Tessa Quax of the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB) has received an ERC Starting Grant worth EUR 1.5 million from the European Research Council. The grant is for her research project 'Archaeal Virology: unravelling the mechanisms of interviral warfare (ARCVIR)'. With the Starting Grant, Quax can set up her own research team to conduct research for five years on archaea and how viruses compete to enter cells.
Archaea are common microorganisms that are found in numerous surroundings, ranging from extreme environments like the ocean and the human gut and skin. Marine archaea have a huge impact on biogeochemical cycles and the climate, while archaea in the gut influence the human microbiome - micro-organisms in and on our body - and health. Archaea can be infected by unusual viruses. As viruses are the major predator of archaea, they shape archaeal communities. With the research project, Quax will visualize the mechanisms that viruses use to fight each other to gain access to host cells. The aim is also to explore the conditions under which exclusion between viruses is induced and which mechanisms underly this exclusion.
Quax will study the process using viruses from extreme environments (e.g. salt lakes and hot springs). She will thereby use novel molecular biology and imaging tools for these models, which allow for the exploration of archaeal viral biology at an unprecedented depth. The outcome will be of lasting impact in the field of microbial virology, and application of this knowledge will enable innovations that stimulate human health, fight global warming and fuel biotechnology.
Starting Grants are awarded to early-career researchers with two to seven years of experience since completion of the PhD and a scientific track record showing great promise. The funding is provided for up to five years and will help individual scientists to build their own research teams and conduct pioneering research.
The European Research Council offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants.
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