Over €7 million for innovative and urgent research via Domain Science-KLEIN

26 March 2020

The Board of the NWO Domain Science has approved nineteen applications in the NWO Open Competition Domain Science - KLEIN.

The themes vary from research into possible living environments and promising landing sites on Mars to information transfer between different regions of the brain to gain more insight into how we perceive and understand our environment. KLEIN grants are intended for innovative, high-quality, fundamental research and/or studies involving matters of scientific urgency.

How funds are distributed between KLEIN-1, KLEIN-2 and KLEIN-0

In this fourth KLEIN round, a total of 69 applications were evaluated, 33 of which were KLEIN-1, 19 were KLEIN-2, 4 were KLEIN-0 and 13 were KLEIN-1 applications with preferential treatment. The Board of the NWO Domain Science decided to approve the 17 highest priority applications and 2 additional applications through the preferential treatment scheme. In total, the board has approved 6 KLEIN-2 applications and 13 KLEIN-1 applications, of which 2 with requested preferential treatment. The board instituted the preferential treatment scheme to simplify the acquisition of funding for starting researchers.

The following applications have been approved (in alphabetical order, by author):

Dissecting the spatiotemporal dynamics of WNT/CTNNB1 signalling
Dr Renée van Amerongen (University of Amsterdam)
Cells are the body’s smallest living building blocks. Much information is passed back and forth inside these cells at the molecular level: for example, important signals are transmitted from the cell surface to the nucleus containing the DNA to regulate the behaviour of the cell. Various proteins are responsible for these signal transmissions, but how do they go about it?
In this project, the researchers will literally shed light on the proteins that are responsible for one specific form of signal transmission. Sensitive microscopes will then measure exactly how many molecules are present in the cell and with which other proteins they communicate.

Computation Offloading for Distributed Sensor Applications
Prof. Henri Bal & Prof. Alexandru Iosup (both VU University Amsterdam)
Smartphones contain many sensors to measure such things as location, acceleration, and noise level. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), many more internet-connected sensors are being developed. An enormous amount of computing power is required to process all this sensor data, and these calculations can be done by the smartphone, in the sensor node itself (which has little computing and storage capacity), on clusters of servers nearby, or in the Cloud anywhere in the world. Because the sensor data is generated everywhere and the calculations can be done in so many places, it amounts to a huge puzzle to decide what calculations to do where.

Constructive mathematics in the classical theory of conic sections
Dr Viktor Blåsjö (Utrecht University)
Modern developments in constructive mathematics enable us to appreciate neglected aspects of classical geometry. This could lead to historical insights and a new perspective on the use of instruments by leading mathematicians in early modern times, as well as lost works of antiquity.

Impact-generated hydrothermal systems in terrestrial basalt as analogues for life-supporting environments on Mars
Dr Fraukje Brouwer (VU University Amsterdam)
The search for extraterrestrial life has been one of the main goals of space missions in the past and will remain so in coming decades. Minerals have been found on Mars that form when hot water interacts with rock material, and such hydrothermal systems are thought to be places where life could arise.
After a large meteorite impact, the strongly circulating water-rich liquids in the heated subsurface form an environment that could support life.
By studying the development of similar systems on Earth, this research makes it possible to identify potential biotopes and the most promising landing sites for a search for life on Mars.

Unravelling the regulatory mechanisms for lysosome formation and aggregate clearance in neurons
Dr Ginny Farías Galdames & Prof. Judith Klumperman (Utrecht University/University Medical Center Utrecht)
It is very important for brain cells that the process of production and decomposition of proteins is in balance. An effect of many brain diseases is that proteins are no longer removed, which leads to protein accumulations that kill the brain cell.
The researchers will use the latest molecular and advanced microscopy techniques to study protein decomposition in brain cells and to manipulate the process so that the protein accumulations are removed.

Development of protein-protein interaction inhibitors to selectively target H-Ras in cancer
Prof. Tom Grossmann & Prof. Daniel Abankwa (VU University Amsterdam/University of Luxembourg)
Although the range of therapies has been expanded, treating and curing cancer remains a great challenge. This is especially true for the cancers in which Ras oncogenes are involved. We have discovered a new mechanism to block the oncogenic activity of H-Ras. We will develop two different prototype bioactive agents to inhibit abnormal H-Ras activity in an interdisciplinary partnership between the Netherlands and Luxembourg. We expect this will lay a foundation for the development of new oncogenic H-Ras oriented drugs.

