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Four FSE researchers, including Zernike Institute post-doc Adéla Melcrova, receive NWO XS grant

21 April 2022

Four FSE researchers have received an XS grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). These researchers are Dr. Danny Incarnato (GBB), Dr. Clemens Mayer (Stratingh Institute), Dr. Adéla Melcrová (ZIAM) and Dr. Sandy Schmidt (GRIP). The grant consists of EUR 50,000.

With the XS grants, NWO strives to encourage curiosity-driven and bold research involving a quick analysis of a promising idea. A special aspect is that the applicants themselves assess the other applications.

Dr. Danny Incarnato, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB) | High-throughput identification of bacterial RNA chaperone proteins

RNA is a key molecule in most cellular processes. Many RNA’s functions are mediated by its ability to form intricate structures, a process known as RNA folding. A group of proteins called RNA chaperones has been proposed to assist the RNA in this process. By studying how the loss of these proteins affects the structure of the RNA inside bacterial cells, Incarnato aims to understand the rules governing RNA folding. As RNA folding regulates protein production, by focusing on RNAs involved in cell growth and survival we hope to identify new targets for the development of more effective antibacterial drugs.

Dr. Clemens Mayer, Stratingh Institute for Chemistry | Making bacteria love pesticides – engineering designer microbes for organophosphate removal

Organophosphates are pest-killing nerve agents that account for almost 40% of the total pesticides used worldwide. Given their toxicity to humans and animals, their bioaccumulation in soil and wastewater streams is a growing health and environmental concern. Therefore, effective and sustainable ways to break down (=remediate) these pollutants are in high demand. To meet this challenge, Mayer aims to apply the evolutionary algorithm to engineer biological catalysts (=enzymes) that can effectively neutralize organophosphates. Critically, the production of these tailor-made enzymes by designer microbes provides a promising means for the on-demand bio-remediation of persistent organophosphates.

Dr. Adéla Melcrová, Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials (ZIAM) | Migration of membrane-active antibiotics through outer bacterial layers – Disruption or slipping through?

Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to public health. Many promising antibiotics target bacterial membranes, however, the membrane is shielded with a thick sponge-like layer. How do the antibiotics migrate through this mesh? Do they disrupt it or simply slip through? Melcrová, a post-doc in the lab of Wouter Roos, aims to build the first full model of a bacterial cell wall for use in microscopy, visualize changes in the bacterial outer layers, and assess their stability under the antibiotic attack. Understanding of the antibiotic migration through these layers is crucial for design of pharmaceuticals that can effectively access the membrane below.

Dr. Sandy Schmidt, Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy (GRIP) | Capturing carbon, creating value: Teaching carbon dioxide eating bacteria new tricks

Global climate change is real. More than ever, innovative ideas are needed to reintegrate CO2 into bioeconomy to ensure sustainable energy and material sources for the next generations. We explore microorganisms that are able to utilize CO2 as potential strategy to produce high-value-added chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Those microorganisms, however, are not yet able to compete with classical biotechnological processes. The aim of this project is the design of production strains with high efficiency by developing novel synthetic biology tools for their genetic manipulation. This is crucial for a future commercialization of this technology to manufacture valuable chemicals from CO2.

Last modified:25 April 2022 12.37 p.m.
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