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Exploration Grantholders.

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, over half of the grantholders report having continued their funded projects. And a quarter 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 sucessfully applied for Exploration Grants?

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


  • 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
    "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
    "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)"


  • 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 – Free University of Berlin
    "Bioinspired syntheses of sterols via alkoxy radical fragmentations"
  • Dr Michael Hiller – Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems 
    "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. 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. 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. 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. 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) & Free University of 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. 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. Wei Chen – Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin
    "Full-length transcriptome characterization: synaptic neuropil vs somata"
  • Prof. 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. 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. 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. Gunhild Layer – Technical University Braunschweig
    "Biochemistry of biological methane formation: biosynthesis of cofactor F430 in methanogenic Archaea"
  • Prof. Ute Lindauer – Medical Faculty, University of Aachen
    "Optogenetic manipulation of neuronal network activity to analyse neurovascular coupling "
  • Prof. Thomas Ott – Technical University Munich (TUM)
    "Functional plasticity of plasma membrane compartmentalization during plant immune responses"
  • Prof. Stefan Raunser – Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund
    "Study of prokaryotic hopanoid transporters to understand how eukaryotic cells talk to each other"
  • Prof. Jens Schwamborn – University of Münster
    "Induction of oligodendrocyte cell fate specification through the transcription factor Prox1"


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