24m NOK awarded to NCMM group leaders from the Research Council of Norway

Nikolina Sekulic and Irep Gözen each awarded a ‘FRIPRO’ grant of 12m NOK

NCMM congratulates group leaders Nikolina Sekulic and Irep Gözen on both receiving a FRIPRO grant from the Research Council of Norway (RCN). 

The grants, each worth almost 12m NOK, were awarded for the following projects:

Profile photo of Nikolina Sekulic
Dr. Nikolina Sekulic. Photo: Oda Hveem

Nikolina Sekulic: Determining the Molecular Architecture of Centromeric Chromatin

Dr Sekulic comments:

The work proposed here will provide missing and necessary high-resolution structural information about the centromere – the part of the chromosome that mediates cell division and that is at the heart of the propagation of life as we know it. We expect the knowledge from our research to help in the engineering of centromeres for gene therapies and to contribute to a better understanding of diseases connected to aberrant cell division, like cancers and Downs syndrome.

Grant will allow the group to expand expertise and retain key researchers

I am thrilled that RCN has recognised the importance and potential long-term impact of our basic research. The support from RCN will enable a talented young researcher, Ahmad Ali-Ahmad, who generated a wealth of preliminary data for the project, to continue his efforts in the lab. The funding will also allow us to further expand local expertise in cryo-electron microscopy, a revolutionary structural biology technique, that is only starting to develop in Norway. Finally, I believe that funded basic research will generate a fertile ground for the design and development of future therapies.      

I would also like to thank all members of our group, our local and international collaborators and staff at NCMM for constant support in our research. 

Profile photo of Irep Gözen
Dr. Irep Gözen. Photo: Oda Hveem

Irep Gözen: Did surfaces enable the origins of life? The role of interfaces in the emergence of primitive cells on the early Earth

Dr. Gözen comments:

The project aims at understanding the capabilities of how primitive cells undergo shape transformations on solid surfaces. My team recently made the breakthrough discovery that simple lipid assemblies can spontaneously form on a solid surface. From here they then develop into a network of microcompartments, and then autonomously grow, divide, and relocate. These findings not only open doors to the creation of life-like machines, artificial cells, and soft computing devices, but also offer a fresh approach to the ‘origins of life’ debate. 

Research has the potential to answer some of the remaining big questions regarding the origins of life

We intend to study how the tiny energy gain arising from contact with naturally occurring mineral and meteorite surfaces drives a unique multi-stage transformation of rough surfactant assemblies into organized and unique protocell morphologies. The project proposes a research line that can answer some of the pending big questions about the origins of life. 

I am very happy to receive the grant, which will allow me to obtain the resources and investigate the ideas proposed for this RCN project in the Ground-Breaking Research scheme. Enabled by the latest interdisciplinary bionanotechnological and methodological developments, to which my team contributed significantly, the proposed hypothesis is ready to be tested. The subject of the development of life on Earth is of exceptionally broad interest, which puts this project at the forefront of research on a competitive international scale.

About FRIPRO grants

The Research Council of Norway awards FRIPRO grants annually to projects that support scientific renewal and development in research that can help to advance the international research front. The grant is aimed at researchers who have demonstrated the ability to conduct high quality research.


Published June 24, 2021 3:21 PM - Last modified Dec. 16, 2021 7:51 PM