Skip to main content

Exploration Grant recipients.

Our Exploration Grants programme provides opportunities to explore unexpected observations and exciting ideas and to venture into new territory. Due to their exploratory character, such projects are by nature very risky. Only a portion of them will be followed up and many will fail. Some of them will be incubators for new ideas. It is therefore the exception, rather than the rule, that Exploration Grant projects result in publications. Yet, in the last survey, more than 40 percent of the recipients reported having continued their funded projects, and around a third of all Exploration Grants were instrumental in acquiring further third-party funding, including several of the prestigious grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC).

Who has successfully applied for Exploration Grants?

Listed below are grantees with the institutions at which they were conducting research upon submitting their applications.


  • Prof. Dr Maike Frye – Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)
    "Novel biosensor tools to study the interplay of matrix stiffness changes and endothelial function in vascular disease"
  • Dr Terrance Hadlington –  Technische Universität München (TUM)
    "Accessing Poly-DiPhospene networks as inorganic conjugated polymers for catalysis and drug delivery"
  • Prof. Dr Müge Kasanmascheff – Technical University Dortmund
    "Development of a small, rigid and photoactivable spin label for in cell studies"
  • Dr Hajo Kries – Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, Jena
    "Cas9-mRNA display as a new tool for building DNA-templated enzyme cascades (CASPLAY)"
  • Dr Christian Roßner – Leibniz-Institut für Polymerforschung Dresden e.V.
    "Toward Point-of-Action Diagnostics: Consistent Colorimetric Biosensing with Plasmonic Nanoparticles"
  • Dr Bernd Schmidt – University of Düsseldorf
    "Catalytic modifications in a supramolecular nanocage and interplay with molecular glue"
  • Dr Peter 't Hart – Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund
    "Dithiolane modified cyclic peptides with intrinsic cell permeability"
  • Dr Christopher Teskey – RWTH Aachen
    "Expedient Synthesis of Unnatural Amino Acids via Catalytic Arene Activation"
  • Dr Oliver Thorn-Seshold – University of Munich (LMU)
    "High-resolution enzyme activity imaging: repurposing molecular photoswitches as diagnostic tools"
  • Prof. Dr Manuel van Gemmeren – University of Kiel
    "Development of palladium-catalysts for the direct C(sp3)-H activation and functionalization of sulfonamides"


  • Prof. Dr Matteo Bergami – University Hospital Cologne
    "Synaptic innervation of organ-specific cancer cells and its role in tumor progression"
  • Priv.-Doz. Dr Bork Berghoff –  University of Giessen
    "Multiple targeting of antibiotic resistance genes with synthetic small RNAs"
  • Dr Urs Braun – Central Institute for Mental Health, Mannheim
    "Recurrent neural networks as preclinical models of cognitive dysfunction"
  • Dr Dorian Didier – University of Munich (LMU)
    "Enabling cross-coupling reactions via NIR-photocatalysis"
  • Dr Urs Gellrich – University of Giessen
    "Three-dimensional coordination frameworks of Frustrated Lewis Pairs for reversible hydrogen and CO2 activation and storage"
  • Priv.-Doz. Dr Thomas Grünewald – Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (DKFZ), Heidelberg
    "Dissecting and targeting the metaboic hallmarks of pediatric cancer"
  • Dr Alexander Hahn – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen
    "Foamy virus host factors"
  • Prof. Dr Robert Kretschmer – University of Jena
    "Dinuclear aluminium and gallium diyls as supports for transition metals"
  • Prof. Dr Jürgen Lassak – University of Munich (LMU)
    "Genetic code expansion by Beta-amino acids"
  • Dr Christian Sindlinger – University of Göttingen
    "Augmenting Frustrated Lewis-Pair reactivity by anti-aromaticity as a driving force"
  • Dr Tomohisa Toda – Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (DZNE), Dresden
    "Exploring nuclear architectural RNA in the long-term epigenetic regulation of neural identity"
  • Dr Peng Wu – Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund
    "Small molecules modulate the RNA-binding protein-mediated degradation of mRNA"


