School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

SBCS’ Dr Chema Martin receives prestigious ERC Starting Grant

School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS) Lecturer in Organismal Biology Chema Martin has received a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) as part of the 'excellent science' pillar of the EU's current Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

27 July 2018

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Dr Chema Martin (Credit: Ray Crundwell Photography)

He is one of only 403 talented early career researchers in the world to have been awarded the prestigious ERC grant, with scientists benefiting from EUR603 million in total and up to EUR1.5 million each, to create their own research teams and conduct pioneering projects.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "In addition to supporting early stage European researchers, the ERC Starting Grants also help enrich the European research field by attracting and retaining foreign scientists in Europe.”

On receiving the grant, Dr Chema Martin issued the following response:

“The ERC Starting Grant will give me the opportunity to establish a world-leading team the in SBCS at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) that investigates the embryogenesis of one of the major animal groups, which includes organisms such as snails, earthworms, and flatworms. All these very different looking animals have in common the way they develop as embryos, as they all exhibit an early mode of embryogenesis called spiral cleavage. Interestingly, during spiral cleavage, the progenitor cells of the tissues and organs of the adult emerge in two different ways.

In what we call the conditional mode, the cells formed after the first zygotic divisions communicate with each other to decide the tissues each cell will generate. On the other hand, it is the mother that defines the fate of these progenitor cells in the so-called autonomous mode, by providing molecules that guide the subsequent development of each progenitor. Which mechanisms control spiral cleavage and how these mechanisms change to generate the ‘conditional’ and ‘autonomous’ modes of development is still largely unknown.

With this ERC Starting Grant I will be able to tackle these important biological questions and perform the most comprehensive comparative study of spiral cleavage conducted so far. In a general context, this project will greatly contribute to our global understanding of early animal development, and thus of the abnormal conditions that can result in pathological defects at these early stages of embryogenesis.”

About the ERC

The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. It offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between grantees' pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation.