship?

It means that my project has been recognised as novel, feasible and with a potential important impact in the field. The reviewers believe that I have the skills to conduct the study together with Kim and the lab, so this is really a great acknowledgement for me and the whole lab, and I am very grateful.

I have already started some experiments making an inducible KO mouse. The mouse work is new to me, but I like the challenge and I have great colleagues here at BRIC who are always eager to help. I am returning to BRIC after 4 years at FMI, and receiving this grant is of course also a confirmation for me that the project is right, and that the group and BRIC has a strong international profile which can attract competitive funding.

What tips would you share with a researcher who is thinking of applying for a MSCA-IF?

The only tip I would give is to receive help. In writing this proposal I have received unevaluable input and advice from several people and all their feedback has been instrumental in shaping the application.

Daniela Mayer

Tell us why your topic is important and what you and Kim’s group bring that makes the project feasible?

Inflammatory bowel disease is wide-spread disease characterized by severe inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and substantial damage of the affected tissue. Current standard treatment focuses predominantly on reducing the inflammatory burden without promoting the regeneration of the damaged intestinal epithelium. This is because regeneration of this tissue is still very poorly understood. Therefore, I am aiming to identify novel regulators of this process by performing a genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 screen in intestinal organoids. This project is only possible due to the expert knowledge of Kim’s group in intestinal epithelial biology and related techniques combined with my expertise in large-scale CRIPSR/Cas9 screening approaches.

What does it mean to you to receive the Marie Curie fellowship?

I am really grateful to receive such a prestigious fellowship and it represents an important step in my scientific career. Having two years of independent funding releases a bit of pressure in the competitive scientific environment and allows me to fully focus on my research. It also increases my confidence since the funding agency believes that I am working on a relevant project and trusts me in succeeding with it.

What tips would you share with a researcher who is thinking of applying for a MSCA-IF?

The MSCA is definitely a very challenging and demanding fellowship to apply for, however it is absolutely worth it. It forces you to sit down and fully engage with your research project, but also to think about your future plans. I can highly recommend attending the MSCA grant writing workshop, which equips you with all necessary information and tips to create a successful application. It is also advisable to start early enough with the writing to have enough time for several rounds of revision by your supervisor and the BRIC grants office which will improve the application significantly and increase your success rate.