Researcher lands major European grant for ambitious project

Leading John Innes Centre researcher Dr Xiaoqi Feng has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant.

Dr Feng is one of 403 talented early-career researchers selected from more than 3000 applications. The €1.5million ERC award covers a five-year period.

“I am delighted to receive this prestigious funding from the ERC and grateful for my fantastic team and the outstanding research environment at the John Innes Centre,” said Dr Feng, a project leader in the department of cell and developmental biology.


The awards are made to researchers with a scientific track record showing great promise and allow grant winners to create their own research teams and conduct pioneering projects.

Dr Feng’s ERC-funded project will start later this year or early next. It will investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying DNA methylation reprogramming in plant germlines which pass information from one generation to the next.

DNA methylation is a modification which changes the activity of DNA without changing the genetic sequence.

It is a cornerstone of epigenetics – one of the fastest growing fields in life sciences, with the potential to deliver improvements in plant and human health.

“There are innovative ideas about plant germlines to be tested in my proposal which is very ambitious overall,” said Dr Feng.

“This grant will allow us to reveal the mechanisms underlying DNA methylation reprogramming, a crucial aspect of germline epigenetics. I’m thrilled that such research can be funded in Europe and believe it will help attract and retain talents,” she added.

The starting grants are part of the “excellent science” pillar of the EU’s current Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

For the second year in a row nearly 40 per cent of starting grant winners are women.

Successful applicants from 2018 will carry out their research across 22 European Countries.

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