Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) winners Benoit Ladoux and Chwee Teck Lim

Human foreskin fibroblasts plated on fibronectin and stained for the cell surface receptor alpha1-beta5 integrin (red) and actin (green). Cells were captured using an Olympus Live wide-field microscope. Image courtesy of Hiroaki Hirata of the Lim lab.

MBI congratulates Benoit Ladoux and Chwee Teck Lim, who along with Rene-Marc Mege (INSERM, Paris) and James Nelson (Stanford, USA), are the recipients of a three year program research grant from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), in the 2012 award round.

The Research

Their project entitled ‘Probing mechano-transduction by cell-cell junctions at the nano- and micro-scales’ will study the regulation of protein complexes at cell junctions in response to mechanical stress. This multi-faceted study will involve developing new nano- and micro-mechanical tools to map, quantify and apply forces to cells. These studies will be integrated with detailed biochemical analyses of protein conformations, binding activities and functions.

The Program

The HFSP is a funding program for frontier research in the life sciences, under the broad theme of ‘complex mechanisms of living organisms’. It is managed by the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO), founded in 1989 through an initiative launched by former Prime Minister of Japan Yasuhiro Nakasone and headquartered in Strasbourg, France. ( It is currently led by eminent scientists President Akito Arima and Secretary General Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker.

Epithelial cells on fabricated micropillars. Micropillars (red), nuclei (blue, actin (green). Image courtesy of Vedula Sri Ram Krishna of the Lim lab.

The HFSPO is funded by the governments and research councils of member countries that include France, Germany, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, UK, USA, as well as the European Union. Since its inception the HFSPO has awarded over 5000 grants to scientists in 69 countries, with 16 of the awardees going on to receive Nobel Prizes.

HFSP grants are highly competitive and regarded as especially prestigious in the field of life sciences. These grants typically fund cutting-edge, risky projects pursued by internationally collaborating, interdisciplinary teams. Applications undergo a thorough peer review process by a panel of 24 to 26 scientists from across the globe. This year the grant awarded to Benoit Ladoux, Chwee Teck Lim and colleagues was one of only three to be granted to a project with a laboratory based in a non-HFSPO member country (Singapore).