£1.5 million granted to world-leading scientist to study bacteria

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NEW research is being conducted to see how bacteria protect themselves against viral attack.

A world-leading scientist from the University of St Andrews has been awarded £1.5M by the European Research Council (ERC) to study how the bacterial immune system responds to viruses.

This could lead to the development of weaponised viruses to kill drug resistant bacterial pathogens.

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Professor Malcolm White, from the School of Biology

The team led by Professor Malcom White, will seek to provide new insights into how cells react to a virus, which could have far-reaching implications in the battle against drug resistant bacteria.

All living things, from humans to bacteria, are subject to attack by viruses. To protect themselves, cells have evolved and developed many different defence mechanisms.

Cells that become infected by a virus need to send out an alarm and activate their defences.

Professor White said: “Our research will look to answer key questions such as how is the cyclic nucleotide production activated on virus infection, does activation inevitably lead to cell death, or is there a mechanism to switch it off?

“We will be able to open up new research areas including the fascinating evolutionary links between bacterial and human immune systems and the possibility of weaponising viruses to kill drug resistant bacterial pathogens.”

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Cells that become infected by a virus need to send out an alarm and activate their defences (photo from CDC on Unsplash)

ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon added: “We look forward to seeing what major insights and breakthroughs will spring from this investment and trust. We are pleased with the continued positive trend for women researchers showing that ERC’s sustained efforts on this matter pay off.”

In total 2678 research proposals were submitted, of which 8 percent were selected for funding, with scientists and scholars of 25 different nationalities receiving funding.