Science - January 20, 2010

De Vos and Groenen among top European researchers

Microbiologist Willem de Vos and geneticist Martien Groenen are among the European Research Council's top researchers. They will each receive a grant of 2.5 million euros for a five-year research project.

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a total of 515 million euros to 236 top European researchers. Among them are sixteen Dutch scientists. Besides the two Wageningers, others who received awards for outstanding life science research are Rotterdam virologist Ab Osterhuis, Leiden biologist Paul Brakefield and two Dutch cancer researchers.
The selection criteria for the ERC Advanced Grant are very strict, says Wageningen talent scout Henrieke de Ruiter. 'The candidates have to write a brilliant research proposal and this is put through two assessment rounds. Their CV is evaluated too. You have to have been published in Nature or another top journal in your field.'
De Vos is going to do further research on our intestinal flora in a project called Microbes Inside. Groenen will be studying the development of genetic factors in pigs under the influence of domestication and breeding, in the SelSweep project. The grant is personal, says De Ruiter, who supports researchers in applying for it.
This year Wageningen had a 100 percent success rate, as De Vos and Groenen were the only applicants. Last year, the first year that these grants were awarded, all three Wageningen proposals were turned down.
The ERC grant is comparable in size to the Spinoza prize in the Netherlands. Last year nineteen Dutch scientists received the ERC top grant, and nine of them had previously received the Dutch Spinoza prize. This year there are three Spinoza winners, including De Vos, among the Dutch ERC star scientists. As well as this advanced grant, the ERC also awards starting grants of 1.5 million euros. These grants are intended for top researchers two to ten years after getting their PhD.