ERC Consolidator Grants for computer science and medical research in Basel
Two scientists from the University and the University Hospital Basel receive one of the coveted ERC Consolidator Grants. The European Research Council awards grants to the computer scientist Malte Helmert and the physician Lukas Jeker.
The Consolidator Grants of the European Research Council (ERC) will be awarded for the fifth time this year. The ERC thus supports highly qualified young researchers who have seven to twelve years of experience after completing their doctorate and who have a promising scientific track record. The researchers receive up to 2.4 million euros over five years for their projects.
For a new generation of search algorithms
In his ERC project, Prof. Dr. Malte Helmert deals with a fundamental problem of artificial intelligence, the search for solutions in very large state spaces. Among trillions of possibilities, the right decision must be made in order to achieve a goal set for the computer.
So-called heuristic search methods have proven to be particularly successful. Knowledge about the problem that is automatically generated by the computer is integrated into the search process in order to bound the search. However, these methods have rarely been questioned. Helmert and his research group are now working on various approaches for a new generation of search algorithms that go beyond the current state of the art. The main idea is the use of so-called “declarative heuristics,“ which represent problem-solving concepts in a universal mathematical form. The funding of his ERC Consolidator Grant amounts to two million euros.
Malte Helmert was born in Berlin in 1978, studied computer science at the Universities of Freiburg and Durham (Great Britain) and completed his doctorate in 2006. He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Computer Science at the University of Freiburg. In 2011, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Computational Intelligence at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Basel and promoted to Associate Professor in 2016. Helmert already received an ERC Starting Grant for his research in 2013.
New strategies for cell therapy
Prof. Dr. Lukas Jeker works at the Department of Biomedicine, where he investigates the inner workings of immune cells on a molecular level. He explores how genetic immune cell reprogramming could be used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and transplants.
Together with his research group, he has developed a strategy to genetically mark cells prior to therapeutic transfer. The label can later be used as a safety mechanism to remove cells if undesired side effects occur. The same mark can also be used to protect therapeutic cells from attack by an antibody or therapeutic killer cell. Jeker's ERC project will test applications of this novel principle in preclinical models of blood cancer and a severe autoimmune disease. The aim is to develop new treatment approaches. His ERC Consolidator Grant has a funding total of 2.4 million euros.
Lukas Jeker was born in 1975 in Roma (Lesotho), studied medicine at the University of Basel and in Paris and worked as a resident in Davos, Liestal and Basel.
In 2005, he received his doctorate with a biomedical thesis as part of the Swiss MD-PhD program, followed by a doctorate in medicine in 2009. From 2007 to 2013, Jeker worked at the University of California, San Francisco.
From 2014 he was an SNF-funded professor at the University of Basel, where he habilitated in 2016. In 2017 he became assistant professor for Experimental Transplantation Immunology and Nephrology in Basel, where he also works at the University Hospital.
Prof. Dr. Malte Helmert, University of Basel, Department Mathematics and Computer Science, phone +41 61 207 05 48, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Dr. Lukas T. Jeker, University of Basel / University Hospital Basel, Department Biomedicine, phone +41 61 328 50 27, email: email@example.com