Gunnar Schulte at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, was awarded an Institutional Grant for Younger Researchers in 2008 for the international collaboration project "Frizzled signalling - protein-protein interactions and intracellular scaffolding as a means of signal transduction".
The STINT Institutional Grant for Younger Reseachers is a fantastic opportunity allowing the evolution of collaborative networks mainly based on regular e-mail contacts to real interactive exchange of know-how, laboratory techniques, people and experiences. The network that I am heading is composed of my research group at the Karolinska Institutet, Dept Physiology & Pharmacology, Vitezslav Bryja’s group at the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic and Alexandra Schambony’s team at the University of Erlangen, Germany. Vitezslav Bryja and I were postdocs in the same lab at the Karolinska Institutet, Dept Medical Biochemistry & Biophysics, where we developed a highly productive set of interaction complementing each other well. In 2006, I moved forward to a more independent position as a junior group leader at the Dept Pharmacology, which still allowed close collaboration and finalization of research projects. At that time, Alexandra Schambony, an expert in developmental biology, an expertise that turned out to be the perfect match with our protein biochemical and pharmacological approaches entered the network. At this time our collaboration resulted in a breakthrough publication in PNAS as the first testimony of our interactions. In parallel, we were aware of the announcement of the first STINT IGYR in 2007. As the requirements for the application were asking for novel constellations of networks, we applied to collaborate on “Frizzled signaling – protein-protein interactions and intracellular scaffolding as a means of signal transduction”. The novel constellation for the application was the move of Vitezslav Bryja back home to the Masaryk University and of Alexandra Schambony to the University of Erlangen from Karlsruhe. Thus, all three of us were suddenly at the same stage of our careers and at the same time in the need of mutual support to establish a research line of our own. Luckily, STINT reviewers realized our needs and supported our application.
We started the network officially in fall 2008 with an inaugural meeting in Stockholm, where the three of us presented our ideas and recent findings at the Dept Pharmacology. This gave us also possibility to plan the coming three years of collaboration in detail, i e exchange of personnel on all levels and in all directions, collaborative projects, network meetings, postgraduate courses and last but not least an international meeting in our field to be held in spring 2011 at the Nobel Forum as a springboard for our future careers.
Students plan usually two to three months exchanges providing enough time to get to know novel techniques and to push ongoing projects. At the moment we are organizing the so far biggest network meeting in April 2009, which will bring together all members of our research groups for three days in Stockholm allowing scientific and social interactions. The program for that meeting contains student presentations, discussions and a lecture of an invited guest, Prof Tommy Andersson from Lund University, as a potential partner for future collaborations. Meetings in this form are the attraction of the Institutional Grants for Younger Researchers programme. It allows direct interaction and enables the connection between a name and a character, which is so important for effective teamwork over borders. In addition to the purely scientific interactions, we have also organized a rotating postgraduate course in Molecular signaling in development and disease, which will be held at the Karolinska Institutet (fall 2009), Masaryk University (2010) and Erlangen University (2011).
I really feel that STINT support for our collaboration provides a unique possibility and a luxury to finance pure interaction and knowledge exchange, which will improve our research and teaching efforts substantially. I highly recommend everybody in the early state of an academic career to apply for this kind of grants in order to widen their horizons and to develop in science.
You can find a breif presentation of Gunnar Schulte's collaboration project here.