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Many congratulations to APC’s Dr Andrey Shkoporov, one of three leading academics at University College Cork to have received prestigious European funding. The much sought-after European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grants are part of the EU’s current research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. A total of 327 grants worth €655m were awarded to projects based across 23 countries. UCC accounted for three of the eight grants awarded in Ireland this year.

Andrey was awarded €1,999,988 to study how bacteriophages (viruses that are harmless to humans and infect bacteria) facilitate communication and exchange of genetic information between bacteria. The research will help us better understand the significance of this gene transfer for sustaining a healthy gut microbiome on the one hand and the role it plays in spreading antimicrobial genes on the other.  His research will inform new interventions that he hopes will maintain, shape or restore microbiomes following infection, chronic disease or antibiotic treatment.

Andrey is the first Irish-based researcher in 7 years to also secure a prestigious Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship to study crAssphage, the most abundant bacteriophage in the human microbiome, and it is exceptional for him to receive both awards.

Andrey said “Bacterial viruses, or bacteriophages, are the most diverse and abundant biological entities on our planet. With trillions of them living in our gut microbiome, it is important to understand what ecological roles they play and how they might be affecting our health. The worldwide antibiotic resistance crisis and hopes for future bacteriophage-based therapies brought these viruses into the spotlight.  Bacteriophage are clearly much more than simple “killers of bacteria”.  This ERC grant opens a unique opportunity to investigate a potentially very important aspect of the human microbiome that has long ignored.

From Moscow originally, Andrey has been living with his family in Cork for the past 5 years where he has worked with Prof Colin Hill in the gut phageomics group at APC Microbiome Ireland. He holds doctoral degrees in medicine and microbiology from the Russian State Medical University in Moscow, where he also spent several years as a postdoctoral scientist working on bacteria of the human gut.

His recent work in the APC has been focussed on the role of bacteriophages, attacking anaerobic bacteria, in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and their potential to serve as biomarkers of gut inflammation. This 5-year long project project has been supported jointly by Science Foundation Ireland and Janssen Biotech (part of Johnson&Johnson).

All of us in the gut phageomics lab at APC are so thrilled for Andrey” said Prof Colin Hill.  “That he is an outstanding scientist is not up for debate, but we know him as one of the good guys – always willing to help others and contribute his extraordinary wetlab and bioinformatic skills. He has a great future in science, both as a researcher and mentor, and we look forward to celebrating many more achievements by Andrey in the coming years.”

It is exceptional for him to receive both awards” commented Prof Paul Ross ,Director, APC Microbiome Ireland. “We are absolutely delighted  for Andrey and look forward to collaborating with him as he takes this very important step in his highly promising career and transitions to independent research leadership. This is a testament to his hard work, capacity and talent.

For more information on the 2020 ERC Consolidator Grant outcomes click here