  • Dr Guoliang Cui – Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg
    "Social Isolation inhibits protective immunity"
  • Dr Robert Göstl –  DWI Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials, Aachen
    "Nanoscale fractography of polymer nanocomposite interfaces with super-resolution microscopy"
  • Dr Lutz Greb – University of Heidelberg
    "Supramolecular encapsulation for p-block element-mediated bond activation and catalysis in water"
  • Prof. Dr Ute Hellmich – University of Mainz
    "Structure and function of a unique human and parasitic lysosomal TRP ion channel domain"
  • Dr Sebastian Henke – Technische Universität Dortmund
    "Ion conduction in metal-organic framework glasses - a new class of solid electrolytes"
  • Dr Christian Hering-Junghans – Leibniz Institute for Catalysis, Rostock
    "Synthetic strategies towards phospha-polyurethanes"
  • Dr Kirill Monakhov – Leibniz Institute of Surface Engineering (IOM), Leipzig
    "Bioinspired "DNA-Polyoxometalate-on-a-surface" materials for nanoelectronic applications"


  • Prof. Dr Tobias Beck – RWTH Aachen
    "Engineering rod-shaped protein containers for imaging and therapy"
  • Dr Christine Beemelmanns – Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, Jena
    "Engineering NRP-PKS-hybrid enzymes for the production of Gamma-Amino acids and unique natural products (ENGINA)"
  • Dr Josep Cornella Costa – Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mühlheim
    "Practical and direct incorporation of SF5 into Heteroaromatics"
  • Dr. Mafalda Escobar-Henriques – University of Cologne
    A novel form of ubiquitin controlling protein homeostasis and stress resistance"
  • Prof. Dr Matthias Feige – Technische Universität München (TUM)
    "Chemoenzymatic synthesis of highly bioactive polyketides using polyketide synthase biocatalysis"
  • Dr Inga Hänelt – University of Frankfurt
    "Social bacteria: Fundamentals of bacterial electrical signaling by the K+ channel YugO"
  • Prof. Dr Frank Hahn – University of Bayreuth
    "Chemoenzymatic synthesis of highly bioactive polyketides using polyketide synthase biocatalysis"
  • Dr Felicitas Lips – University of Münster
    "Synthesis and reactivity of homocyclic silylenes"
  • Dr Christian Löw –  EMBL Hamburg
    "Uncovering the iron-responsive gene and protein network in malaria parasites using structural systems biology"
  • Prof. Dr Dominik Munz – Saarland University, Saarbrücken
    "Carbenes as organic building blocks for photochemistry"


  • Prof. Dr Dr Miguel Alejandre Alcázar – University Hospital Cologne
    "Linking overactive perinatal adipose tissue and premature pulmonary aging"
  • Prof. Dr Björn Busse –  University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)
    "The African turquoise Killifish (N. furzeri) as unique short-lived vertebrate model to study skeletal maturation and aging"
  • Priv.-Doz. Dr Frederik Damm – Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin
    "Identification of patterns of phylogenetic evolution in patients with myelofibrosis"
  • Prof. Dr Ivana Fleischer – University of Tübingen
    "Selective reduction of thioesters to aldehydes"
  • Prof. Dr Michael Giese – University of Duisburg-Essen
    "Self-assembly in confined spaces – a tool for responsive photonic materials"
  • Dr Jesko Köhnke – Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland, Saarbrücken
    "Natural products as inhibitors of horizontal gene transfer"
  • Prof. Dr René Königs – RWTH Aachen
    "Catalytic C-N coupling reactions with fluorinated azides"
  • Prof. Dr Steffen Lemke – University of Heidelberg
    "Passive versus active trans-epithelial stem cell migration in flies"
  • Dr Pierre Stallforth – Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, Jena
    "Identification of microbially produced amoebicides (IMPA)"
  • Prof. Dr Eike Steinmann –  University of Bochum
    "Characterization of the natural compound silvestrol as novel hepatitis E virus inhibitor (AntiHepE)"

