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HFSP Awards to CNP

  1. 18.5.2012

    Champalimaud Foundation scientists receive Human Frontier Science Program grants h3. Teams led by Carlos Ribeiro and Alfonso Renart each awarded grants worth $1 million.

    Renart and Ribeiro

    Champalimaud Foundation scientists, Carlos Ribeiro and Alfonso Renart, have won grants from the “Human Frontier Science Program” (HSP) for the development of internationally recognised research projects. These grants are awarded to international teams with a strong preference being given to projects involving intercontinental collaboration. Each team receives around $1 million (US) during a period of 3 years.

    The HFSP research grants are given to a wide range of projects under the general theme of “complex mechanisms of living organisms”, with a particular emphasis on cutting-edge projects with an associated risk.

    Two types of research grants are awarded: Young Investigator Grants, for teams of scientists, all of whom obtained their first independent laboratories within the last 5 years; and Program Grants, open to teams of scientists at any phase of their careers.

    Alfonso Renart and Carlos Ribeiro are both Principal Investigators in the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme. Alfonso Renart received the Young Investigator Grant, one of eight which were attributed to projects around the world, for research on the bases of “working memory” in the neuronal circuits of the pre-frontal cortex. The project led by Dr. Renart involves collaboration with scientists from Imperial College, in London, and from the Korea Institute for Science and Technology in Seoul, South Korea. This team, which receives 1 million Dollars over 3 years, is interested in understanding the mechanisms associated with cognitive function, known as “working memory”. Working memory gives our brains the ability to retain and process information in order to structure our behaviour. For example, we use working memory when we remember a phone number long enough to put it down on paper. Another example is a process of decision making in which we mentally consider and evaluate various factors which are for or against a particular action.

    Animals and human beings with injuries in the pre-frontal cortex display deficiencies in working memory tasks. Illnesses like schizophrenia present problems with working memory and have an abnormal pre-frontal cortex function. Physiological studies in animals also show that the neurons in the pre-frontal cortex can be activated by specific transitory sensory stimuli, but they continue to fire when the stimulus disappears if the animal needs to remember the stimulus in order to orient its behaviour. The grant awarded to Alfonso Renart’s team will be used to investigate the various aspects of these working memory neuronal correlations in the pre-frontal cortex.

    Carlos Ribeiro has received the Program Grant, also worth $1 million to his group, for research into the process of looking for food. This project involves collaboration with scientists from Imperial College and the University of Washington.

    The collection of nutrients is essential for all animals, and the study of the choice process has been the object of substantial analysis. Using the Drosophila Melanogaster, known as the fruit fly, Dr. Ribeiro’s group develops new theoretical approaches to the process of food choice, combining experimental methodologies with existing knowledge.
    The HFSP considered 800 candidates this year from which only 96 were invited to submit the full candidature. From these, 8 teams were awarded the Young Investigator Grant and 25 the Program Grant, with the total value of each award being $1 million. The recipient laboratories are situated in 20 different countries, including 4 in Australia, 10 in Asia, 37 in North America and 50 in Europe.

    The Human Frontier Science Program, run by the Strasbourg-based Human Frontier Science Program International Organization (HFSPO), is a financing programme for research at the cutting-edge in the life sciences.

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