Researcher Frank Jacobs (Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences) has received a Career Development Award from the international Human Frontier Science Program for his research proposal ‘Retrotransposons in control of human neuronal gene regulatory networks’.
With his over €265,000 award, Frank Jacobs will employ a PhD student to investigate to what extent recent insertions of parasitic DNA elements (retrotransposons) into our genome have contributed to the evolution of gene expression patterns in the human brain.
For this research, Jacobs’ lab uses human- and non-human primate stem cells as the source for 3-dimensional brain tissues in a dish, called 'mini-brains'. These minibrains are subjected to a series of next generation sequencing analyses to investigate which retrotransposon insertions have become essential for normal human neuronal gene expression dynamics. In addition, this research programme will elucidate how conditions such as aging affect the influence of retrotransposon elements in our genome on the expression of nearby genes. Furthermore, it will investigate a role for dysregulated retrotransposons in the etiology of human aging-related neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Following a global competition, the International Human Frontier Science Program Organisation (HFSPO) has selected eight of its fellowship holders to receive the Career Development Award (CDA). The goal of CDA support is to encourage former HFSP fellows to initiate an original research programme in their own laboratories as independent researchers in their home country or in an HFSP member country. Applicants for the CDA are expected to propose an original and innovative frontier research programme that holds promise for the development of new approaches to problems in the life sciences with potential to advance the field of research significantly. Awardees receive 300,000 USD spread over three years to jump start their first independent laboratory.
The Human Frontier Science Program is an international programme of research support implemented by HFSPO based in Strasbourg, France. Its aims are to promote intercontinental collaboration and training in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research focused on the life sciences. HFSPO receives financial support from the governments or research councils of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, UK, USA, as well as from the European Union.