Prof. Marek Basler at the Biozentrum, University Basel, has been awarded the 2018 EMBO Gold Medal jointly with Dr. Melina Schuh from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany. The infection biologist has been honored in recognition of his pioneering work on a bacterial nanomachine, the so-called Type VI secretion system (T6SS).
“The committee was impressed by his outstanding contributions in the field, in particular, the high-resolution structural analysis of T6SS components and their assembly, and the demonstration of interbacterial signal transduction via T6SS machines,” states EMBO director Maria Leptin. The EMBO Gold Medal is awarded annually to young scientists for their outstanding contributions to the life sciences in Europe.
Marek Basler and his research
Together with his team, Marek Basler explores the structure and function of the T6SS – a bacterial infection apparatus that works like a spear gun. Bacteria use this versatile tool to inject a cocktail of proteins and toxins into a diversity of target cells. The T6SS has been found in soil, marine and gut bacteria as well as in bacterial pathogens such as the cholera pathogen Vibrio cholerae. During evolution, bacteria have developed this nano-sized spear gun to fight their competitors, but it also plays an important role in symbiosis and virulence. With his work, Basler has provided deep insights into T6SS structure and mode of action.
“Receiving this award is an incredible honor for me and my lab. This was only possible because of the hard work that my students and postdocs put into our research, so this award is for them as well,” he says, delighted. “The increasing difficulty to treat bacterial infections shows that we need more basic research to understand how all the incredibly diverse bacteria function and interact with their environment. Therefore, this award is a great motivation for future studies as there is still a lot to be discovered.”
Marek Basler studied biochemistry and microbiology at the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague and received his PhD in 2007. Before joining the Biozentrum in 2013, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA. The Czech scientist will receive the EMBO Gold Medal and an award of 10,000 euros. The award ceremony will take place at the ASCB | EMBO 2018 conference in San Diego, USA, on 10 December.
EMBO interview: Probing bacterial injection needles at nanoscale
Contact: Communications, Katrin Bühler