APC project investigating mysteries of microbiome gets €910,000 funding

30 Nov 2020

Image: © Martina/Stock.adobe.com

Dr Andrey Shkoporov of APC Microbiome Ireland at UCC has received €910,000 to better understand recently discovered bacteriophages.

A Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship has been awarded to Dr Andrey Shkoporov of APC Microbiome Ireland, the SFI research centre based at University College Cork (UCC). The award will see the researcher receive €910,000 over a five-year period to better understand a recently discovered group of bacterial viruses in our microbiome called crAssphage.

Shkoporov was the first to grow crAssphage in the lab in 2018. He is now looking to better understand their unusual behaviour which allows them to continuously co-exist with their bacterial targets at high levels.

Around 100trn symbiotic microbes make up the human microbiome, with 95pc of them in the gut. While many diseases have been linked to the composition of the gut microbiome, current microbiome science lacks complete understanding of the role of the viruses that infect bacterial cells – called bacteriophages.

APC Microbiome Ireland researchers have been investigating the virome, sometimes referred to as the ‘dark matter’ of the microbiome, and seeking answers as to what role bacteriophages may play in microbiome structure. Likewise, they wish to see whether or not bacteriophages have a direct impact on human physiology, and if we can use them as biomarkers of microbiome stability and diversity.

Impact on therapeutics

“My research focuses on understanding crAssphage lifestyle, which could have significant impacts for the development of therapeutics, improving human health and advancing our understanding of our own body composition,” Shkoporov said.

“I predict that future advances will depend on our ability to understand how functionality of individual bacterial cells, and the whole microbiome, is affected by bacteriophages.”

Commenting on his funding, UCC vice-president for research and innovation, Prof Anita Maguire, added: “Sincere congratulations to Dr Andrey Shkoporov on the award of a Career Development Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust, highlighting the excellence of his research undertaken within APC.

“This award provides Andrey with an outstanding opportunity to build and expand his research career, providing an excellent platform for future initiatives.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic