A new EU funded training for young scientists in cancer research

The “Marie Sklodowska Curie” programme of the European Union is funding training networks for young researchers with a focus on international mobility. “We are very happy that our project has received an excellent evaluation with 98 points out of 100. The competition at this tender is so strong that even projects with very good marks can still be refused”, tells Dr Thomas Sauter, Professor of Systems Biology at the University of Luxembourg and training coordinator for the whole network.

The MEL-PLEX Network (which stands for “Exploiting MELanoma disease comPLEXity to address European research training needs in translational cancer systems biology and cancer systems medicine”) is coordinated from Dublin and connects universities, hospitals and businesses from eleven different countries, among them Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Denmark, Israel and USA. All of them work on skin cancer: “If detected too late, this cancer is generally lethal, because it is widely resistant to chemotherapy and no other alternative therapy has yet achieved any significant breakthrough”, explains professor Sauter.

The search for new methods of early detection as well as for alternative therapies is thus particularly urgent. Therefore, a strong networking between different research areas and with companies is crucial: “Challenges like these, where vast amounts of data are involved among other things, cannot be tackled alone. Different scientific fields need to grow together”.

The training of the two PhD students, who have been chosen from 350 candidates, will be international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral. Sébastien de Landtsheer will initially work for 18 months in Luxembourg on a mathematical description of signalling pathways in skin cancer, in which over 100 different molecules are interacting. Then he will expand his project during three months at the University College of Dublin and six months in a pharmaceutical company of Boston.

“As I will be in contact with experts from different fields, I will learn more and be able to establish many contacts as opposed to staying in one institution only”, he says. His colleague Marco Albrecht emphasizes: “Thanks to the different partners of the network, we have ideal career conditions”. He plans, for his part, to create a 3D Model of a tumour in Luxembourg, which he will refine at the Hospital of the University of Dresden and at the company Optimata in Israel. The training will be completed by workshops on project planning, data analysis or, for example, microscopy.

Notes to the editor:

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 642295.

Contact for journalists: Prof. Dr. Thomas Sauter, thomas.sauter@uni.lu, T: +352 46 66 44 – 6296

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