ERC grant for Prof. Daniel Merk

Jan 10, 2022

Four talented early-career researchers have obtained prestigious starting grants together with LMU from the European Research Council, including Prof. Daniel Merk from the Faculty for Chemistry and Pharmacy

Prof. Daniel Merk is Chair of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry at LMU. His main research areas are the targeted modulation of transcription factors using small molecules and the application of artificial intelligence (AI) for molecular design.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis are severe health burdens for patients and major global challenges for societies. No treatment strategy has yet been developed that can halt or reverse the progress of neurodegeneration. As such, new therapeutic approaches are needed more than ever, but they are hindered by the lack of suitable, pharmacologically validated targets. It is exactly this gap that Merk aims to close with the ERC project NeuRoPROBE. He is focusing on two transcription factors (TLX and Nurr1) as promising candidate targets, but tools to pharmacologically control their activity are lacking. The pharmaceutical chemist proposes to develop such tools. For the molecular design of these special molecules – so-called chemical probes and PROTACs – he plans to use artificial intelligence to accelerate the development process. He will then apply the new tools in on-a-chip models of neurodegeneration to control the activity of TLX and Nurr1 and further validate their modulation in neurodegeneration.

Daniel Merk studied Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacy at LMU and completed a doctorate in Pharmaceutical/Medicinal Chemistry at Goethe University Frankfurt in 2015. Subsequently, he conducted research at ETH Zürich and as a group leader at Goethe University Frankfurt, before moving to LMU in 2021.