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Two-Pack of Success – Timo Müller and Ben Engel Receive ERC Consolidator Grant

Awards & Grants, Diabetes, IDO, Pioneer Campus,

Helmholtz Munich obtains two ERC Consolidator Grants: Timo Müller from the Institute for Diabetes and Obesity with "TRUSTED", and Ben Engel, formerly of the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus, with "cryOcean". They are among the successful 12 percent to receive ERC funding out of 2,652 applicants.

Portrait Timo Müller
IDO, Institute for Diabetes and Obesity

In 2013 Matthias Tschöp and Timo Müller described an agent that can simultaneously activate the receptors for the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and the glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP). In 2021 Timo Müller's team discovered that the GIP receptor in the brain plays a crucial role in the efficacy of this new co-agonist. GIP and GLP-1 co-agonists have since undergone the phase III studies and are among the most promising new agents for treating obesity and type-2 diabetes.

On the trail of metabolic receptor GIP

Previous studies have already shown that the GIP receptor plays a central role in the regulation of energy metabolism, but its core mechanisms are not yet fully clear. Studies also indicate that both the activation and the inhibition of this receptor has a positive impact on energy and glucose metabolism.

Timo Müller focuses on these unanswered questions about the GIP receptor with "TRUSTED". He wants to find out where and via which mechanisms the receptor in the brain affects energy and glucose metabolism. His goal is to find new approaches for future obesity and diabetes treatments. The European Research Council is now supporting him in this project with around two million euros.

"cryOcean" – seaweed as the key in the fight against climate change

Ben Engel has received the ERC Consolidator Grant for his project "cryOcean", in which he researches the molecular structure of photosynthetic organelles in seaweed. Much of photosynthesis, and thus the generation of oxygen on Earth, is performed by the chloroplasts in seaweed. Yet their molecular organisation has not yet been sufficiently researched.

With his innovative approach to cryo-electron tomography, Ben seeks to examine the structure of the chloroplasts of a wide range of seaweed species and figure out how energy from sunlight is seized by the chloroplasts and used to absorb carbon dioxide. In light of the situation posed by climate change, he hopes to learn how chloroplasts react to changing ambient conditions in the sea. This could make it possible to develop new strategies for improving photosynthesis that can ultimately help combat climate change.

Ben Engel recently left the Center and accepted an assistant professorship for Structural Biology and Biophysics at the University of Basel's Biozentrum.

313 new ERC Consolidator Grants for answering big scientific questions

With its Consolidator Grants, the European Research Council wants to support researchers – who have at least 12 years of experience following their PhD and a promising record of scientific success – in establishing or strengthening their own research group. The maximum funding is two million euros, which can be paid out over a period of five years.