© Hector Fellow Academy
5. November 2020
Peter Hegemann receives ERC Synergy Grant

Hector Fellow Peter Hegemann receives funding by the European Research Council (ERC)

The project “Switch­able rhodOpsins in Life Sciences” (SOL) is a inter­dis­ci­pli­nary, collab­o­ra­tive project to struc­turally and biophys­i­cally analyse selected photo-recep­tors and develop them into “OptoG­PCRs”, light-controlled molec­u­lar switches with a wide range of appli­ca­tions in biology and medicine.

It is based upon so-called bistable rhodopsins. Rhodopsins are light activated GPCRs, best known for their role as light recep­tors in the retina of the human eye. The vision recep­tors in our eyes loose their light-sensor, the vitamin A derivate retinal, upon activa­tion and must be “re-assem­bled” in order to accept photons (light) again. Bistable rhodopsins however, keep their retinal and can in princi­ple be activated and de-activated by multi­ple flashes of light without requir­ing any assem­bly, acting as true biolog­i­cal “switches”.

During the six years of funding, these bistable rhodopsins will be examined in their function­al­ity. Further­more bistable rhodopsins with new proper­ties will be created and the findings will be used to develop new Gene thera­peu­tics against human diseases. The ERC Synergy Grant aims at becom­ing the catalyst for a “second optoge­netic revolution”.

The inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research team of the project consists of Hector Fellow Peter Hegemann (Humboldt Univer­sity of Berlin, Germany) along­side Gebhard Schertler head of the Division of Biology and Chemistry at PSI, Sonja Klein­lo­gel (Univer­sity of Bern, Switzer­land) and Rob Lucas (Univer­sity of Manches­ter, UK). The ERC provides 10 million euros in funding.

Congrat­u­la­tions to Peter Hegemann!