Almost ¤2 million in funding for Münster virologist

Dr. Mario Schelhaas from Münster University has seen off the competition to receive a grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The grant, worth up to two million euros, is particularly prestigious.

Mario Schelhaas is a virologist and biochemist at the Institute of Molecular Virology and the Institute of Medical Biochemistry. He is also a group leader at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence at Münster University. In awarding the grant, the ERC will be providing 1.9 million euros of funding for his research for the next five years. "This support means I can take my research to the next level," says Schelhaas. He and his team work out the infection processes of viruses. He is not only looking at how carcinogenic viruses penetrate into cells and cause, for example, cervical cancer. He also traces the infection process in order to understand cellular processes needed by the virus but which are also indispensable for healthy people. In doing so, he uses the viruses as, in a sense, microscopic spies. So far, Schelhaas has carried out research into such principal mechanisms on cell cultures. With the ERC grant he will be increasing the complexity of his experiments. This allows him to analyse, for the first time, whether – and, if so, to what extent – factors such as the ageing process or previous illnesses influence the known mechanisms and, as a result, the infection process.

Wilhelm Schmitz, Dean of the Medical Faculty is delighted about the funding: "Other grants such as start-up helps and those aimed at established researchers have already been awarded to Münster. The fact that a Consolidator Grant, positioned between the two, has been awarded for the first time to a scientist at the Medical Faculty, is a confirmation of our work involving junior scientists," he says. Last year, with mathematician Martin Burger and planetologist Thorsten Kleine two scientists from Münster University already received a Consolidator Grant. Altogether, there are around a dozen scientists with a Grant by the European Commission at the Münster University.

The Consolidator Grant funding line is aimed at junior scientists, seven to twelve years after they have gained their doctorate. It provides support for building up or consolidating excellent, independent research teams. With its funding, the ERC aims to support and promote the creativity of young, promising scientists and thus bring new ideas into research.