ERC Starting Grant awarded to Helene Knævelsrud
In her new project, FINALphagy, Knævelsrud will study how autophagy is turned off in the body. One of the aims of her research is that it should be applicable in the development of new forms of cancer treatment.
– This award gives me the opportunity to try out new and slightly wild ideas that can give us a completely new understanding of autophagy, Helene Knævelsrud says. Image: Øystein Horgmo, UiO.
– It is a great pleasure and an honor to be awarded the ERC Starting Grant, Helene Knævelsrud says proudly.
She is a researcher at CanCell - Centre for Cancer Cell Reprogramming, a Norwegian Centre of Excellence at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, and Oslo University Hospital.
She has now been awarded 1,5 million Euros from the European Research Council (ERC) for her project FINALphagy: Final act of the autophagy symphony: Whole-organism orchestration of autophagy termination.
– This award gives me the opportunity to try out new and slightly wild ideas that can give us a completely new understanding of autophagy, the researcher says.
Wants to find out how autophagy can be switched off in the body
Autophagy means "self-eating» and is a process that all the cells in our body use to recycle their own damaged or redundant parts. In her project, Knævelsrud will explore how the body itself can regulate the process of turning autophagy on and off.
– So far, we know much about how autophagy is turned on, for example during starvation. But much less is known about how autophagy is switched off again. In particular, we would like to find out how this is controlled in different parts of the body and adjusted between different organs, Knævelsrud says.
In her research, she uses the Drosophila melanogaster fly, also known as the fruit fly.
– I have tools that allow me to manipulate and study autophagy in various organs and tissues in the larvae of the fruit fly, she says.
New knowledge about autophagy can be applied in future treatment
More knowledge about autophagy can be an important piece in the development of new forms of treatment of various diseases. Knævelsrud is a basic researcher. Even so, one of the aims of her research is to contribute to new treatment options for cancer.
– Since autophagy plays a role in many different diseases, this can also potentially be used in future treatment of other diseases, she says, and adds:
– Perhaps it could be useful to be able to adjust how quickly autophagy is turned off in connection with cancer treatment? Or perhaps in treatment aimed at neurodegenerative diseases?
A prestigious award
ERC Starting Grants are awarded to researchers two to seven years after completing their doctorate degree. The researchers must have shown potential for independent research and demonstrated a high degree of scientific maturity. Grants are awarded on the basis of excellent research and innovative potential.
– On behalf of the Faculty of Medicine, I congratulate Helene Knævelsrud on the ERC Starting Grant. We are very proud and happy that Helene has received this prestigious award, Jens Petter Berg, the Pro-dean for research says.
He also congratulates Knævelsrud's research environment at CanCell in his greeting.
– Congratulations also to the research communities at CanCell. The award shows that the Norwegian Centres of Excellence, with their focus on long-term and basic research, pays off and lays the foundation for research careers in fierce international competition for research funds. Helene Knævelsrud has acquired an excellent starting point for advanced studies of autophagy, and I wish her the best of luck with the projects, Berg says.
CanCell hosts several promising younger researchers
CanCell’s research focuses on identifying cancer cells' "Achilles' heels". The Centre develops methods to exploit these weak points with the aim of reprogramming cancer cells to become harmless. The Centre has also invested heavily in career building for younger researchers.
– Helene Knævelsrud comes from a strong research environment at CanCell, where she is a representative of a new generation of younger researchers who are now establishing themselves. The project uses basic medical research to understand (a small part of) the cancer puzzle. In recent years, the Institute of Clinical Medicine has taken targeted action to submit more ERC applications. We hope that this award to Helene Knævelsrud marks the start of a trend where more researchers from the Institute win ERC grants, Deputy Head of Institute Shuo-Wang Qiao says.