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ERC Starting Grant for Lisa Maier

22.11.2022 CMFI News

CMFI member Lisa Maier has been awarded a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for her project "gutMAP". The project about the influence of the gut microbiome on the effect of psychotropic drugs will be funded with a total of about 1.5 million euros over a period of five years. With the Starting Grants, the ERC supports outstanding research projects by excellent young scientists.

Mental illnesses are now among the most common diseases worldwide. Psychotropic drugs are often used in therapy, but relatively often patients also suffer from the side effects caused by these drugs. People react very differently to the drugs they take. Thus, it is possible that the drugs have only a delayed effect or no effect at all. Optimizing current psychopharmacotherapy remains a major challenge.

"Our recent observations suggest that the gut microbiome may play a role in interindividual differences in drug therapeutic success. Some drugs alter the composition of the human gut microbiome. These changes may be part of the drug's mode of action but also indications of how side effects develop," says Lisa Maier.

In the project "Gut microbiome-mediated activities of psychotropic drugs", short gutMAP, Lisa Maier and her team want to investigate the extent to which the gut microbiome influences the therapeutic success of psychotropic drugs. To this end, the interactions between gut microbiota and commonly used psychotropic drugs will be systematically characterized—from microbial drug metabolism to drug-induced bacterial secretion of neuroactive substances. Overall, the results could lead to a microbiome-guided therapeutic strategy.

This new research direction could not only improve psychotropic drug therapy but pave new ways in personalized drug therapy.

ERC President Maria Leptin says: “It is a pleasure to see this new group of bright minds at the start of their careers, set to take their research to new heights. I cannot emphasise enough that Europe as a whole - both at national and at EU level - has to continue to back and empower its promising talent. We must encourage young researchers who are led by sheer curiosity to go after their most ambitious scientific ideas. Investing in them and their frontier research is investing in our future.”

About Lisa Maier

Lisa Maier completed her studies in biochemistry at the University of Tübingen (2004-2009) and her PhD in the laboratory of Wolf-Dietrich Hardt at ETH Zurich (2014). As part of the interdisciplinary postdoctoral program at EMBL in Heidelberg, she worked in the groups of Nassos Typas and Kiran Patil (2015-2018). In 2019, she returned to Tübingen as CMFI and Emmy Noether junior research group leader. Her lab uses automated high-throughput and multi-readout approaches to systematically study the lifestyle of bacteria in the human microbiome. The resulting datasets are then used as a starting point for mechanistic studies to uncover the molecular details of how the microbiome interacts with its host.

In April 2022 she has been appointed to the professorship ‘Microbiome-Host Interactions’ at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tübingen.

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Selected Publications:

Suzuki TA, Fitzstevens JL, Schmidt VT, Enav H, Huus KE, Mbong Ngwese M, Grießhammer A, Pfleiderer A, Adegbite BR, Zinsou JF, Esen M, Velavan TP, Adegnika AA, Song LH, Spector TD, Muehlbauer AL, Marchi N, Kang H, Maier L, Blekhman R, Ségurel L, Ko G, Youngblut ND, Kremsner P, Ley RE. Codiversification of gut microbiota with humans. Science 377(6612): 1328–1332. (2022) doi: 10.1126/science.abm7759.

Maier L, Goemans CV, Wirbel J, Kuhn M, Eberl C, Pruteanu M, Müller P, Garcia-Santamarina S, Cacace E, Zhang B, Gekeler C, Banerjee T, Anderson EE, Milanese A, Löber U, Forslund SK, Patil KR, Zimmermann M, Stecher B, Zeller G, Bork P & Typas A. Unravelling the collateral damage of antibiotics on gut bacteria. Nature, published on 13 October 2021. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03986-2.

Zimmermann M, Patil KR, Typas A, Maier L. Towards a mechanistic understanding of reciprocal drug-microbiome interactions. Mol Syst Biol. 17:e10116. (2021) doi: 10.15252/msb.202010116.

About the ERC Starting Grant

The European Research Council (ERC) is an institution established by the European Commission to fund basic research. It has existed since 2007 under several EU Framework Programs for Research and Innovation.

The target group of ERC Starting Grants (StG) are excellent young scientists at the beginning of an independent career.

The evaluation is based on criteria that vary according to the research field and the stage of the career. Applicants should be able to demonstrate outstanding independent publications. Other criteria include publications as first author in leading international journals, monographs, patents, presentations at international conferences, or national and international science awards.

Starting Grants can award up to 1.5 million euros for a period of up to five years. Up to an additional €1 million can be applied for to cover eligible "start-up" costs for researchers moving to the EU or an associated country from a third country. The money is used, for example, to purchase larger equipment, access to large-scale facilities, or to cover higher costs for experiments and field research. The ERC grant can be used to apply for 100 percent of the total eligible direct costs of the project and an overhead contribution of a flat 25 percent of the total eligible direct costs. (Source: ERC).

Scientific Contact

Prof. Dr. Lisa Maier

University of Tübingen
Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine


Press Contact

Leon Kokkoliadis
Public Relations Management

Tel: +49 7071 29-74707

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