Alum Thomas Winkler receives prestigious ERC Starting Grant
Alumnus Thomas Winkler (BIOE Ph.D. 2017) has been awarded a Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC). The €1.5 million funding will further Winkler’s research on modular organ-on-chip technology to better understand neuropsychiatric disorders. Specifically, he hopes to better understand the role of cellular interactions between blood vessels and the nervous system in schizophrenia.
The prestigious Starting Grant supports top young researchers across Europe. The grants are part of the EU’s Horizon Europe program and are invested in scientific projects across all research disciplines. They are designed to help early-stage researchers start their own projects, build teams and pursue their best ideas.
Winkler joined the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany in 2021. He leads his own junior research group, the μ4Life – Microsystems for Life Sciences. Winkler’s group is part of the university’s Institute for Microtechnology and Center of Pharmaceutical Engineering.
“I am delighted that the ERC has decided to invest in these pioneering lines of research,” says Winkler. “Feedback control of in vitro cell culture models made possible by microtechnology is an important step towards more reproducible biological research that is relevant to humans and less dependent on animal models. And our first planned application in the field of otherwise often neglected neuropsychiatric disorders has the potential to decipher the role of oxidative stress in schizophrenia and thereby also provide new therapeutic impulses. Overall, the Starting Grant is a great opportunity for me and my team to spend the next five years doing research at the interface of technology and biology, which has always been very exciting for me.”
Winkler joined the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany in 2021 as leader of his own junior research group, the μ4Life – Microsystems for Life Sciences. Winkler’s group is part of the university’s Institute for Microtechnology and Center of Pharmaceutical Engineering. In Winkler’s research group, experts from pharmacy, process engineering and microtechnology work together on a long-term basis in a model that is unique in Germany to date. The group develop cost-effective, effective and personalized medicines based on new technologies and methods.
In 2018, Winkler was a postdoctoral researcher in micro and nanosystems at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, working in Anna Herland’s in vitro neural models and hybrid bioelectrical systems group. He received a prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship from the European Commission. The award funded his project, “NeuroVU: Real-time Sensing in Microfluidic Models of the Neurovascular Unit.”
As a University of Maryland student, Winkler was advised by Professor Reza Ghodssi (ECE/ISR), a Fischell Institute Fellow. Winkler was awarded Ann G. Wylie Dissertation Fellowship during the 2016-2017 academic year. This fellowship provides support to doctoral candidates who have excellent qualifications and are in the latter stages of writing their dissertations. Winkler also received the 2016 Dean's Doctoral Research Award for his Ph.D. thesis, “Microsystems Integration Towards Point-of-Care Monitoring of Clozapine Treatment for Adherence, Efficacy and Safety.”
—Many thanks to Technische Universität Braunschweig for this story. Photo by Peer Erfle/IMT.
Published September 11, 2023