Ghent University researcher wins ERC Proof of Concept Grant

(06-09-2022) Ghent University researcher Mo Lamkanfi wins an ERC Proof of Concept Grant. With this grant, he aims to identify new anti-inflammatories that could be used in gout, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.

Proof of Concept Grants funded by the European Research Council (ERC) have just been offered to fifty-five successful frontier researchers (out of 120 evaluated proposals). Worth €150 000 each, the grants will be used to explore the commercial or societal potential of the results of their research projects. Mo Lamkanfi is the only Belgian researcher in this round.

Discover the project of Mo Lamkanfi

In the PyroScreen project, Mo Lamkanfi aims to identify new prototype anti-inflammatories that potently and selectively block the activity of the NLRP3 inflammasome.

Inflammatory mechanisms are inadvertently activated in many chronic diseases, thus contributing to the disease process. For example, the NLRP3 inflammasome plays a crucial role in chronic inflammatory diseases such as gout and pseudogout, in metabolic diseases such as atherosclerosis and fatty liver, and in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, congenital mutations in the NLRP3 gene cause three hereditary diseases collectively known as cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome (CAPS).

Due to the broad involvement of NLRP3 in various disease indications, selective and potent inhibitors of the NLRP3 inflammasome may have broad therapeutic potential. Early clinical studies with first-generation NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors are currently underway. A major concern here is that these drug candidates all belong to the same prototype, which significantly increases development risks. To increase the chance of success, there is therefore an urgent need for new prototype molecules that can block the NLRP3 inflammasome.

PyroScreen builds on the research in the ERC Consolidator Grant PyroPOP in which the research group has gained important insights into the mechanism of action of the NLRP3 inflammasome and how inhibitors of the first-generation act on it. In PyroScreen, the researchers now want to use this knowledge and know-how to lay the foundation for the development of second-generation NLRP3 anti-inflammatories that act potently and selectively on this crucial inflammation mechanism.

More about the ERC

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation. The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council, whereof VIB-UGent professor Dirk Inzé is a member. Since 1 November 2021, Maria Leptin is the President of the ERC. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, under the responsibility of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.

Researchers within and outside of Ghent University who wish to apply for an ERC Starting Grant with our university as host institution, can contact the EU Team for advice and support.