ERC Advanced Grant for Pieter Rein ten Wolde

Published on March 31, 2020
Category Biochemical Networks

Today the European Research Council (ERC) announced that 185 scientists receive an Advanced Grant of 2.5 million euros. One of them is AMOLF group leader Pieter Rein ten Wolde. He will use the grant to determine how accurately single-celled organisms can predict changes in their environment.

Optimal Cellular Prediction
We all live in a highly dynamic environment to which we continually have to respond and adapt. Yet, taking action takes time. We have therefore evolved the ability to anticipate changes in our environment and mount a response ahead of time. Experiments in recent years have vividly demonstrated that even single-celled organisms such as bacteria can predict, for example, future nutrient levels. Yet, how reliably they can do so, and what the costs and benefits of prediction are, have remained unclear. In this project Pieter Rein ten Wolde will combine measures from information theory and ideas from statistical physics to derive the fundamental limit to the prediction accuracy. He will determine how close living cells can come to this limit as set by resource constraints to build and operate the sensing system – protein copies, time, and energy. Finally, he will use this theoretical framework to set up experiments that will make it possible to test whether two specific biological systems, bacteria and yeast cells, have implemented the uncovered design principles for optimal cellular prediction.

Fig.:Living cells use biochemical networks of interacting proteins to predict the future.

About the ERC’s grants
The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation.

The European Research Council uses the ERC Advanced grants to allow outstanding research leaders to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects in Europe.

Read the ERC press release