ERC Proof of Concept Grant for VU chemist Tom Grossmann

January 27, 2023
Tom Grossmann, professor of Biomimetic Chemistry at VU Amsterdam, has been awarded a Proof of Concept grant by the European Research Council (ERC) for the project “Smart RNA delivery for therapy and diagnostic (grabRNA)”. He plans to use this €150,000 research grant for enabling a more wide-spread use of ribonucleic acid (RNA) for biomedical applications.

RNA is a biological macromolecule that is essential for the regulation of cellular processes in the human body. RNA-based cellular applications in molecular therapy may offer the potential to treat certain diseases. However, the progression of these applications has been greatly hindered due the difficulty of delivering RNA across biological barriers. Interest has therefore grown in the development of carrier systems which can facilitate RNA delivery in a controlled manner. Herein, so-called ‘peptide-based binders’ are used to stabilize and deliver double-stranded RNA.

The Grossmann lab demonstrated that the stability and cellular permeability of small interfering RNA can be enhanced with novel peptide-based binders. With this project, Grossmann hopes to identify a lead candidate with robust cell delivery performance so that it is ready for the following exploitation phase.

Proof of Concept grants
This is the third time that Grossmann has received the grant from ERC. In 2019, he was awarded the Proof Of Concept grant for the INCYPRO project focusing on protein engineering, and last year, for the proCOLON project in which he is working on the development of new therapies for colon cancer. The ERC has awarded a total of 90 researchers a Proof of Concept Grant. The funding will allow them to investigate whether they can commercialise their ideas. The grants are part of the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe.