ERC Starting Grant for Dr. Friedhelm Serwane

2 Sept 2020

What role do mechanical forces play in the development of neural networks, such as the human retina? – This question will be tackled by Dr. Friedhelm Serwane and his new ERC funded research group at LMU, starting in September 2020.

Dr. Friedhelm Serwane

© Chris Wrenger

In the EU project ROMB: Retina Organoid Mechanobiology, endowed with 1.5 million euros, the team will focus on a unique combination of biophysical methods and stem cell-derived systems (organoids). This will allow for specific physical manipulation of neuronal systems, all in a petri dish.

The project will contribute to gaining a fundamental understanding of the development of neural networks. In addition, it promises future applications in modelling neuronal diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The interdisciplinary research team will form strong ties with the group of the Soft Matter Group at LMU and will be part of the expert network of the Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology (SyNergy).

Friedhelm Serwane's research career is characterized by his curiosity for fundamental systems in various disciplines: after his doctorate in the field of ultracold quantum gases (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, 2011), he switched to biophysics as a postdoctoral researcher at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg (EMBL, 2012-2013) and at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB, 2013-2016). As a Feodor-Lynen postdoctoral fellow, he investigated the role of mechanics during embryonic development.

He got intrigued by stem cell-derived neuronal systems (retina organoids), which he established as a project leader at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Stuttgart (2016-2018). During his work at Airbus’ CRT (Central Research & Technology) in the field of quantum sensing and communication (Munich, 2019-2020), he gained experience in leading scientists at the interface between university and industrial research.

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