ERC starting grant awarded to Jean Michel Cioni
On September 3th, the European Research Council (ERC) awarded more than € 600 million to early-career researchers from over 50 countries: among the winners, Jean Michel Cioni, the new group leader of the RNA biology of the neuron Unit at the Division of Neuroscience of IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele. It is the fourteenth ERC grant awarded to a researcher working at Ospedale San Raffaele over the 12-year history of the funding program.
The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organization for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the best researchers from any nationality and age to run projects in Europe. «Researchers need freedom and support to follow their scientific curiosity if we are to find answers to the most difficult challenges of our age and our future», says Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation. «This is the strength of the grants that the EU provides through the European Research Council: an opportunity for outstanding scientists to pursue their most daring ideas».
An expert in molecular biology applied to neuroscience, Cioni has been working for 5 years at the University of Cambridge, UK, where he focused on the transport of genetic information within neurons. He arrived in Italy in 2019 thanks to the Career Development Award of the Armenise Harvard Foundation, and chose IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele because of the cutting-edge research in neuroscience and cell biology performed at the institute. Now, thanks to the new ERC funding, Cioni will be able to set up his new laboratory under the best possible conditions. His research group will investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the transport and translation into proteins of specific mRNAs in neuronal subdomains.
«We usually think of a cell as a tiny object, but compared to the size of proteins the cell is huge. To successfully do their job, these molecules need to be synthesized at the right place at the right time. We want to understand how this process works, especially in neurons», explains Cioni. «We already know that local synthesis of proteins in restricted neuronal compartments, such as axons, dendrites and synapses, is crucial for neuronal survival and that its dysregulation has been linked to several neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders».