Research funded by ERC
The European Research Council (ERC) provides highly competitive funding which currently supports 2 research teams led by top researchers at the University of Tartu. One of them is ERC Starting Grant. The latest is a Consolidator Grant.
European Research Council (ERC) grants support individual researchers who wish to pursue their frontier research. The ERC encourages in particular proposals that cross disciplinary boundaries, pioneering ideas that address new and emerging fields and applications that introduce unconventional, innovative approaches.
ERC Starting Grants aim to support up-and-coming research leaders who are about to establish a proper research team and to start conducting independent research in Europe.
ERC Consolidator Grants are designed to back up researchers who want to establish their research teams and continue developing a successful career in Europe. The scheme also strengthens independent and excellent new individual research teams that have been recently created.
ERC Advanced Grants are given to researchers who have a track-record of significant research achievements in the last 10 years. This is long-term funding to pursue a ground-breaking, high-risk project.
Making Ancestors: The Politics of Death in Prehistoric Europe
ANCESTORS How did politics and inequality work in prehistoric Europe? Traditionally, politics has been seen in terms of discrete political ranks identified through differential treatment of individual burials. But this results in classifying much of prehistory, where the dead were treated in ways which effaced individual identity, as egalitarian. The result is an artificially dichotomous history: Neolithic people had landscapes, rituals and ancestors, Bronze and Iron Age people had politics and inequality. In the last two decades this approach has been strongly critiqued. Burial treatment rarely relates to status so directly; the dead serve many different political roles. Inequality in pre-state groups rarely consists of clear strata; inequality and equality exist in tension within groups. Inequality may have been present throughout European prehistory, but manifest situationally through differential life chances, kinship, ritual or ancestorhood, rather than overtly through political command, wealth or identity. But this new perspective has never been tested empirically. This project tests alternative models of prehistoric inequality and deathways. To investigate social relations in life, it uses osteobiography, reconstructing life stories from skeletons through scientific data on identity, health, diet, mobility and kinship. To understand deathways, it employs a second new methodology, funerary taphonomy. Combining osteobiography and taphonomy allows us to connect ancient lives and deaths. Peninsular Italy provides a substantial test sequence typical of much of Europe. For each of three key periods (Neolithic, 6000-4000 BC; Final Neolithic to Early Bronze Age, 4000-1800 BC; Middle Bronze Age to Iron Age, 1800-600 BC), 200+ individuals will be analysed. The results will allow us to evaluate for the first time how inequality affected lives in prehistoric Europe and what role ancestors played in it.
ERC Advanced Grant 2020-2024 (coordinator University of Cambridge)
The Process Improvement Explorer: Automated Discovery and Assessment of Business Process Improvement Opportunities
PIX Business processes are the operational backbone of modern organizations. Their continuous improvement is key to the achievement of business objectives, be it with respect to efficiency, quality, compliance, or agility. Accordingly, a common task for process analysts is to discover and assess process improvement opportunities, i.e. changes to one or more processes, which are likely to improve them with respect to one or more performance measures. Current approaches to discover process improvement opportunities are expert-driven. In these approaches, data are used to assess opportunities derived from experience and intuition rather than to discover them in the first place. Moreover, as the assessment of opportunities is manual, analysts can only explore a fraction thereof. PIX will build the foundations of a new generation of process improvement methods that do not exclusively rely on guidelines and heuristics, but rather on a systematic exploration of a space of possible changes derived from process execution data. Specifically, PIX will develop conceptual frameworks and algorithms to analyze process execution data in order to discover process changes corresponding to possible improvement opportunities, including changes in the control-flow dependencies between activities, partial automation of activities, changes in resource allocation rules, or changes in decision rules that may reduce wastes or negative outcomes. Each change will be associated with a multi-dimensional utility, thus allowing us to map a process improvement problem to an optimization problem over a multidimensional space. Given this mapping, PIX will develop efficient and incremental methods to search through said spaces in order to find Pareto-optimal groups of changes. The outputs will be embodied in a first-of-its-kind tool for automated process improvement discovery, which will lift the focus in the field of process mining from analyzing as-is processes to designing to-be processes.
ERC Advanced Grant 2019-2024
Certified Quantum Security
CerQuS Digital communication permeates all areas of today's daily life. Cryptographic protocols are used to secure that communication. Quantum communication and the advent of quantum computers both threaten existing cryptographic solutions, and create new opportunities for secure protocols. The security of cryptographic systems is normally ensured by mathematical proofs. Due to human error, however, these proofs often contain errors, limiting the usefulness of said proofs. This is especially true in the case of quantum protocols since human intuition is well-adapted to the classical world, but not to quantum mechanics. To resolve this problem, methods for verifying cryptographic security proofs using computers (i.e., for "certifying" the security) have been developed. Yet, all existing verification approaches handle classical cryptography only - for quantum protocols, no approaches exist.
This project will lay the foundations for the verification of quantum cryptography. We will design logics and software tools for developing and verifying security proofs on the computer, both for classical protocols secure against quantum computer (post-quantum security) and for protocols that use quantum communication. Our main approach is the design of a logic (quantum relational Hoare logic, qRHL) for reasoning about the relationship between pairs of quantum programs, together with an ecosystem of manual and automated reasoning tools, culminating in fully certified security proofs for real-world quantum protocols. As a final result, the project will improve the security of protocols in the quantum age, by removing one possible source of human error. In addition, the project directly impacts the research community, by providing new foundations in program verification, and by providing cryptographers with new tools for the verification of their protocols.