Exploration Grantholders 2011-2017

  • Dr Heiko Becker – University Medical Center Freiburg
    "Molecular characterization of a subset of cells with aberrant expression of myeloid progenitor and mature T cell markers in acute myeloid leukemia"
  • Dr Christina Birkel – Technical University Darmstadt 
    "Wet chemical synthesis of nanoscale and magnetic ternary carbides"
  • Dr Andreas Brunschweiger – Technical University Dortmund
    "Towards chemoresistant genetic information"
  • Prof. Christine Goffinet – Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig
    "The interplay of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and HIV-1 in co-infected human macrophages and its impact on cell-intrinsic innate immunity"
  • Prof. Philipp Heretsch – Freie Universität Berlin
    "Bioinspired syntheses of sterols via alkoxy radical fragmentations"
  • Dr Michael Hiller – Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden
    "Discovering novel genes underlying human eye disorders by comparative genomics in mammals with degenerated eyes"
  • Dr Koraljka Husnjak – University Medical Center Frankfurt
    "Mass spectronomy-based approach for the identification of E3 ligase substrates"
  • Dr Jochen Niemeyer – University of Duisburg-Essen
    "Development of new chemosensors for detection of labile iron in live cells"
  • Dr Carsten Sachse – European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg
    "Higher-order molecular structure of autophagy receptor p62/SQSTM-1 by in situ cryo-EM"
  • Dr Michael Schlierf – Technical University Dresden
    "Structural basis of conformational misfolding of cystic fibrosis mutations in CFTR"
  • Dr Andrea Thoma-Kreß – University Medical Center Erlangen 
    "A novel positive feedback loop in viral oncogenesis: Regulation of the viral tax oncoprotein by NF-kappa B"
  • Prof. Dr Dagmar Wachten – University Medical Center Bonn
    "Analyzing the correlation between primary clia dysfunction - inflammation - obesity"

  • Prof. Dr Melanie Brinkmann – Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig
    "Prevention of cytomegalovirus replication by CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering"
  • Dr Marc Erhardt – Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig
    "Investigating the immunogenic potential of flagella for salmonella-based vaccine carriers"
  • Prof. Dr Olga Garcia Mancheño – University of Regensburg
    "Enantioselective chiral anion-catalyzed C-H bond functionalization: a fast access to chiral heterocycles"
  • Dr Annika Guse – University of Heidelberg
    "Cholesterol-binding proteins and dinoflagellate sterols in coral symbiosis"
  • Dr Esteban Hernandez-Vargas – Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig
    "Underlying mechanisms between influenza virus and bacterial coinfections (VIBA)"
  • Dr Michael Lammers – University of Cologne
    "Uncovering structure and function of a novel lysine-deacetylase class in prokaryotes and its implications for eukaryotes"
  • Dr Georg Manolikakes – University of Frankfurt
    "Direct C-H-sulfonylation of heterocycles – a new tool for late-stage diversification of functional molecules"
  • Dr Kristen Panfilio – University of Cologne
    "The role of polyploidy in epithelial tissue development"
  • Dr Christoph Rademacher – Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam
    "Fragment-based design of targeted delivery vehicles: high specificity through low affinity heteromultivalent interactions"
  • Prof. Dr Jan Siemens – University of Heidelberg
    "Hypothalamic mechanisms mediating core body temperature regulation"
  • Dr Johannes Teichert – Technical University Berlin
    "Ammonia borane as recycable hydrogen source for sustainable organic reactions"
  • Prof. Dr Frauke von Versen-Höynck – Hannover Medical School
    "Exploring the microRNA profile of endothelial progenitor cells after preeclampsia – determining opportunities for improving cardiovascular health"