Life course epidemiology: Individual causality from disruptive, heterogeneous & multidimensional temporal data
Prof. Edwin van den Heuvel (Eindhoven University of Technology)
In epidemiology, researchers try to understand which risk factors – and changes in these factors – influence health. To this end, large volumes of data are collected from people over long periods of time. It is not easy to analyse these data because of high dimensionality, heterogeneity, and complex correlations within the data. Researchers would also like to be able to demonstrate causal relationships in the data. We are trying to extend the family of ‘joint models’ (models that can link time-dependent variables to a time of illness) so that they can handle all the complexities of the data. We are also attempting to translate the ingredients of such models into causal relationships in a single individual.

Provably Correct Policies for Uncertain Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes
Dr Nils H. Jansen (Radboud University)
Rapid advances in artificial intelligence have led to more and more tasks at which computers are better than humans. Soon computers will be able to drive our cars. But is this safe? This research is developing methods whereby artificial intelligence has maximum freedom to come up with smart solutions while still guaranteeing safety.

To the next level of transcription regulation: influence of the accessible genome size
Prof. Willem Kegel & Dr Jocelyne Vreede (Utrecht University/University of Amsterdam)
Gene regulation to the next level
In biological cells, the expression of genes is regulated by a complex interplay between certain parts on the genes and many proteins that move along the DNA. The scientists will study the influence of the compactness of the DNA on the way genes are expressed.

A novel, disease-associated regulator of the minor spliceosome as a guardian of chromosomal stability
Prof. Geert Kops (KNAW - Hubrecht)
Chromosomal abnormalities are a major cause of developmental disorders, infertility, miscarriages and cancer. By studying a rare hereditary syndrome associated with severe developmental disorders and cancer, the researchers recently found a new gene that causes chromosomal abnormalities. This research proposal involves investigating how this gene normally protects against chromosomal abnormalities and how mutations in the gene in patients leads to the hereditary syndrome. The insights that will be obtained from this research could provide broader insights into the causes of chromosomal abnormalities in gametes, embryos, and non-hereditary types of cancer.

How inhibition puts an image in context
Prof. Christiaan N. Levelt & Prof. Pieter R. Roelfsema (both Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience)
In order to understand what we see, the information that enters our brain through the eyes is immediately supplemented with information from higher brain regions. However, it is unclear how the higher regions of the brain provide feedback to lower brain regions. It seems that inhibitory brain cells play a crucial role here. These pass on only relevant information and filter out irrelevant information. In this project, the researchers will investigate how inhibitory brain cells regulate the information exchange between lower and higher brain regions. The results will uncover new biological principles behind our ability to perceive and understand our environment.

Rigorous Analysis of Local Search
Dr Bodo Manthey & Dr Tjark Vredeveld (University of Twente/Maastricht University)
Optimization problems appear in many areas, ranging from engineering to the sciences. Unfortunately, for many optimization problems it is unlikely that we can find optimal solutions efficiently. Still, in practice often quite simple local search heuristics succeed in finding close-to-optimal solutions surprisingly quickly. In contrast, the theoretically predicted performance is usually very poor.
The goal of this project is to close the gap between theory and practice by providing rigorous analysis of the performance of local search heuristics using the framework of smoothed analysis. In particular, we focus on hybrid heuristics and metaheuristics, which are very popular in practical applications.

Constant pH simulations with the MARTINI force field
Prof. Siewert Jan Marrink (University of Groningen)
In order to simulate the movements of molecules accurately, the calculations must take account of the degree of protonation. However, this is a dynamic quantity and depends on the environment which the molecules inhabit. Researchers at the University of Groningen are now developing a new method to do this efficiently.

Bayes for longitudinal data on manifolds
Dr Frank van der Meulen (Delft University of Technology)
Longitudinal data analysis is a field of statistics that involves analysing the data of several persons or objects obtained over a given period of time. If these measurements can be easily combined in meaningful ways, this produces a wealth of literature that can be used to analyse such data. However, in many applications this is not the case, for example in the analysis of medical imaging data from brain scans. The aim of this research is to develop Bayesian statistical methods for such data.

