A picture of Maria Leptin

The European Commission has appointed Maria Leptin as the next President of the European Research Council (ERC) after a year-long search. She begins her first four-year term in early October.

Leptin is an expert in developmental biology and immunology based in Germany. She heads research groups at the University of Cologne and at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg and has been Director of the European Molecular Biology Organization since 2010.

Leptin succeeds the current interim ERC president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. Bourguignon had temporarily returned to the role last year following the dramatic departure of Italian nanoscientist Mauro Ferrari, who stepped down just three months after serving as president amid the dispute over the ERC’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ERC is expected to receive 22% more funding from the newly launched Horizon Europe program, and Leptin recognized the “crucial moment” for her to take up her presidency. “My intention is to continue the ERC’s fantastic track record and support excellent frontier research to meet our global challenges,” she said.

In an interview published by the ERC, she stated her intention to prioritize “stabilizing and expanding” the organisation’s financial position and to work towards ensuring that the body serves all of its communities both geographically and across disciplines.

During the year-long search for the new president, an independent committee shortlisted candidates who were then interviewed by the ERC’s Scientific Council. A final decision was then made by Mariya Gabriel, the EU Commissioner for Innovation and Research.

“Since its inception in 2007, the European Research Council has built a worldwide reputation for promoting excellent, curiosity-driven research. Continued strong leadership and imagination will continue to improve his position, ‘said Gabriel. “Because of her outstanding academic career, her international reputation and her proven innovative and leadership qualities, Professor Maria Leptin is the right choice for this role.”

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