  • Dr Annette Andrieu-Brunsen – Technical University Darmstadt
    "Charge-switchable polymer gradients in mesopores: envisioning self-sustaining, electroosmotic transport in nanofluidic pores"
  • Dr Annabelle Bertin – Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) & Freie Universität Berlin
    "Biologically inspired de novo approach to polymer-glass fibre composites with improved mechanical properties"
  • Dr Anne-Kathrin Classen – University of Munich (LMU)
    "A novel mode of chromatin regulation by JNK and JAK/STAT signalling in regeneration and cancer"
  • Dr Thomas Clavel – Technical University Munich (TUM)
    "PiBac – The pig intestinal bacteriome in colorectal cancer"
  • Dr Camin Dean, European Neuroscience Institute (ENI), Göttingen
    "TRPV1-mediated innervation of OLM neurons gates information flow in the hippocampus"
  • Dr Daniel Kümmel – University of Osnabrück
    "Structural and functional characterization of Gtr GTPase-activating proteins in TORC1 signalling"
  • Prof. Dr Christian Reinhardt – University Hospital Cologne
    "Cell cycle checkpoint inhibitors as a strategy for the treatment of BRAF-dependent malignancies"
  • Dr Ulrika Westerlind – Leibniz Institute for Analytic Science – ISAS e. V., Dortmund
    "Exploring the chemical biology of tyrosine O-glycosylation"

  • Dr Henrik Bringmann – Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen
    "Effects of sleep on ageing using C. elegans as a model system"
  • Prof. Dr Wei Chen – Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin
    "Full-length transcriptome characterization: synaptic neuropil vs somata"
  • Prof. Dr Viktoria Däschlein-Geßner – University of Würzburg
    "Metalated ylides as novel carbon bases"
  • Dr Sylvia Erhardt – Center for Molecular Biology, Heidelberg (ZMBH)
    "Identification of an RNA-based epigenetic imprint in Drosophila melanogaster"
  • Dr Steffen Scholpp – Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
    "Analysis of a cilia-mediated transport mechanism for Shh during thalamus development"

  • Prof. Dr Dina Grohmann – Technical University Braunschweig
    "Protein-based scaffolding of nanostructures"
  • Dr Ilona Grunwald-Kadow – Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried
    "Characterization of the behavioural and neuronal underpinnings of ethylene detection in flies"
  • Dr Marco Trujillo Linke – Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Halle (Saale)
    "Development of a synthetic ubiquitin modification system in bacteria to assay E2–E3 pairing"

  • Dr Sebastian Arnold – University Medical Center Freiburg
    "Analysis of generation, maintenance and exit of stemness states of murine trophoblast stem cells"
  • Prof. Dr Manuel Friese – University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf
    "Charakterisierung der funktionellen Bedeutung von Arc/Arg3.1 für die Antigenpräsentation von dendritischen Zellen"
  • Prof. Dr Christian Hedberg – Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund
    "Chemical biology of histidine N-phosphrylation"
  • Prof. Dr Gunhild Layer – Technical University Braunschweig
    "Biochemistry of biological methane formation: biosynthesis of cofactor F430 in methanogenic Archaea"
  • Prof. Dr Ute Lindauer – Medical Faculty, University of Aachen
    "Optogenetic manipulation of neuronal network activity to analyse neurovascular coupling "
  • Prof. Dr Thomas Ott – Technical University Munich (TUM)
    "Functional plasticity of plasma membrane compartmentalization during plant immune responses"
  • Prof. Dr Stefan Raunser – Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund
    "Study of prokaryotic hopanoid transporters to understand how eukaryotic cells talk to each other"
  • Prof. Dr Jens Schwamborn – University of Münster
    "Induction of oligodendrocyte cell fate specification through the transcription factor Prox1"

  • Prof. Dr Claudia Lengerke – University Hospital Tübingen
    "Untersuchung des Transkriptionsfaktors evi-1 in der Entwicklungshämatopoese im Zebrafisch-Modell"