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MRC CNGG researcher awarded European Research Council starting grant

7 September 2020

Woman drinking tea
The study is aiming to recruit 3,000 women

A Cardiff University researcher has been awarded a coveted grant which aims to help early-career scientists and scholars build their own teams and conduct pioneering research.

Dr Arianna di Florio, from the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (MRC CNGG), is one of 436 people to have won a starting grant as part of the 2020 European Research Council (ERC) competition.

The funding, worth €677 million in total, is part of the EU’s Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

Dr di Florio, who will be studying the Genetic Architecture of Sex Steroid-related Psychiatric Disorders (GASSP), was awarded €1.5 million.

Dr di Florio said: "GASSP is the first molecular genetic study of the psychiatric sensitivity to sex hormone changes. We're aiming to recruit more than 3,000 women living with psychiatric disorders which are temporally related with changes in sex hormones.

"This will be the largest cohort of women experiencing these conditions to date. It will help us to identify and reach sufferers, making it easier for them to participate in research, and will enable us to conduct sophisticated analyses, integrating detailed longitudinal clinical and psycho-social information with aggregated genome-wide data and functional annotations."

As part of the project, Dr di Florio will be working alongside the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) to build a collaboration with women who are living with these disorders.

We are delighted at NCMH that one of our key collaborators, Dr di Florio, has won this prestigious grant from the ERC. These conditions can be devastating for women, are clearly under researched and poorly managed and we are delighted to be able to work with women to make a difference for them in the years to come.

Professor Ian Jones Director/Clinical Professor, National Centre for Mental Health

The grantees are a diverse group with 40 different nationalities. Amongst the winners, 20 researchers are moving to Europe from further afield thanks to the funding. The new grantees will be based in 25 countries across Europe, with Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and France as top locations. Some 13% of applications were selected for funding in this round.

Dr di Florio said: "I hope GASSP will contribute to the de-stigmatisation of mental health disorders related to female reproduction by providing evidence-based, easy-to-understand information to the public, and addressing the gender gap in psychiatry highlighted by the European Commission and the World Health Organization.

"I would like to thank my MRC CNGG and NCMH colleagues for their support."

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