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08Jan 2013

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Large European grant for study into enhancer-RNA

Amsterdam, January 8 2013 - The European Research Council (ERC) appointed a grant of over 2.4 million euros to Reuven Agami, researcher at the Netherlands Camcer Institute in Amsterdam. The ERC, promoting groundbreaking research since 2006, is an organization that appoints grant to the biggest scientific talents in Europe, on a yearly basis.

Genetic tools

Agami's research proposal aims at enhancers and a way to turn off their activity. Enhancers are bits of DNA that heighten the expression, and with that the effect, of genes around them. Recently it has been showed that enhancers produce a special kind of RNA (enhancer-RNA or eRNA for short), that is important for the heightening effect of enhancers. This last result was published two weeks ago in the journal Molecular Cell by the Agami group.

Agami continues the search for genetic tools to inactivate enhancers via eRNAs, so that the local production of genes is decreased. If this also works in the genes that play a role in the initiation of cancer, the so-called oncogenes, these tools could be used to inhibit tumor growth.

Extraordinary feat

An extraordinary feat is that Agami is the first, and so far the only one, in Europe to receive both a Starting Grant (1.3 million) and an Advanced Investigators Grant (2.4 million) from the ERC.

With the allocation of the grant to Agami, who works at the Netherlands Cancer Institute but is also appointed professor MicroRNA and Pathogenesis at the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, the Netherlands Cancer Institute is on the right track. Over the last years the ERC has given other grants to the research of the Netherlands Cancer Institute such as: René Bernards, Titia Sixma, Jacques Neefjes, Huib Ovaa, Ton Schumacher, Bas van Steensel, Thijn Brummelkamp and Jacqueline Jacobs.

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