Meet Invited Speaker Dr Katarina Novovic

31-10-20 Carianne Buurmeijer

We are pleased to introduce Dr Katarina Novovic, Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering Laboratory for Molecular Microbiology, one of the invited speakers at the FEMS Online Conference on Microbiology 2020.

Session 8: FEMS session and short presentations by grantees, Saturday 31 October 2020
Presentation: Unraveling regulon of novel two-component system in Pseudemonas putida WCS358 through transcriptomatics

Dr Katarina Novovic
Tell us about your current area of research: what is happening in the world around us that it is providing an answer to?

My current area of research comprises mechanisms of antibiotic resistance and virulence in Gram-negative bacteria. Besides the detection of antibiotic resistance mechanisms, one of my research fields is also transcription regulation of genes responsible for antibiotic resistance dissemination (e. g. integrase). Since the occurrence and dissemination of multidrug resistant or even pandrug resistant pathogenic bacteria represent one of the major challenges which the modern world faces, any knowledge about mechanisms that ensure success to pathogens and their regulation is of great importance. The revealing of these mechanisms or their regulators could direct the developing of effective therapeutics in the future.
Additionally, one of the main research areas of our laboratory (Laboratory for Molecular Microbiology, Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering, University of Belgrade, Serbia) is identification of novel different antimicrobial agents active against multidrug resistant bacteria (e.g. bacteriophages, antivirulence factors). Since the effectiveness of antibiotics is rapidly decreasing, discovery of novel therapeutics is one of urgent needs and aims of contemporary medicine.

What attracted you to this area?

Ever since my first day in laboratory,my research field has resolved around behavior of multidrug resistant Gram-negative pathogens. In the beginning, that research area was established in our laboratory by my supervisor, so it was logically for me as his student to continue to work with the “dangerous bugs”. Throughout my years in laboratory, the situation with occurrence and dissemination of multidrug or even pandrug resistant pathogens has become more serious, so our investigations based on mechanisms of antibiotic resistance and virulence of pathogens derived from Serbian hospitals became exceptionally important globally. In collaboration with numerous clinical microbiologists, for the first time in our country, we performed several studies which informed public about presence, clonal distribution and mechanisms of pathogenicity of different Gram-negative pathogens. Also, the discovery of novel antimicrobials active against these pathogens is one of the main aims of pharmaceutical companies worldwide. In our laboratory setting, diverse approaches forthe discovery and development of these agents, along with the collection that counts thousands of clinical bacterial isolates suitable for testing, represent ideal combination for detection of an effective antimicrobial agent that could find its way to pharmaceutical market.

If time, money and space were no issue, what research would you like to do?

Firstly, I am a devotee of the fundamental science, but in our country, research in fundamental science is considered a luxury. Since one of my scientific fields is regulation of antibiotic resistance dissemination, I would like to explore this process in detail. For example, to test for different growth conditions which this strain encounters in nature and also examine if this type of regulation is present in other species. Also, I would like to investigate evolution of pathogens in laboratory conditions, or even more interesting, in a clinical environment.

Tell us something about Belgrade, as we will have our next Conference on Microbiology there in 2022, we would be eager to hear from you what makes the city interesting.

Belgrade is an interesting city thanks to plenty of reasons. Firstly, Serbian capital has an exceptionally rich history. Every traveler should visit Belgrade Fortress and Gardos Tower. Since Belgrade lies on two rivers, Danube and Sava, a walk along the quay is also recommended. Serbian food is delicious, so you should taste sarma, ajvar, cevapi as well as drink rakija. Also, my advice would be to visit a tavern or a kafana, a traditional Serbian place to go out, where the parties are unforgettable. The last, but not the least, visitors will feel cordiality and hospitality of people who live in this city.

How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect you in your research and professional development?

COVID-19 pandemic has affected and still affects all aspects of work including science. Quite logically, most of the research performed in the previous period relates to the understanding of this virus, the disease it causes as well as developing potential therapeutics. Due to pandemic situation, most of scientific institutes in Serbia have worked limited hours or were closed for some period. So, this period was ideal for organizing previously obtained results and writing papers as well as project proposals. Unfortunately, I had to postpone my post-doc visit to Seville, Spain, where I was supposed to learn some new methods which I will introduce into my laboratory work. I hope that the vaccine will be put on the market soon and that our lives will continue where they left off before the pandemic.

The FEMS Online Conference on Microbiology is planned to be small to medium sized, happening in alternate years to the Congress of European Microbiologists and organized in close collaboration with a local microbiology society. Here, intercontinental, European, regional, and local scientists, from all stages in their career and from all demographical backgrounds, can participate in a high-profile conference. This year, it is based on an intense collaboration with the Serbian Society for Microbiology and boasts a variety of regional speakers.
Our commitment at FEMS is to help support microbiologists do their work, promote the best in microbiology research and knowledge to the world, and bring microbiologists together to share that knowledge. This event supports that commitment: giving high value for money at a low registration fee it opens possibilities for networking and exchanging knowledge and experiences to all.
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