(Vienna, 26 April 2022) Eva Schernhammer, Head of the Division of Epidemiology at MedUni Vienna's Center for Public Health, has been awarded a prestigious €2.5 million "Advanced Grant" from the European Research Council (ERC). Over the next 5 years, the scientist will be conducting an in-depth research project into the health impacts of having a disrupted "internal clock". This will be the first major project to be acquired to pave the way for Precision Prevention under the Research Agenda of the new Eric Kandel Institute – Center for Precision Medicine.
The project was selected in a competitive process as one of around 250 projects earmarked for funding. A total of 1,735 applications had been received. In this project, Eva Schernhammer will build on her earlier research projects on the topic and takes new steps towards personalized medicine. By using epidemiological measurement methods to explore the interrelated mechanisms of the circadian rhythm, the aim of the project is to estimate the personal risk of negative effects of an out-of-sync "internal clock". This is particularly relevant for the 20% of the global workforce who are unable to follow a regular day-night rhythm due to shift work and fluctuating working hours. In particular, repeated exposure to light at night has previously been associated with disruption of the circadian system and subsequent increases in risk of serious chronic diseases and premature death.
But not everyone is similarly affected: each individual's risk is determined by genetics and environmental influences. The ERC advanced project "CLOCKrisk" aims to further explore the adverse health consequences of a disrupted circadian clock by taking steps in this very direction of individual risk assessment ("personalized medicine").
With “CLOCKrisk”, Eva Schernhammer continues her longstanding work on this topic. For example, she conducted the first prospective study demonstrating the significant health effects of chronic daytime dysregulation. Using epidemiological approaches, she conducted field studies and genetic research very early on and developed circadian biomarkers, contributing substantially to the field of circadian epidemiology.
In its entirety, this project on personalized prevention lines up with the objectives of the new Eric Kandel Institute – Center for Precision Medicine, which is currently being built on the hospital campus of the Medical University of Vienna.
About Eva Schernhammer
Eva Schernhammer was born in Vienna. After studying medicine and psychology at the University of Vienna and having trained in general internal medicine, she received her Doctor of Public Health degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2003. She conducted research and taught at Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health until 2015, when she moved to the Medical University of Vienna, where she heads the Division of Epidemiology at the Center for Public Health.
She was principal investigator of seven R01 grants (Research Project Grant Programs) from the National Institute of Public Health (USA), is a board member of various funding bodies and a grant reviewer for the National Institute of Health (USA), Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. She has received various prestigious awards, including the Prof. J. Teisinger Medal of Honor from the Czech Jan Evangelista Purkyne National Institute of Public Health.