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University of Basel

17 May 2018

Marek Basler awarded EMBO Gold Medal 2018

Prof. Dr. Marek Basler
Prof. Dr. Marek Basler. (Image: University of Basel, Biozentrum)

Marek Basler, Professor at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, is one of the two recipients of the 2018 EMBO Gold Medal. The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) has recognized the researcher for his outstanding scientific achievements in the field of infection biology.

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.

Two new EMBO members from Basel

Prof. Alex Schier, Director of the Biozentrum, University of Basel, and currently still research group leader at Harvard University in Cambridge, has been elected to be a member of the EMBO. Schier is known as one of the leading scientists investigating vertebrate development and behavior. His lab has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the molecular basis of vertebrate embryogenesis.

Prof. Marc Bühler, honorary professor for molecular biology at the University of Basel and research group leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, was also elected as a new EMBO member. Marc Bühler is an expert in the function and evolutionary conservation of mechanisms that govern genome organization and gene expression in eukaryotes

With this lifelong membership, EMBO recognizes outstanding research achievements and the commitment to scientific excellence. This year, a total of 62 new EMBO Members from 24 countries were elected. Amongst the new members are five Swiss scientists.

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