Quadram Institute scientist Dr Falk Hildebrand has won a €1.5 million grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to research the role elusive microbes may play in the gut microbiome and human health.
The funding comes from the ERC’s prestigious Starting Grants, designed to help early-career scientists and scholars build their own teams and lead pioneering research. The grants are part of the EU’s Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.
Unicellular eukaryotes and prokaryotes are ubiquitously found in the gut microbiome, but for some of them their function and genetic makeup are completely unknown, as is the interaction they have on human health. Worse yet, we do not understand if these microbes just randomly colonise the gut for short periods of time or are essential parts of us that permanently reside within our guts.
The ERC grant will allow Dr Hildebrand’s group to study these questions by setting up a new cohort of volunteers based in Norfolk, jointly with the ongoing PEARL study. Using snapshots of their gut microbiome, novel sequencing approaches will be developed jointly at the Quadram and Earlham Institute to increase the resolution and quantity of microbes that can be resolved. Together, the new technologies and specifically designed cohort will enable a detailed and unprecedented view of the healthy microbiome.
Dr Hildebrand said: “I am delighted to be awarded this prestigious ERC Starting Grant. This will enable us to research a so far overlooked part of our microbiome and to understand how microbes adapt and persist within the human gut. I am especially excited about developing novel technologies with my fantastic colleagues at the Quadram and Earlham Institutes, that can be applied later in many more scenarios beyond the human gut microbiome. If all goes to plan, we will have an extremely detailed view of gut microbes here in Norfolk in five years’ time.”
Dr Hildebrand will be recruiting a PhD student and a post-doctoral position for the EPYC study from January 2021.