Sinergia: 26 new interdisciplinary research projects

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Ethical education, safe and green high-throughput chemistry or targeted prostate cancer radiotherapy: the SNSF is allocating 59 million Swiss francs to promote interdisciplinary research.

With Sinergia, the SNSF supports joint projects of two to four scientists who seek to break new ground with their interdisciplinary research. In April 2023, 117 requests were submitted. Of the 113 projects evaluated the best 26 projects are now being funded, corresponding to a success rate of 23.1%. The 83 researchers involved work in 54 different disciplines. On average, a project will receive 2.28 million Swiss francs, which corresponds to 59.2 million francs in total.

Transforming the school system of the 20th century

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of persisting challenges in contemporary education: social exclusion, bullying, stress, mental health problems and digital inequalities. Numerous research projects in a wide range of fields have begun to tackle these issues. This funded project aims to produce an approach that brings them together so that the various actors in the school environment can be offered targeted educational interventions. Within a participatory and interdisciplinary setting, the team will also set up an advisory committee made up of children, parents and school administrative and teaching staff. The project is being led by researchers from the Haute École Pédagogique du Valais, UNIGE, EPFL, Université Lyon 2 - Lumière, and the Graasp association in Lausanne.

Development of new, environmentally friendly chemicals

Humans and the environment are being exposed to an increasing number of chemicals. Researchers working in this field sometimes find themselves confined to identifying their existence and describing their harmful effects. The rapidly developing field of chemoinformatics opens up new possibilities for applying this knowledge to the development of new, non-noxious chemicals. At the crossroads of chemical, computer, environmental and health sciences, this project is developing the methods needed for this, including high-throughput test procedures. The health of humans and the environment is taken into account for all methods from the start. The team working on future-oriented products in this project includes researchers from the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, EAWAG and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany.

Targeted elimination of single prostate cancer cells

While conventional cancer therapies have greatly increased the chances of patients’ survival, some forms remain difficult to target. What is more, these treatments have undeniable side effects. In this project, the team made up of experts from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the University of Lugano (USI) and the University Hospital of Zurich (USZ) will examine the effects of a potentially more precise and powerful type of radiation which will be directly delivered to the cancer cells to be treated. This will be achieved by combining it with molecules that specifically latch onto prostate cancer cells. This collaboration combines radiopharmaceutical science and molecular oncology and could eventually make it possible to eliminate single prostate cancer cells and, hence, prevent metastases.

Integration of Sinergia into project funding

Researchers were able to submit applications for funding under Sinergia one last time in April 2023. In summer 2023, the SNSF integrated the Sinergia programme into its project funding scheme. By doing so, we have grouped together collaborative and interdisciplinary research in our main funding scheme in order to provide even better support for this type of project.