Dr. Anneke I. den Hollander (Department of Ophthalmology) has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant of 1.5 million euro. With this grant she will study the causes of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD is an aging disease of the central retina, and represents one of the most common causes of vision loss in the Western world. The number of patients with AMD rapidly increases with age, from 1.5% of individuals above 50 years, to 20% of individuals above 80 years. Patients with AMD gradually lose their central vision, and as a consequence they are not able to read, they cannot drive a car, and they cannot recognize faces.
AMD is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors, but the exact causes are insufficiently understood. With this grant the research group of Dr. den Hollander will use the newest genetic techniques to identify the causes of AMD. Her research will mainly focus on defects in the immune system. Her team will study which components of the immune system are defective in AMD patients, and will determine why immune dysregulation can lead to retinal defects.
With her research Dr. den Hollander expects to develop reliable prognostic tests to determine who is at high risk to develop AMD. By unraveling the underlying pathogenic mechanisms new therapies can be developed tailored to the individual patient, which will prevent vision loss due to AMD in the future.
The European Research Council's (ERC) mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-initiated frontier research across all fields of research, on the basis of scientific excellence. The ERC complements other funding activities in Europe such as those of the national research funding agencies, and is a flagship component of the 'Ideas Programme' of the European Union's Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7).
Being 'investigator-driven', or 'bottom-up', in nature, the ERC approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions in any field of research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians. This approach ensures that funds are channelled into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility.
More information on the ERC-Website