Keynote Speakers

Each of the five thematic complexes of the MiCom2020 will be headlined by two keynote speakers.

Pathogenesis

Dr. Alan Walker

Group leader at the University of Aberdeen. He and his group study the role of intestinal bacteria in the breakdown of dietary fibre. Typical Western diets, rich in refined carbohydrates, fats and proteins and low in fibre, are fundamentally different to those consumed in more agrarian societies, where people tend to consume more fibre-rich diets. Walker’s Lab combines DNA sequence analysis and microbiological approaches to understand how consuming disparate diets results in the development of different intestinal microbiota compositions, and how this impacts host health.

A further research interest of Dr. Walker is identifying bacteria within the intestinal microbiota. He is studying the microbial contributors to the development of chronic ailments, like for example bacterial consumers of lactate, which have been linked to chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, and producers of trimethylamine (TMA), associated to cardiovascular disease.

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Dr. Norio Takeshita

Associate professor in the Faculty of Life and Environmental Science at the University of Tsukuba (Japan). He and his group study fungal pathogenicity, especially of filamentous fungi. They focus on the molecular mechanisms of mycelial elongation, by monitoring polarized tip growth of the fungus using state-of-the-art fluorescent microscopy and high-resolution imaging. Understanding the fungal growth is not only important for deciphering fungal pathogenicity but also for the usefulness of filamentous fungi in food production.

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Prof. Dr. Luigina Romani

Group leader at the University of Perugia (Italy), Medical School, focuses her research on the immunology of murine and human fungal infections. She and her group study the genetic level of the fungus and the innate mechanisms of antifungal immunity. To understand the dependency on the microbiota is the goal. They use an OMICs approach to study the fungal infections and use the knowledge they gain in their basic research to develop microbiota-targeted therapeutics.

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Natural Products

Prof. Martin Grininger

Group leader at the Buchmann Institute of Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS) at the University of Frankfurt. He dedicates his research towards understanding the functional mechanisms of proteins to finally reprogram their reaction modes. Fatty acid synthases and polyketide synthases are the main targets that the Buchmann group is using for directed product synthesis. Fatty acid synthases (FAS) are a target of inhibition due to their involvement in key metabolic pathways and are promising targets for antibiotic and anti-neoplastic treatment. Furthermore, his group studies the use of type I FAS and type I polyketide synthases (PKS) as multistep catalysts for directed product synthesis. The synthetic strategy of these proteins provides high potential for biocatalytic approaches.

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Prof. PhD Sean F. Brady

Professor at the Rockefeller University in New York. His main interest centres on the discovery, biosynthesis and characterization of genetically encoded small molecules from microbial sources. The Brady group thereby focusses on biosynthetic gene clusters of uncultured bacteria, extracting previously inaccessible DNA directly from environmental samples with subsequent cloning into easily cultured bacteria. This method allowed for the construction of large libraries of environmental DNA. His group further investigates bacteria associated with the human microbiome. Phenotypic screenings are used to examine small molecules produced by commensal and pathogenic bacteria. By studying them, the Brady group hopes to gain new insights into how bacteria interaction with their environment and find new approaches for better control of commensal and pathogenic bacteria.

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Chemical Ecology

Prof. Dr. Matthias Erb

Executive director of the Institute of Plant Sciences and the leader of the Biotic Interactions group at the University of Bern. The Erb group explores the interactions between plants and pest insects on a molecular, chemical and ecological level. They focus on biologically active plant substances that improve the pest resistance of wild and productive plants and thus contribute to sustainable agriculture. Using a combination of different techniques and plant models, they focus on the strategies that plants use to survive biotic stresses in nature. More specifically they are interested in the role of secondary metabolites produced by the plant in different interactions.

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Prof. Dr. Taicia Pacheco Fill

Assistant professor in the Department of Organic Chemistry at the University of Campinas in Brazil. Her research is focused on Penicillium digitatum infection mechanisms, specifically on citrus fruits. As the infection takes place postharvest, understanding this mechanism is important both ecologically and economically. Investigating the host-pathogen interactions has been possible only since the complete genome of the P. digitatium was sequenced. This provided the Fill group the possibility to use state-of-the-art methods to investigate the fungal virulence factors, as well as the metabolic and genetic components contributing to its pathogenicity. Understanding the infection process and host-fungal interactions represents a crucial step for developing ways to protect citrus fruits from P. digitatum infections, ideally leading to more productive citriculture.

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Systems Biology

Asst. Prof. Dr. Karoline Faust

Leader of the Microbial Systems Biology group at the University of Leuven. During her post-doctoral work she developed the Network Analysis Tools (NeAT), as a set of tools for performing basic operations on prediction and analysis of species interaction networks from metagenomic data. At the University of Leuven she and her group dedicate their research to the study of the structure and dynamics of microbial communities, using both in silico and in vitro methods, working across the boundaries of microbial ecology, systems biology and bioinformatics. They develop bioinformatic tools to address topics including microbial community time series data and the prediction of complex association networks.

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Prof. Dr. Nathalie Reuter

Group leader in the department of chemistry at the University of Bergen. Together with her group, she develops computational models for the examination and comparison of the intrinsic dynamics of proteins. Furthermore, the group investigates the role of serine proteases in chromic inflammations and analyzes the key features of ligand recognition and the relationships between structure and activity. These insights are then subsequently used for the development of inhibitors with therapeutic or diagnostic potential.

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Environment

Dr. Klaus Bernhard Schlaeppi

Head of the Root Microbiome Group from the University of Bern. Among other questions, he and his group are interested in understanding how the root microbiota promotes plant growth and confers protection from diseases. His group uses molecular biology, plant genetics, bioinformatics and microbiology tools to conduct field and lab experiments on Arabidopsis thaliana and Zea mays, their main model plants.

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Dr. Anna Rosa Sprocati

Senior researcher in the ENEA in Rome (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development). Her research focuses on the biotechnological approach to sustainably restore art using microbes. For this aim, her group established an eco-friendly and non-toxic method of restoring several artworks and materials (frescoes, paintings, statues). Beside this, she is working on is the controlled use of microbes in food production, specifically while growing crops.

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