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Neurobiologist Prof. Dr. Simon Wiegert receives funding from the European Research Council

ERC Proof of Concept Grant for further development of a system for optical measurement of brain functions

Prof. Dr. Simon Wiegert | © Medizinische Fakultät Mannheim der Universität Heidelberg

Neurobiologist Prof. Dr. Simon Wiegert, scientist at the Mannheim Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University, has been awarded an ERC Proof of Concept Grant. With this grant, the European Research Council (ERC) supports scientists who already hold an ERC grant and want to further develop a research result towards transfer. Prof. Wiegert is working on a fiber photometry system that can be used flexibly for various optical measurements of brain functions. Funding in the amount of 150,000 euros is available for a period of one and a half years to test the application potential and further develop the system to market maturity.

The proof-of-concept funding for hyFiPhotometry arose from the LIFE synapses project, which was funded with an ERC Starting Grant. The project focused on researching the structure-function relationships of individual synapses in the brain. The researchers led by Prof. Wiegert quickly recognized the limitations of commercial systems for measuring neuronal activity, which were not flexible due to a fixed arrangement of filters and mirrors and were only of limited use for their research in terms of the light spectrum recorded. They therefore decided to develop a photometry system that would allow the device to be reconfigured quickly and easily for different experimental requirements.

To this end, the concept of fiber photometry - a simple method for measuring the activity of certain brain cell populations - was radically redesigned. Prof. Wiegert and his two postdocs, Dr. Alexander Dieter and Dr. Andrey Formozov, created a flexible system based on fused fibers instead of dichroic mirror systems that couples multicolor photometry with optogenetics. This versatile and cost-effective device has the potential to open up a range of new applications, as the scientists emphasize. As part of the proof-of-concept funding, it is to be further developed into a hyperspectral fiber photometry system with extended spectral capabilities and prepared for commercial use.

Simon Wiegert heads the Department of Neurophysiology at the Medical Faculty Mannheim of Heidelberg University and is a member of the Mannheim Center for Translational Neuroscience (MCTN), which provides a platform for basic researchers as well as translational and clinical neuroscientists. His research work ranges from synaptic-cellular neurobiology to network and systems neurobiology. Prof. Wiegert was appointed to Ruperto Carola in 2022.

With its grants, the ERC supports excellent scientists who are doing pioneering work in their field of research. The aim of proof-of-concept funding is to examine the market potential of an innovative research result and to further develop it with a view to application maturity and commercialization.


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