Horizon 2020 funding has been awarded for a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network where University of Helsinki is one of the 15 beneficiaries. Driving next generation autophagy researchers towards translation, or DRIVE, will be coordinated by the University Hospital Groningen, the Netherlands. Beneficiaries include ten academic institutions and five private companies. At the University of Helsinki, the beneficiary is Eeva-Liisa Eskelinen, Department of Biosciences, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences. Partner organizations of DRIVE include five private companies, two scientific publishers, six researcher networks, and seven other organizations.

In autophagy, cells transport harmful or unnecessary organelles or aggregates to lysosomes for degradation and recycling. The manipulation of autophagy has an enormous therapeutic potential to revolutionize the way we currently treat cancers, neurodegenerative disorders, inflammatory and infectious diseases. Despite the great promises made by pioneering medical studies, the still limited applied research on autophagy has hampered the translation of fundamental knowledge into clinical-grade products and improved healthcare. Applied autophagy research is essential to understand the roles of autophagy in the different physiological and pathological situations, to generate (disease) models and develop biomarkers and assays to assess the progress of a disease.


The goal of the consortium Driving next generation autophagy researchers towards translation (DRIVE) is to train young scientists to fill this gap. DRIVE will equip its Phd students with a unique combination of knowledge and experimental expertise that are brought together in this consortium by its partners. The realization of their projects in applied autophagy research will benefit of an exceptional interdisciplinary platform integrating cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, chemistry and “omics” approaches. In addition, DRIVE ESRs will acquire competencies to exploit the results for the development of products and techniques of commercial value. These ESRs will also be trained in disseminating results and knowledge through modern channels of communication.


DRIVE will, therefore, create a new generation of autophagy researchers trained in both academic and industrial settings, with the skills required to accelerate the integration of fundamental knowledge into translation. They will have excellent career perspectives and will put Europe in the lead for the exploitation of autophagy therapy for the benefit of public healthcare.