Gravitation grant for research into therapies for blindness, adaptability in crises

- EN - NL

Several projects involving researchers from Radboud University and Radboudumc are receiving NWO Gravitation Grants. These projects will each receive amounts of more than 20 million euros for top research.

Lifelong Vision

The ’Lifelong Vision’ consortium led by Caroline Klaver of the Radboudumc will develop new treatments for blindness. The researchers want to repair broken genes, print a new retina with a bio-printer, and find out how zebrafish manage to repair their own retinas. The consortium will receive 22 million euros for this from the NWO Zwaartekracht program of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

An important part of the project is gene therapy. If a mistake in a gene leads to blindness, doctors can now introduce a whole new gene. They inject it into the eye under the retina, hoping it will reach the right cells and cause those cells to start making healthy proteins again. ’Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very well yet,’ says Radboudumc Professor of Epidemiology and Genetics of Eye Diseases Caroline Klaver. ’Many genes are not suitable for this because they are too large. We therefore want to carry out the repair much more precisely, with gene editing. In this, we only rewrite the error in the gene, so we no longer replace the entire gene.’


The Adapt! team, led by Beatrice de Graaf of Utrecht University, is also receiving a grant of more than 20 million euros. The project involves a team of researchers from five universities that will spend the next few years investigating what cultural, social and policy capacities are needed to deal with such crises. Lotte Jensen , professor of Dutch literary and cultural history, is associated with the project on behalf of Radboud University.

Some communities drifted apart during the corona pandemic, while others stood their ground. What exactly is the reason for this? The Adapt! team will investigate. ’During the pandemic, it became clear that the core values of open societies, such as freedom, equality and solidarity, can become eroded,’ Adapt! leader and historian Beatrice de Graaf (Utrecht University) says. ’We want to know how to prevent that and how to respond better as a society to a crisis.’

Jensen will contribute her historical-cultural expertise on dealing with crises since 1800. ’How do people respond to these kinds of crises? What lessons can we draw from the past that are still useful for the present? Much of the course of the covid pandemic, for example, we could already predict based on historical patterns,’ Jensen explains. She also emphasizes the diverse functions of culture, such as comfort, healing and meaning in times of disaster.

The innovative aspect of the project for Jensen is the close collaboration with different disciplines within subprojects. With Ellen Giebels (University of Twente), she will investigate how historical knowledge and psychology reinforce each other in understanding how people respond to disruption. In another subproject, researchers will jointly design future scenarios, including one on sea level rise. Jensen contributes to this with her years of research on how people deal with water.

About NWO Gravitation

The Gravitation program is implemented by NWO on behalf of the Ministry of OCW. The seven consortia selected this year will together receive 160.5 million euros. Researchers can conduct top research and multidisciplinary collaboration for ten years.

Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf (OCW): ’With investments like these, we ensure that we in the Netherlands remain among the world’s scientific top. This not only provides important new insights, but also strengthens our economy. And it brings innovations from which we all benefit. I am proud that we have such scientific talent in our own country. It is not something to be taken for granted. Truly something to be cherished.’