Keele Biologist wins ERC Research Grant to study Malaria

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Posted on 01 December 2016

Dr Catherine Merrick, Senior Lecturer in Biology at the Centre for Applied Entomology and Parasitology (CAEP), has won a 2-million euro ERC Consolidator grant in this year's round of awards from the prestigious EU funding scheme. 

Only ~100 such grants are awarded to biologists across the EU each year, targeting world-leading mid-career researchers.  ERC grants are designed to support long-term, high-risk/high-gain research proposals and this award will allow Dr Merrick to bring three new researchers to Keele CAEP for a 5 year period: a substantial investment that is 3-4 times the size of a standard UK research council grant.  It comes shortly after the award of another grant, from the UK Medical Research Council, to the same lab - collectively adding 5 new researchers to the CAEP community and significantly boosting malaria research at Keele.

In her ERC-funded project, Dr Merrick will use a novel technique that she recently developed at Keele to follow DNA replication and cell-cycle dynamics in the growth cycles of the human malaria parasite.  This will reveal new insights into the fundamental biology of a very unusual parasitic microbe, and could also help scientists to understand important clinical aspects of malaria, such as antimalarial drug resistance and why the parasite grows differently in different human hosts.

Dr Merrick said 'I'm delighted that I will be able to pursue this exciting new research project on such an ambitious scale.  I'm also very pleased to have received a major EU grant in post-referendum Britain: the outlook for EU funding after Brexit remains deeply uncertain and there are already indications that UK scientists - who have traditionally done very well in EU research funding - may be losing their share in these grants.  Having obtained this award purely on scientific merit without regard to politics, I fully intend to exploit the opportunities offered by an ERC grant to work with collaborators across Europe and to hire the very best researchers, regardless of nationality.'