New Delhi: An over
2.2-million-euros grant to research the mysteries of the human DNA
in a lab in France - that's the handsome sum Indian researcher Ramesh Pillai has got from the European Research Council (ERC).
Till now, 13 Indians have got grants to pursue unfettered or "blue
sky" research, ERC data shows.
Pillai, who got the ERC Starting Grant in 2010, is based at the
European Molecular Biological Laboratory, Grenoble.
Through his research, Pillai said he is "trying to understand how
the cell world controls the genetic information within it". This
would help in creating artificial molecules which could be used to
target "regions of interest - for example - broken or damaged
copies of our genes that cause diseases like cancer", Pillai said
in a video clip provided to IANS by the ERC.
There is also Suman Peel-Lata, a research fellow at the University
Of Bristol. Though she trained as a chemist in India, Peel-Lata
was always fascinated by the "prospect of applying tools from
physics to complex biological systems".
"I tried to understand how some viruses like HIV multiply inside
the host cell and escape the host cell to further infect other
cells," she said.
Peel-Lata, who got substantial funding from the ERC, says the
object of her research is to develop new technology to understand
the process of "membrane abscission" which would be very useful
for "doing effective drug discovery" for HIV-1, among other
She said the ERC "actively encourages collaboration with
international partners and is willing to let you take measured
amounts of risk and aim high", in comparison to other research
bodies in the West that fund "tested and tried territories".
"The ERC grant is substantial and allows me to do blue sky
research," said Peel-Lata.
The criterion, according to her, is to identify a research field
that is of "interest to wider community, and the ability to take
calculated amounts of risk and the courage to get out of your
comfort zone and aim high".
As part of its 2012 "ERC Goes Global" awareness campaign, ERC
Secretary General Donald Dingwell went on a world tour to inform
researchers about attractive European funding opportunities. He
was in India last month.
The ERC funds leading researchers from anywhere in the world, and
their innovative ideas across all disciplines, with up to euro 3.5
million (around Rs.24.68 crore) per grant, said a statement.
Since the ERC's launch in 2007, it has awarded euro 5.7 billion
(approx Rs.40,196 crore) to over 3,400 scientists - both
early-career and senior.
Since 2007, around 13 Indian researchers have been awarded ERC
grants; a number that the ERC said it would "be happy to see