on July 27, 2018
Dr. Roger Geiger has been awarded the prestigious ERC Starting grant (1.4 million Euros) from the European Research Council. The aim of the granted project, named TIL-FIT, is to develop methods to fully exploit the potential of tumor-infiltrating T cells (TILs), which can be used as a “living drug” to treat cancer patients. TILs can recognize and kill cancer cells but a major challenge is that TILs from many patients hardly grow in culture making it impossible to provide a personalized therapy for these patients. Dr. Geiger’s team 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.
The ERC aims to support the best and most creative scientists to identify and explore new opportunities and directions in any field of research. In particular, it encourages proposals with cross-disciplinary boundaries; which address new and emerging fields; and introduce unconventional and innovative approaches. ERC Starting grants are particularly designed to support outstanding researchers who are starting to develop an independent career. This funding is meant to foster the next generation of research leaders in Europe. In the 2018 call for ERC-Starting Grants, the ERC received a total of 3170 applications. With a success rate of 13%, grantees from 44 countries across the world will be able to perform their projects. 19 projects will be performed in Switzerland, from which two at the Università della Svizzera italiana. TIL-FIT is the fifth ERC grant that has been awarded to an IRB Group Leader.
In 2017, Dr. Geiger was appointed Group Leader at Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), affiliated to the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI). He obtained his Master’s degree in biochemistry from the ETH Zürich in 2007. During his PhD studies at the ETH Zürich with Ari Helenius, Roger studied how non-enveloped viruses penetrate the host cell membrane. In 2011, he joined the laboratory of Antonio Lanzavecchia at the IRB and received a transition postdoc fellowship from SystemsX. The focus of his research was on metabolic regulations during the T cell response. In 2016, Roger joined the research group of Matthias Mann at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich and received training in mass spectrometry-based proteomics.