Surface roughness effects on DLVO forces between functionalized surfaces
Prof. George Palasantzas (University of Groningen)
The smaller the dimension, the more dominant the role of the surface area and associated forces. These control phenomena such as dispersal, agglomeration, adhesion and coating, and they are important in materials processing, MEMS/NEMS, and controlled self-assembly processes. We will attempt to gain more understanding of the surface forces related to surface chemistry, morphology and material optical properties in liquid environments.

Role of vacuolinos in stabilization of metabolites in the plant vacuole
Dr Francesca Quattrocchio (University of Amsterdam)
Many vegetables and fruits produce substances in their early (unripe) stage of development that are beneficial to health, but break these substances down during later stages of ripening, so that these benefits are lost to the consumer. We now know that recently discovered sub-cellular compartments called vacuolinos that occur in petunia mutants with fading flowers prevent the breakdown of flower colour pigments (anthocyanins). With this research, we aim to find out how cells produce these vacuolinos and how they prevent the breakdown of anthocyanins. The results will be important for fundamental science and can be directly used to breed healthier vegetables and fruits and more attractive ornamental plants.

Low-rank tensor product approximations for the radiative transfer equation
Dr Matthias Schlottbom (University of Twente)
High-frequency electromagnetic radiation is at the heart of several high-tech applications, such as medical imaging processing and new LED lighting systems. To put such applications into practice, it is crucial to overcome the ‘dimensional barrier’, which dictates that the algorithmic complexity grows exponentially with the dimensions.
The essential idea behind the low-rank tensor product methods that will be developed in this project is that large data sets, such as solutions for high-dimensional partial differential equations, can often be accurately described with relatively little information, and thus large amounts of data become superfluous. The calculations can then be considerably accelerated by using only the relevant information.

Catalyzing the transition to non-transition metal-mediated C-H amination
Dr Jarl Ivar van der Vlugt (University of Amsterdam)
Transition metals are currently considered the most important elements in the design of new catalysts. This research project aims to test this starting point by using aluminium and zinc in combination with specific redox-active ligands that should be able to facilitate radical-type reactions. This will be tested in C-H amine reactions that can produce valuable amines.

Calmodulation of the epithelial calcium channels TRPV5 and TRPV6: Untangle a dual-faced mechanism
Dr Jenny van der Wijst (Radboud University Medical Center)
Ion channels are membrane transport proteins and crucial for the functioning of many physiological processes in our body. This project focuses on a specific subclass, the TRPV5 and TRPV6 ion channels, which transport calcium ions very selectively. They play an essential role in the regulation of our calcium balance. Calcium transport through these ion channels is regulated by calmodulin, a calcium-binding protein. My research group will use innovative biophysical methods to clarify how calmodulin regulation (calmodulation) of these calcium-specific ion channels works at the molecular level. This will provide new insight into the mechanisms behind these ion channels and contribute to fundamental knowledge of the functioning of such transport proteins.

About the NWO Open Competition Domain Science-KLEIN

KLEIN grants are intended for realizing curiosity-driven, fundamental research of high quality and/or scientific urgency. The KLEIN grant enables researchers to formulate and test creative, more speculative ideas and to realize scientific innovations that can serve as a basis for the research themes of the future. There are three categories of KLEIN grants: KLEIN-1 (1 scientific position), KLEIN-2 (2 scientific positions in collaboration) and KLEIN-0 (investments) that are assessed in competition with each other. A preferential treatment scheme is available to make it easier for researchers who are just starting out on their career (new permanent members of staff and tenure trackers) to acquire funding. This only applies to KLEIN-1 applications.

You can submit applications to the NWO Open Competition Domain Science - KLEIN at any time. A new call for proposals is expected after 1 August 2020. The Executive Board of the NWO Domain Science will decide on this in July and determine the terms and conditions of the round. Further information will follow in July 2020.


For more information about the NWO Open Competition Domain Science - KLEIN, please contact Margot Snel, enw-klein@nwo.nl, 070 344 07 58.

Source: NWO


Science area

Exact and Natural Sciences


Open Competition Domain Science (ENW)


Curiosity driven research and talent (2015-2018)