Leiden biology appreciated with large NWO grants

A Vici grant and NWO-GROOT: scientists from the Institute of Biology Leiden have been awarded prestigious grants from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). From investigating bacteria without cell walls to harnessing plants with the help of microorganisms.

Bacteria without armour

With a Vici grant of 1.5 million euros, microbiologist Dennis Claessen of the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) received a very respectable personal grant from NWO. His research focuses on bacteria that can under stressful conditions divide in a different way than usual. They produce new bacteria without a cell wall, although this protects them against various forms of stress. Claessen hopes to find an explanation for this seemingly illogical feature of some bacteria.

Helping crops

An NWO-GROOT grant of 3 million euros has been awarded to a consortium led by Professor of Microbial interactions and diversity Jos Raaijmakers (IBL / NIOO), Professor of Molecular biotechnology Gilles van Wezel (IBL) and Professor of Plant-microbe interactions Corné Pieterse (UU), together with Professor of Ultrastructural biology Ariane Briegel (IBL), Marnix Medema (WUR) and Saskia van Wees (UU). The universities of Leiden, Wageningen and Utrecht each receive 1 million for collaboration on research into micro-organisms that live inside plant tissues and can help plants in stressful situations such as drought, diseases and insects. Knowledge about how the micro-organisms interact with plants opens up opportunities to increase crop production, even in adverse conditions. Considering climate change and population growth, this is of great importance for the global food supply.

Biological pacemaker

Another NWO-GROOT grant has been awarded to a consortium in which Professor of Mathematical biology Roeland Merks takes part. In addition to his appointment at the IBL, Merks is also a professor at the Mathematical Institute at Leiden University. From his position at the MI, Merks takes part in a consortium – with Amsterdam UMC, University of Twente and the Hubrecht Institute – that will investigate biological pacemakers.

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