A New ERC Grant awarded to the Institute for Research In Biomedicine in Bellinzona

Dr. Roger Geiger, Group leader at the IRB
Dr. Roger Geiger, Group leader at the IRB

Institutional Communication Service

24 August 2018

Since 2007, the European Research Council (ERC), an initiative of the European Commission, supports the best and most creative scientists to identify and explore new opportunities and directions in any field of research. The first step of the ERC funding program is represented by the so-called ‘ERC Starting Grants’, designed to support outstanding researchers who are starting to develop an independent career. In the 2018 call for ERC Starting Grants, a total of 3170 applications were submitted. With a success rate of 13%, grantees from 44 countries across the world will be able to perform their projects in Europe. 19 such grants were awarded to researchers who will carry out their projects in Switzerland. One of them is Dr. Roger Geiger at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB, affiliated to USI Università della Svizzera italiana), who was awarded the prestigious ERC Starting Grant, worth 1,4 million euros. His project, named “Increasing the fitness of tumor-infiltrating T cells for cellular immunotherapy” (TIL-FIT), seeks to develop methods to fully exploit the potential of tumour-infiltrating T cells (TILs), which can be used as a “living drug” to treat cancer patients. This is the first Starting Grant awarded so far to a researcher at the IRB, bringing the tally to 5 ERC grants conferred to the research institute in Bellinzona.

“I am very happy to have been awarded the ERC Starting Grant” – says Dr. Geiger. “The substantial financial support allows me to establish a multidisciplinary team and to push my research forward faster”. With a Master’s and PhD degree obtained both at ETH Zurich, Dr. Geiger joined the laboratory of Antonio Lanzavecchia at the IRB in 2011, receiving also a transition postdoc fellowship from SystemsX, the leading public research initiative in Switzerland focusing on basic research in systems biology. In 2016, he joined a research group at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich, receiving training in mass spectrometry-based proteomics. Finally, in August 2017, Dr. Geiger started his own independent research group at the IRB in Bellinzona to study T cell responses to tumors using systems biology techniques.  

The team of researchers in the ‘Systems Immunology’ group led by Dr. Geiger uses a number of innovative technologies, including high-resolution mass spectrometry and droplet-based microfluidics, to establish procedures that allow the successful culturing of TILs thereby increasing the number of patients who can potentially benefit from adoptive T cell therapies.