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The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Consolidator Grants to UvA researchers Timothy Noël, Tommy Tse and Louis Vermeulen. The prestigious grants are awarded to individual researchers and amount to around 2 million euros per project. Consolidator Grants are intended for researchers who obtained their PhDs 7 to 12 years ago. The grants enable the researchers to consolidate their position as independent researchers.

Prof. Timothy Noël (Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences): FlowHAT: Site-selective C(sp3)–H functionalization with gaseous reagents using Hydrogen Atom Transfer photocatalysis in flow

An essential part of synthetic organic chemistry is the conversion of raw materials into highly complex molecules. While traditionally this has been achieved through conversion of functional groups, Nature has developed strategies to deliberately functionalize C–H bonds in organic molecules. Mimicking Nature’s machinery, chemists have developed a diverse set of powerful C–H bond functionalization strategies. However, the selective functionalization of C–H bonds such as present in saturated alkanes is still very challenging and remains a “dream reaction” for organic chemists. Timothy Noël will pursue a novel approach that combines both chemical and technological tools and is based on a continuous-flow photocatalytic process of Hydrogen Atom Transfer (HAT) making use of a cheap and abundant catalyst.

Dr Tommy Tse (Media Studies Department): China Fashion Power: Fashioning Power through South-South Interaction: Re-thinking Creativity, Authenticity, Cultural Mediation and Consumer Agency along China-Africa Fashion Value Chains

Tse’s project will investigate how, in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global power is manifested, negotiated and resisted in people’s daily life in a South-South setting using fashion as an exemplary case. Fashion is recognised as a significant economic force globally and one of the most poignant indicators of cross-cultural exchange. By critically examining China-Africa networks of fashion production, trade and consumption using a multi-disciplinary, multi-method, multi-sited, and multi-scalar approach, this project will theorise how fashion is created, circulated, valuated, and consumed in and through Global Souths Value Chains (Guangdong-Nairobi-Maputo), dissecting complex dynamics and expressions of power.  

Prof. Louis Vermeulen (Laboratory for Experimental Oncology and Radiobiology, Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): NIMICRY: Poor Prognosis Colorectal Cancers Display Self-sustained Growth by Niche-mimicry

Colon cancer is not one disease but actually a collection of different types of cancer. Vermeulen saw in his laboratory that there is a subgroup of intestinal tumours which grow on their own, without the help of other factors, and which can metastasize very quickly. It is a type of colon cancer with a poor outcome that is also relatively insensitive to current treatments. About 30% of all colon cancer patients have this subtype of cancer. The cancer cells of this colorectal cancer type seem to be able to create their own environment in which they can divide unbridled, a so-called niche. A niche is normally the environment that supports a stem cell, but it also occurs in cancer. Usually, these cancer niches are formed by supporting tissue cells in the tumour. The fact that tumour cells can form the niche themselves is a new hypothesis. Vermeulen calls this behaviour of the cancer cells 'nimicry', an amalgamation of niche and mimicry.

In addition, applications made from research institute AMOLF by UvA professors by special appointment Erik Garnett and Wim Noorduin were also awarded Consolidator Grants in this round.

Garnett’s FOCUS: Flourescent Optical Concentration of Uncollimated Sunlight project will develop thin-films that concentrate sunlight with high-efficiency, low-cost and scalable conversion, creating collimated, monochromatic, high-intensity beams that can provide advantages for photovoltaics and photocatalysis.

Noorduin’s project - CHIRAL: Crystals of single chirality via non-equilibrium routes - aims to establish new principles for obtaining molecules of a desired 'handedness'. This will provide versatile, sustainable, and simple routes towards essential molecular building blocks for the pharmaceutical and other industries.