Three scientists from Wageningen University & Research have been awarded a Vidi grant of up to 800,000 euros. The grant will be used to develop innovative research tracks and expand their research groups.
Fedor Miloserdov, one of the recipients, is researching making modern chemistry more sustainable. The goal is to develop more efficient, economically viable, and environmentally friendly methods for creating compounds with high molecular complexity.
Daan Swarts, another recipient, is working to uncover the origin and evolution of the molecular RNA-interference (RNAi) process. This process regulates genetic properties in plant, insect, animal, and human cells. Swarts likens cells to an automobile factory, where machines continuously produce parts and transfer them to the workshop. However, not all parts are always needed. Similarly, RNAi ensures that specific genetic properties coded into the DNA are not or only sparingly included in a cell. It breaks down the messenger (RNA), preventing specific instructions from reaching the cell.
The third recipient, Karen Kloth, investigates how plants rapidly defend themselves against aphids, insects that pose a significant problem in bell pepper production. Her research focuses on plant genes at a cellular level after an aphid sting. Using a wild variety of bell pepper, the study aims to understand the plant’s natural defense against aphids and identify genes that could be bred into bell pepper plants to enhance resistance. The research also explores microbial substances that could be added to the roots to activate these genes, potentially leading to more robust bell pepper plants and more effective growing methods as an alternative to chemical pesticides.
The Vidi grant is awarded annually by the Dutch Research Council. This year, 551 applications were submitted, with 304 (55%) from men, 244 (44%) from women, and three were gender-neutral. A total of 97 grants were awarded, with 54 going to male candidates and 43 to female candidates. The allocation percentages for 2022 (awarded in 2023) are 18% for both male and female candidates.