ERC Consolidator Grant 2019-2024
Commercialising a novel glioblastoma targeted therapy and a companion diagnostic compound
Glioblastoma (GBM), is the most aggressive form of primary brain cancer and is diagnosed in 22,000 people per year in the EU. GBM is the most aggressive primary brain cancer and, by annual incidence, the most common type of malignant brain tumour. Despite aggressive treatment, the cancer always recurs. The average survival after diagnosis is 12 to 15 months, with less than 3% to 5% of patients surviving longer than 5 years. The current standard of care extends overall survival to ~14 -16 months. Current valuation of the global GBM treatment market is estimated to be €615 million per year, and it is predicted to increase to over €3.08 billion by 2024 (compound annual growth rate of 17%), based on the projected approval of new therapies including Opdivo and Optune. The main aim of this ERC PoC proposal is to probe the commercial viability of two types of tumour-targeted payload hybrids, one as an improved chemotherapeutic treatment, and the other as a precision-guided imaging agent for PET/MRI-based diagnosis. Our goal is for the former to become the clinician’s chemotherapy of choice in the adjuvant phase of GBM treatment; and for the latter to be incorporated into PET and MRimaging procedures as a method for identifying and diagnosing GBM, as well as a companion test for stratification of patients for therapy.
ERC Proof of Concept Grant 2017-2019
PHOSPHOPROCESSORS - Biological signal processing via multisite phosphorylation networks
Multisite phosphorylation of proteins is a powerful signal processing mechanism playing crucial roles in cell division and differentiation as well as in disease. Our goal is to elucidate the molecular basis of this important mechanism. We recently demonstrated a novel phenomenon of multisite phosphorylation in cell cycle regulation.
We showed that cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)-dependent multisite phosphorylation of a crucial substrate is performed semiprocessively in the N-to-C terminal direction along the disordered protein. The process is controlled by key parameters including the distance between phosphorylation sites, the distribution of serines and threonines in sites, and the position of docking motifs. According to our model, linear patterns of phosphorylation networks along the disordered protein segments determine the net phosphorylation rate of the protein. This concept provides a new interpretation of CDK signal processing, and it can explain how the temporal order of cell cycle events is achieved. The goals of this study are: 1) We will seek proof of the model by rewiring the patterns of budding yeast Cdk1 multisite networks according to the rules we have identified, so to change the order of cell cycle events. Next, we will restore the order by alternative wiring of the same switches; 2) To apply the proposed model in the context of different kinases and complex substrate arrangements, we will study the Cdk1- dependent multisite phosphorylation of kinetochore components, to understand the phospho-regulation of kinetochore formation, microtubule attachment and error correction; 3) We will apply multisite phosphorylation to design circuits for synthetic biology. A toolbox of synthetic parts based on multisite phosphorylation would revolutionize the field since the fast time scales and wide combinatorial possibilities.
ERC Consolidator Grant 2015-2020
CliomaDDS - Brain tumor penetrating peptides
Our project addresses a major problem in therapy of solid tumors: poor penetration of anti-cancer drugs into tumor tissue and to infiltrating tumor cells.
Recently, we have identified tumor penetrating peptides (TPP) that trigger specific penetration of co-administered un-conjugated drugs deep into tumor and increase their therapeutic index. Current TPP target angiogenic tumor vessels and may not be suitable for targeting slow-growing tumors and invasive tumor cells. TPP are composed of functional modules (tumor recruitment motif, cryptic tissue penetrating C-end Rule element, and a protease cleavage site), which can be rearranged to yield peptides of novel specificities. Our goal is to develop TPP platform for delivery of co-administered drugs to the deadliest brain tumor – glioblastoma (GBM). High-grade glioma is a target that is particularly evasive and well-suited for tissue penetrative drug delivery. We will develop glioma-specific TPP (gTPP) by combination of in vivo and ex vivo phage display of constrained peptide libraries on state-of-the-art glioma animal models. These gTPP will be able to penetrate gliomas (and potentially other tumors) independent of their angiogenic status, and to deliver drugs to infiltrating malignant cells far from the bulk glioma lesion. We will characterize, validate, and optimize the gTPP platform for enhanced glioma delivery of co-injected drugs. These studies will provide the preclinical data needed to advance the gTPP combination therapy of glioma to GLP toxicology and subsequent IND filing.
ERC Starting Grant 2012-2016
Professor Lauri Mälksoo dr. iur
The central research question of our project is: what impact does the increasingly non-liberal orientation of the government of the Russian Federation have on the Russian doctrine and practice of international law?
As the West and Russia hope to further build their relationship on international law, is it still the same international law that they are talking about? We aim to provide systematic empirical evidence on the use and conceptualization of international law in the Russian Federation. But we intend to go further than that. The project has also a wider theoretical ambition since we intend to analyze the situation in Russia as an example of something beyond Russia itself, namely from the viewpoint of the question of how non-liberal States understand and practice international law. Whether non-liberal States 'behave worse' in respect to international law than liberal States is one of the most important debates in the post-Cold War international legal theory. To combine these two questions - Russia and how non-liberal States relate to international law - promises ground-breaking new insights. Our method includes, beside obvious classical tools of international legal research, using IR theories of constructivism and liberalism. Moreover, we will conduct interviews with Russian judges, politicians and legal academicians in order to get a more nuanced and realistic view on the conceptualization and use of international law in Russia.
ERC Starting Grant 2009-2014