Thomas Marichal awarded a prestigious ERC Starting Grant

27/07/2018

Thomas Marichal has just been awarded a prestigious ERC Starting Grant (1.5 M€ - 5 years) to fund a project called 'IM-ID', which will investigate in depth the identity and function of a lung regulatory macrophage population that proves to be a promising novel target to treat asthma.

 

About Thomas Marichal

 

Thomas Marichal graduated as a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Liege in 2007. He started a PhD training as a F.R.S.-FNRS fellow in the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology (LCMI) at the GIGA Institute under the supervision of Pr. Fabrice Bureau. His PhD work led to the discovery of the mechanisms of action of aluminum-based vaccine adjuvants, the most widely used adjuvants in human and animal vaccination. In 2011, thanks to a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship, Thomas joined the team of Pr. Stephen Galli at Stanford University, California, where he and his colleagues made the breakthrough discovery that type E immunoglobulins, known for their deleterious roles in allergic reactions, could be beneficial in the context of host protection against bee and snake venoms. He came back to the University of Liege (LCMI, GIGA) in 2015 as a postdoctoral fellow of the F.R.S.-FNRS and received the Acteria Early Career Research Prize in Allergology awarded by the European Federation of Immunological Societies. One year later, he became a Research Associate of the F.R.S.-FNRS and more recently a Welbio Principal Investigator. Over the last years, his laboratory has been mainly focusing on the role of myeloid and structural cells in the regulation of mucosal homeostasis and immune-mediated diseases, such as asthma or inflammatory bowel diseases.

 

thmarichal

 

The project

 

The mechanisms underlying lung homeostasis are of fundamental biological importance and have critical implications for the prevention of immune-mediated diseases such as asthma. The Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology has previously demonstrated that lung Interstitial Macrophages (IM) exhibit a tolerogenic profile and are able to prevent and limit the development of aberrant immune responses against allergens (such as seen in asthma), thus underscoring their role as crucial regulators of lung homeostasis. In addition, the laboratory has shown that IM could expand from monocyte precursors upon host exposure to bacterial unmethylated CpG-DNA, resulting in robust protection against allergic asthma. To date, however, IM have only been characterized as a bulk population in functional studies, and little is known about the tissue-instructive signals, specific transcription factors and differentiation programs which contribute to determining their identity (ID) and function. In this project, Thomas and his team will define the precise ID of IM (i.e. their spatial organization, heterogeneity, molecular signature and the specific TF governing their differentiation and function), and investigate how IM ID is imprinted by the local niche to sustain lung homeostasis. This research will increase the understanding of the basic mechanisms underlying the fine-tuning of tolerogenic IM and will thus provide robust foundations for novel IM-targeted approaches promoting health and preventing airway diseases in which IM (dys)functions have been implicated.

 

The ERC fundings

 

The ERC's mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence.

The ERC complements other funding activities in Europe such as those of the national research funding agencies, and is a flagship component of Horizon 2020, the European Union's Research Framework Programme for 2014 to 2020.

Being 'investigator-driven', or 'bottom-up', in nature, the ERC approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions in any field of research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians. This ensures that funds are channeled into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility.

ERC grants are awarded through open competition to projects headed by starting and established researchers, irrespective of their origins, who are working or moving to work in Europe. The sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence. The aim here is to recognize the best ideas, and confer status and visibility on the best brains in Europe, while also attracting talent from abroad.

 

Read more about his research

Venom toxicity countered by allergic antibodies

Vers de nouveaux traitements contre l asthme

Asthme : bons et mauvais eosinophiles

Le rhume exacerbe la réaction immunitaire des patients asthmatiques

 


Contact : Thomas Marichal - t.marichal@uliege.be