30 March 2023

Professor Brickman awarded prestigious ERC Advanced Grant


The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Professor Josh Brickman and his group a 2.5 million euro grant for their work on the key role held by transcription factors in genes and how they interact with the relay system found in a cell. The grant is awarded for a period of five years.

“This grant is a great boon to our ongoing research on the crucial role of transcription factors in plasticity and regeneration,” says Brickman, who is based at reNEW’s Copenhagen node. “We focus on exploring the interaction of transcription factors with the signalling relay systems inside cells to understand how they communicate instructions and accesses the information residing in their genomes,” he adds.   

Brickman and his group have found that it is the relay system that is used by cells to interpret signals from other cells that turn genes on. They have developed technology to activate this relay system in every cell in the dish and isolate the role played by the relay and the transcription factor. The ERC grant will enable them to exploit this technology and explore the generality of these new paradigms for gene regulation.  

Research on the interaction between the transcription factors and relay system  
Using this new funding, Brickman and his group try to figure out how the relay system finds the right transcription factors to work with and turn the right genes on or off. The researchers exploit their ability to activate the relay system to understand how transcription factors act from gene enhancers, how transcription factors protect past and future cell identities, and how enhancers act with the relay system/transcription factors to activate the correct gene from far away in their genome. 

Finally, they want to understand how transcription factors support plasticity in early development and cell differentiation. Based on their discovery of what transcription factors do in stem cells, Brickman and his team have hypothesized that the persistence of a select set of them endows cells with the ability to change their mind and hence regenerate missing tissue. They want to understand how the cells do this. 

Read more about their research here: https://bit.ly/3Kg45MS