Three TU/e researchers receive Veni grants

December 17, 2021

280,000 euros per awardee to explore drug discovery, sustainable chemistry and efficient data analysis.

Source: Shutterstock.

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded three TU/e researchers a Veni grant. Peter Cossar, Fabian Eisenreich, and Tim Ophelders will each receive a grant worth €280,000. This funding will be used by the young researchers to explore their own research ideas for a period of three years, for an innovative approach in drug discovery, making chemical reactions more sustainable with sunlight and an efficient analysis of point clouds.

NWO awarded 89 Veni grants within the domains Science (ENW) and ZonMW. The Veni grant is part of the NWO Talent Program and each year, it is awarded to promising early-career researchers. Due to COVID-19 and a computer hack at NWO, awards for the scientific domains had to be split this year. For the next rounds of the Veni awarding scheme, all awards take place at the same time.

The three TU/e Veni laureates will use their funding to perform challenging research in several disciplines.

Peter Cossar.

Peter Cossar (department of Biomedical Engineering) would like to alter the dynamics of aggregated disordered pathogenic proteins in such a way that they could be disposed of by the cell in a ‘protein cage’.

Neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are frequently caused by an aggregation of disordered proteins within neural cells. The unstructured nature of disorder proteins prevents therapeutic intervention as small molecules are unable to bind to these so-called Intrinsically Disordered Proteins (IDPs). TU/e researcher Peter Cossar, a postdoctoral researcher in the Biological Chemistry group of Luc Brunsveld, employs innovative approaches for drug discovery.

His Veni research will focus on capturing IDPs in a protein cage and hijacking the cell’s native disposal system to remove the disease-causing protein. Cossar intends to develop bifunctional drugs that can both capture the disease-causing protein in a cage and enable the protein to be tagged for degradation by the cell.

Fabian Eisenreich

Fabian Eisenreich (currently working at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry) is interested in making chemical reactions more sustainable. 

Each year, the chemical industry produces a vast amount of organic waste. Astonishingly, more than 80% of the produced waste is attributed to just a single source: organic solvents. Green and sustainable chemical technologies are urgently required to minimize our future environmental footprint. Fabian Eisenreich, who is inspired by biological processes like photosynthesis, would therefore like chemical reactions to take place in water, instead of organic solvents.

In his Veni research, Eisenreich will develop tailor-made, water-soluble nanoreactors that contain powerful photocatalysts. In these bioinspired reactors, chemical reactions will take place in pure water fueled by the power of (sun)light. With this innovative approach, he would like to contribute to the advancement of sustainable and green chemistry.

Tim Ophelders

The research of Tim Ophelders (Department of Mathematics and Computer Science) focusses on the efficient comparison of shapes.

Simplicial complexes are a common representation of topological and geometric data. They have applications in chemistry, autonomous vehicles, and meshing. In his Veni project, Ophelders will develop algorithms for measuring the distance, or conversely, the similarity between data represented by simplicial complexes.

He intends to gain a fundamental understanding of the computational complexity of similarity measures for simplicial complexes, with a focus on trade-offs between geometric and topological aspects. He will develop notions of symmetry that capture the inherent difficulty of alignment between shapes. This degree of symmetry of a shape can then serve as a natural parameter to describe algorithmic efficiency.

Tim Ophelders has a joint position as assistant professor in the Algorithms, Geometry and Applications cluster at TU/e and in the Geometric Computing group at Utrecht University.

Media contact

Barry Fitzgerald
(Science Information Officer)

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