From the European Commission 1.5 million euros for 3 cutting-edge research projects

Italy at the forefront of precision medicine thanks to Poli researchers

Politecnico di Milano wins 3 ERC Starting Grants 3 young researchers from Politecnico di Milano win the prestigious European funding worth €1.5 million euros

HÈRMES, MINIONS and EOS: these acronyms sound like cartoon-like or mythological names, but they are the three research projects of excellence on which the young researchers at Politecnico di Milano — winners of the prestigious ERC (European Research Council) Starting Grants of €1.5 million over five years — will be working.

All three projects have applications in the biomedical world from fighting cancer using fluorescence and radiotherapy, to using bacteria as drug carriers. The research by Giulia Acconcia from DEIB (Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering) aims at revolutionising non-invasive measurement techniques to acquire 3D and 4D images in real time; Chiara Paganelli (also from DEIB) is developing new modelling approaches to revolutionise radiotherapy against localised tumours; Maria Paternò (Department of Physics) is making bacteria light-sensitive and is exploring the possibility of using them as drug carriers in parts of the body that are not easily accessible, such as the gastrointestinal tract.

"Our University celebrates with great satisfaction the brilliant achievement of our promising young researchers", comments Paolo Biscari, the Rector's Delegate for Talent Development. The acquisition of no less than three ERC Starting Grant projects, with a success rate in this call of 37.5%, well above the average success rate of these type of projects, confirms that the researchers recruited in recent years have already achieved independence and international excellence in research. In line with our Strategic Plan 2023-2025, supporting young scholars’ innovative and independent research is one of Politecnico di Milano's fundamental objectives”. The HÈRMES project (High-speed timE Resolved fluorescence iMaging with no pilE-up diStortion) aims to develop extremely sensitive light sensors for fluorescence-guided surgery. This technology will allow surgeons to intervene even on individual cells during the most delicate operations, such as removing brain tumours, thus minimising side effects on the patient.

Giulia Acconcia, who grew up in Spoleto, holds a Laurea Magistrale (MSc) degree in Electronics Engineering and a PhD in Information Technology from Politecnico di Milano, where she is currently senior researcher and assistant professor. MINIONS –(Patient-specific Microstructural and radIobiological model for persoNalised external beam radiation therapy in localised tumourS) proposes a new modelling approach for cancer treatment through patient-specific radiotherapy planning and adaptation. The model will allow the microscopic characteristics of the tumour and its interaction with the radiation beam to be taken into account, developing biology-guided radiation therapy for each patient. The project will have an impact across various fields, such as bioengineering, medical physics, radiobiology, radiology and oncology, towards developing biology-guided treatments that will increase patients' survival and quality of life.

Chiara Paganelli holds a PhD in Bioengineering from Politecnico di Milano, where she is now senior researcher and assistant professor. She works in the CartCasLab laboratory (, where she carries out research related to MRI-guided radiotherapy. The EOS project (Engineering Of bacteria to See light) proposes a new strategy to make bacteria able to perceive light stimuli. Specifically, it couples bacteria with photosensitive materials that transform light energy into electrical energy, which the bacteria in turn use to perform biological processes, such as proliferation and movement. EOS will explore the possibility of using bacteria as light-driven drug carriers in parts of the body that are not easily accessible, such as the gastrointestinal tract.

Another important application is in the study and minimisation of antibiotic resistance. Giuseppe Maria Paternò holds a degree in Chemistry from the University of Catania and a PhD in Physics from University College London. He is currently senior researcher and assistant professor at Politecnico di Milano’s Physics Department. ERC Starting Grants are aimed at researchers who have held a PhD degree for at least two years up to a maximum of seven years. The aim is to enhance the creativity and excellence of European basic or frontier research and to invest in the best ideas by encouraging the quality and ambition of individual researchers. Individual funding can be up to 1.5 million euros for 5 years.