The European Research Council: celebrating a 10-year success story

The first European funding entity established to promote and support frontier research of excellence – the European Research Council (ERC), has just turned ten.

Established back in 2007 by the European Union, ERC´s mission is to back the very best basic research in Europe through competitive funding across all fields and countries. It has delivered superbly on its promise by funding some 7,000 researchers and, as a consequence, supporting over 40, 000 group members. Through its three core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, and Advanced Grants, as well as its Proof of Concept (PoC) program that launched in 2011, ERC has been fundamental in making Europe a global center of excellence in research.

“These highly competitive and prestigious ERC Grants, recognized the world over, enable top-drawer talents to drive basic discovery towards tackling important societal challenges; one major one being cancer. Given the forecast that one in two people will develop this disease at some point in their lives, we must continue to up the tempo in advancing research to better prevent, treat, and ultimately beat cancer. Only with the continued financing of the very best science in oncology can we hope to do so. The ERC consequently represents an invaluable source of funding that spurs the translation of preclinical findings into real benefit for patients,”
observes Josep Tabernero, Director of VHIO.

Over the past two years, existing ERC grant holders Joan Seoane, Director of Translational Research at VHIO, and Laura Soucek, Principal Investigator of VHIO´s Mouse Models of Cancer Therapies Group – both ICREA Professors, have also been awarded PoC Grants. Prior to receiving this latest ERC seal of excellence, they were awarded with the prestigious Starting and Consolidator Grants, respectively.

In 2015 Joan received his second PoC top-up funding to further fuel research aimed at developing a more effective and safer therapeutic antibody for cancer treatment with a dual mechanism of action to thwart cancer stem cells (CSCs) and reactivate the host immune response against cancer. It is thanks to such support that Joan continues to lead important progress in the development of more effective anticancer therapies against tumor types including glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

VHIO spinout Mosaic Biomedicals, co-founded by Joan in 2014 and generated thanks in part to the ERC PoC funding, at the end of last year announced that a first-in-class therapeutic antibody for cancer, MSC-1, will proceed into clinical development. Clinical trials across several tumor types will commence this year with multiple sites planned throughout Europe and North America.

Awarded her PoC Grant in 2016, Laura and her team focus on successfully translating Omomyc-based therapy into clinical application and ultimately, direct benefit for numerous cancer patients. In so doing, the Omomyc cell-penetrating peptide (CPP) would become the first ever clinically viable and direct inhibitor of Myc – a protein implicated in the formation of most tumor types, to treat brain, lung, and several other cancers. Importantly, this anti-Myc peptide would also offer a less invasive form of therapy since Laura’s group has already proven preclinically that it can be successfully administered intranasally to deliver its powerful anti-cancer blows.

Founded in December 2014, Peptomyc – a spin-off of VHIO co-founded by Laura, who is also CEO of the company, represents the driving force behind de-risking Omomyc-CPP from a Proof of Concept Development Stage into a successful Phase I/II product and then licensing it to a pharmaceutical company.

On behalf of VHIO, we thank the ERC for backing research at VHIO as well as applaud its commitment and dedication to fostering, promoting and potentiating world-class research throughout Europe.

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