Sílvia Osuna granted an ERC Consolidator and an ERC Proof of Concept grant

A research project led by Sílvia Osuna, ICREA Professor at the Institute of Computational Chemistry and Catalysis (IQCC) of the University of Girona (UdG), has been funded with 2 million euros within the Consolidator Grant call of European Research Council (ERC).

Research projects funded by the ERC have as main objective to provide the best conditions and environment to foster the creativity of scientists. Scientific excellence is the only evaluation criterion. The Consolidator Grant projects by the ERC provide individual support to scientists that demonstrate the innovative nature, ambition and viability of their scientific proposal, to consolidate their own team or independent research program.

The ERC-CoG project by Prof. Osuna adds onto a long list of recognitions and projects achieved by her and her team in recent years (among them another ERC project of €1.5 M within the Starting grant call focused on the same topic, which was running from 2016-2022), contributing thus a consolidation of her line of research based on the development of new computational protocols for the design of new enzymes of industrial interest (biocatalysts).

Sílvia Osuna, ERC Consolidator and ERC Proof of Concept

Osuna’s FASTEN proposal focuses on the development of fast, yet at the same time precise, computational strategies to achieve the routine design of new highly efficient enzymes. The innovative aspects of the project are based on the combination of computational chemistry, artificial intelligence techniques, and computational geometry to capture the complexity of enzyme catalysis. This new computational approach will be validated with the design of enzymes capable of adopting different structures throughout the reaction mechanism. The experimental evaluation of many of the achieved designs will be key to finally reveal the potential of this new approach for the design of industrially relevant enzymes.

In this ERC-CoG call, there was a total of 2222 proposals that had been proposed within three disciplines: physical sciences and engineering (938), life sciences (612), and humanities and social sciences (672). The percentage of success has been 14.4%.

Trajectory: Osuna received her doctorate in 2010 from the University of Girona (UdG) at the Computational Chemistry Institute (IQC) under supervision of Prof. Miquel Solà and Prof. Marcel Swart. In 2010, she moved to the group of Prof. Houk at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Marie Curie European Postdoctoral Fellowship. Since then, she has worked on the computational design of enzymes of medical and pharmaceutical interest. Osuna has more than 90 scientific publications, and has recently been awarded the 2021 Lecture Award of the European Chemical Society (EuChemS), the 2019 Catalonian National Research Award for Young Talent (Fundació Catalana de Recerca i Innovació), and the 2016 Research Award by Fundació Princesa de Girona (FPdGi), among others. In 2015, she obtained a €1.5M project from the ERC as part of the Starting Grant call to start her independent research career at the University of Girona. Her group is currently financed by an ERC Proof of Concept project (awarded last week, January 24, with the main objective of establishing a start-up based in Girona), two projects of the Ministry of Science and Innovation (one of which is also a proof of concept), and an international project within the Human Frontier Science Program.

Research: Osuna’s research is at the interface between computational chemistry and biology. Her research focuses on the study of biochemical processes mainly related to enzyme catalysis. Her research group is developing new computational tools to predict which changes are needed in the enzyme’s structure to enable a new function, to improve a secondary reaction of interest, or expand the range of substrates and allowed reactions. The goal of her research is to enable the routine computational design of competent enzymes to enhance their use in industry for the synthesis of pharmaceutically relevant compounds.

“Funded by the European Union (ERC, FASTEN, project number). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.”

Girona, 31 January 2023
For more information: gestor.iqcc@gmail.com