10M€ ERC Synergy Grant “PATHOCOM” awarded

PATHOCOM aims to discover how pathogens team up to cause disease

Together with Fabrice Roux from CNRS in Toulouse and Joy Bergelson from the University of Chicago, we have been awarded one of the prestigious and highly competitive Synergy Grants of the European Research Council (ERC). The PATHOCOM project, funded with 10 million Euros over six years, aims to discover how pathogens team up to cause disease.

Everybody knows that pathogens are the cause of many serious diseases in plants, animals and humans, but what is less widely known is that pathogens rarely act on their own. As one example, the majority of deaths during the 1918/1919 flu pandemic were not caused by the influenza virus, but rather by complications from bacterial pneumonia. How pathogens interact to displace other, harmless microbes and in consequence injure or even kill their hosts is thus a question with broad relevance in many systems.

The goal of  PATHOCOM  is to discover how frequent different types of interactions between microbes, especially cooperation and competition, are in complex microbial communities, and how ecology and genetics alter these interactions. In other words, what are the key drivers of pathogens success, and how do pathogens interact with each other and the environment within their host? Similar to what happens in a massive marathon race with different teams and individual competitors, PATHOCOM aims to learn who among the pathogens competes with whom, and who among them is teaming up with whom to win.

The full grant application can be found here.