11.04.2024 Two researchers from Philipps-Universität receive ERC Advanced Grants

Excellent cutting-edge research from indology to microbiology honoured

ruin of a Kashmiri Hindu temple
Photo: Colourbox.de
Ruin of a Kashmiri Hindu temple.

Two scientists from Philipps-Universität Marburg have been successful in the competition for prestigious research funding from the European Research Council (ERC): Indologist Prof Dr Jürgen Hanneder and microbiologist Prof Dr Tobias Erb have each been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for their ambitious projects. The funding is also an honour for established top researchers who want to open up new areas of research.

"I warmly congratulate Jürgen Hanneder and Tobias Erb on this special success. The ERC Advanced Grants are further impressive proof of the excellence and diversity of Marburg's research, which spans a broad spectrum from the humanities to the natural sciences," says Prof Dr Gert Bange, Vice President for Research at Philipps-Universität Marburg. The European Research Council (ERC) is the research funding organisation of the European Union. The ERC Advanced Grants are one of the organisation's four major funding programmes. 

Preserving the Sanskrit cultural heritage of the Kashmir region

Illustration of a Sanskrit handwriting from Kashmir
Photo: private
Prof Dr Jürgen Hanneder receives an ERC Advanced Grant for his research into the Kashmiri Sanskrit heritage, which includes this manuscript.

Jürgen Hanneder researches the languages, cultures and history of the Indian cultural area. For his project "K-S-H-Raksa", which is dedicated to preserving the Kashmiri Sanskrit heritage, he is receiving 2.5 million euros in funding over five years. The Kashmiri literary heritage has recently come under threat, not least due to political conflicts such as the expulsion of the Hindus in 1989. Recent research shows that the manuscript heritage of Kashmiri Sanskrit literature, which is scattered around the world and is no longer being catalogued in Kashmir itself, contains spectacular works. These include the largest picture poem known to date in world literature, recently published by Jürgen Hanneder. 

"We should not let up in our efforts to make this fascinating literature accessible, because there are still significant treasures to be unearthed," explains Hanneder, Head of Marburg Indology. Over the next five years, he will use the ERC Advanced Grant to work with a team of four academics to search through the vast amount of known manuscripts from Kashmir for unknown works and publish them for the first time in a new publication series. "We hope to make a contribution to the protection and preservation of these unique literary treasures," says Hanneder.

Increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis

Portrait Tobias Erb
Photo: DFG/David Ausserhofer
Prof Dr Tobias Erb receives an ERC Advanced Grant for his research into the past and future of photosynthesis.

Tobias Erb is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology and has been a professor at the Philipps-Universität Marburg since 2018. Prof Erb has already received an ERC Starting Grant and was awarded the DFG Leibniz Prize this year. He is a member of the former LOEWE-funded Centre for Synthetic Microbiology "SYNMIKRO" and co-spokesperson of the LOEWE focus area "Tree-M - Mechanisms of resilience and environmental impact of the leaf microbiome of trees". Tobias Erb received the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant for his research on the past and future of photosynthesis. His project "pro2neo-RUBISCO" will receive around 2.8 million euros in funding for five years.

Photosynthesis is the most important process for life on earth. With the help of photosynthesis, plants and microorganisms capture the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and bind it in biomass, which we use in our everyday lives in the form of food (grain), building materials (cellulose, cotton) or as an energy source (wood, crude oil). Photosynthesis is therefore not only a natural CO2 filter, but also plays a key role in feeding the world's population and in the transformation to a bio-based economy by converting the greenhouse gas directly into usable raw materials.

"Despite billions of years of evolution, photosynthesis is currently caught in a dilemma," explains Tobias Erb and adds: "The central step in photosynthesis, the conversion of CO2 by the enzyme Rubisco, is slow and error-prone. This limits the efficiency of photosynthesis, which means dramatic losses for agricultural yields." In the pro2neo-RUBISCO project, Tobias Erb and his team want to study the evolutionary history of Rubisco, elucidate the molecular mechanism of the enzyme and use synthetic biology to design new alternatives to the enzyme in order to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis in the long term.

Translated with DeepL Pro