European Research CouncilERC Grant for Heidelberg Scientist Murat Sünbül

Press Release No. 125/2023
23 November 2023

European Research Council supports work at the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology

For the development of new technological foundations that allow for the precise decoding of interactions between ribonucleic acids (RNAs) and RNA-protein interactions, Dr Murat Sünbül is to receive a highly endowed grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The ERC is funding his research at the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology of Heidelberg University with an ERC Consolidator Grant. It comes with funding worth approx. two million euros over a period of five years.

Porträt Dr. Murat Sünbül

Complex molecular interactions between RNAs and other biomolecules play a crucial role in cellular health. Disruptions to these RNA interactions are associated with a number of diseases such as Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s. Dr Sünbül and his team are working on a new technology to identify interaction partners of any given ribonucleic acid with high precision and at different resolutions. This technology will also integrate with super-resolution RNA imaging techniques previously developed by Dr Sünbül to provide valuable insights – at high temporal and spatial resolution – into the intricate interaction networks of ribonucleic acids. In his ERC-funded project “Decoding subcellular spatial biology with high precision using RNA photocatalysts” (RNAPhotoCat), the scientist combines methods from synthetic chemistry, biophysics and molecular biology. “By applying this new, multiplexable technology to various biological contexts and disease-relevant ribonucleic acids, we aim to expand our understanding of RNA interactions and uncover fundamental molecular mechanisms of RNA diseases,” says Dr Sünbül.

Murat Sünbül studied chemistry at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara (Turkey) and the University of Chicago (USA), where he earned his doctorate in Chemical Biology in 2010. The scientist developed new methods to label and visualise proteins in live cells using fluorescence microscopy. In 2011, Dr Sünbül came to the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology with a postdoctoral fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Since December 2021, he has been leading his own junior research group on engineering molecules for cellular biology. Dr Sünbül works on the synthesis of chemical probes and the development of genetically encoded markers for modern light microscopy. The goal is to detect previously unknown molecular interactions, whose potential for new therapeutic agents the scientist wants to explore.

The Consolidator Grant is aimed at promising researchers whose own independent research group is in the consolidation and deepening phase. The central funding criterion is scientific excellence.