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FNR 2022 CORE Call results

Four LIH projects selected for funding

02 January 2023 5minutes

On Friday, December 16th, the Luxembourg National Research Fund (Fonds National de la Recherche – FNR) announced the results of its 2022 CORE Call. A total of 48 out of the 174 eligible projects were retained for funding, corresponding to an FNR financial commitment of EUR 31.3 million. Four LIH projects are among the retained ones, for a total support amounting to over EUR 2.9 million – an excellent end to the year!

CORE is the central funding programme of the FNR, aiming to strengthen the scientific quality of Luxembourg’s public research and implement the country’s research priorities. The projects retained under the 2022 Call span three main categories, specifically “Industrial and Service Transformation”, “Sustainable and Responsible Development” and “Personalised Healthcare”. Four LIH projects from the Department of Infection and Immunity (DII), the Department of Precision Health (DoPH) and the Department of Cancer Research (DOCR) will benefit from the financial support of the FNR in the “Personalised Healthcare” category under this 2022 call. Three of these fall specifically under the “Precision medicine, including environmental, lifestyle and socio-economic factors” subcategory, and one under the “Understanding, preventing, and treating the health-disease transition”.    

“PSEUDO” (Pre-clinical Validation Of Comix And Bikes/Trikes Against Infection Of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa), led by Drs Carole Devaux and Jacques Zimmer of the DII, will focus on the use of novel antibodies to selectively target the bacterium P. aeruginosa, which causes lung-invasive infections such as pneumonia, and induce an immune response to effectively kill the pathogen. The team has already developed several innovative antibody-like structures, known as Complement-activating Multimeric immunotherapeutic compleXes (CoMiX), as well as bi-specific (BiKE) and tri-specific (TriKE) antibodies, which have shown the ability to reduce bacterial growth. The PSEUDO project will therefore seek to preclinically validate the therapeutic efficacy of these antibodies in activating the immune system and clearing the infection in vivo, using animal models. “Our goal is to investigate the mechanisms of action of such antibodies and evaluate their therapeutic potential against P. aeruginosa, in the context of a directed anti-infectious strategy for patients suffering from lung-invasive diseases that do not respond to standard antibiotic treatment”, explains Dr Devaux. “If successful, our results could be further tested in humans in Phase I clinical trials and, ultimately, provide a viable treatment option against antibiotic-resistant lung pathogens like P. aeruginosa”, concludes Dr Zimmer. The project was funded with EUR 669,000 under the FNR call.

Although immune system cells play a key role in detecting and destroying cancer cells, thereby preventing the proliferation and spread of many cancers, the mechanisms underlying their efficacy and effectiveness are still largely unknown. Consequently, “EPICON” (Epigenetic Control Of Nk Cell Function) aims to elucidate the main factors that can improve the efficacy of natural killer (NK) cells, one of the most effective killers of cancerous cells in the bloodstream. Led by Dr Sebastian Scheer, EPICON focuses specifically on the identification of epigenetic modifiers that can be targeted to improve the cancer-killing activity of NK cells.  By leveraging in vivo CRISPR technology, individual epigenetic modifiers will be deleted in NK cells and their function subsequently tested in preclinical models of cancer. In addition, the team will perform in vivo and ex vivo studies to elucidate the specific mechanisms underlying the effect of individual epigenetic modifiers on NK cell function. “Overall, EPICON will lay the groundwork for improving NK cell-based cancer therapies, thereby providing an alternative treatment option for patients”, says Dr Scheer. The project, which received EUR 963,000 in funding from the FNR, is co-financed by the Fondation Cancer.

Through the project “CaroFiber” (Interactions of Carotenoids and Dietary Fiber – Implications For Bioavailability And Colonic Degradation), Dr Torsten Bohn of the NutriHealth group at DoPH will investigate the impact of different dietary fibres on the bioavailability of carotenoids during gastro-intestinal digestion. A final human study, during which 24 volunteers will consume three different test meals with different types of dietary fibres and one control meal, will also be carried out to confirm findings generated in vitro in the laboratory. “Our project is expected to reveal which dietary fibres may hamper or improve carotenoid availability and absorption in the gut. This will be particularly relevant for people with low vitamin A intake, such as vegetarians and people living in countries with low meat intake, as well as for the general population, as these pigments are known to reduce the incidence of various chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, but also of age-related vision loss”, explains Dr Bohn. CaroFiber was awarded EUR 793,000 under the FNR call.

Dr Björn Becker, of the Cancer Metabolism Group at DOCR, will lead “1cRedOx” (Targeting Aldh1l2 To Enforce ER Stress Sensitivity Of Cancer Cells). The project will test a new treatment approach to prevent colorectal cancer (CRC) progression. Specifically, the team will deactivate a specific enzyme (ALDH1L2) shown to promote cancer cell survival under stress conditions, while simultaneously applying a stress stimulus, thereby seeking to disrupt the cancer cell’s ability to survive and reducing CRC growth and metastasis. The team already demonstrated the effectiveness of this combinatorial intervention strategy in hindering cancer cell growth in vitro, and will now therefore seek to precisely elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms and evaluate its therapeutic potential on primary tumour growth and metastasis formation in preclinical CRC models. “Our goal is to ultimately set the basis for the translation of our innovative therapeutic approach into the clinical practice, thereby contributing to improving the treatment of CRC”, adds Dr Becker. The project, co-financed by the FNR and the Fondation Cancer, was granted EUR 498,000 under the “Understanding, preventing, and treating the health-disease transition” sub-category of the 2022 CORE Call.

We are very grateful to the FNR for unwaveringly supporting our research efforts across our priority disease areas. The funded projects are expected to provide concrete results that will translate into more advanced treatment options and generate tangible benefits for Luxembourg patients

states Dr Frank Glod, Chief of Scientific Operations at LIH.

Scientific Contact

  • Frank
    Chief of Scientific Operations



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