Earlier this month, we were delighted to announce Dr. Francesca Bottacini as the winner of the FEMS-ESCMID Award. This Award is a joint initiative with the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) to recognize outstanding young microbiology researchers who have recently received a research grant from either organization. We caught up with Francesca to find out more about how the Award has impacted her and her future plans.
Congratulations on winning the FEMS-ESCMID Award! Could you tell us more about your research interests?
“Thank you! I am absolutely delighted and honored to have received this important Award. I am a postdoctoral researcher in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the APC Microbiome Institute (University College Cork). My research activities are focused on fundamental and applied aspects of in silico comparative sequence analyses which, in combination with functional genomics, ultimately aims to investigate the beneficial role(s) of bifidobacteria in the gut. The FEMS Research Grant will allow me to extend the view of this genus towards a broader context of other members of the gut microbiota. The research will try to establish in silico correlations between the co-existence of bifidobacteria and other microbial groups in the gut using a comparative (meta)genomics approach, with particular focus on their metabolic capabilities. This extensive bioinformatics research is being carried out as part of a collaboration between myself and Prof. Douwe van Sinderen in APC Microbiome Institute (University College Cork) with Prof. Marco Ventura in the Laboratory of Probiogenomics (University of Parma).
Receiving the FEMS Research Grant will have a significant positive impact on my research standing and my development as a scientist. It represents an exciting opportunity for me to establish a collaborative network with expansion and mutual exchange of expertise within research groups. In this regard I really encourage my colleagues to apply for this grant.”
How do you see the FEMS-ESCMID Award helping your scientific journey in the future?
“Receiving the prestigious FEMS-ESCMID Award represents a very important monetary support and a highly appreciated acknowledgement of the impact of my research. As a young scientist, this Award will help in the future extension of my research, especially in seeking additional funding, while also providing a major boost to my career development.”
Where do you see your research having an impact?
“Understanding the interactions between (gut) microbiota and its (human) host will have far-reaching implications for our health and well-being. We are only beginning to appreciate the complexities and activities of the microbiota, and much more research is needed to fully harness the power and benefits of the gut microbiome. In this context bifidobacteria are known to contribute in various ways to the health of its host, both in a short-term as well as a long-term manner, by for example maintaining a correct balance in the gut, by competitive exclusion of particular pathogens, by modulation of certain immune functions or by preventing the occurrence of metabolic disease. Our extensive, yet still rapidly expanding knowledge of metabolism, physiology and genomics of this genus combined with the development of an accurate predictive platform will provide support and direction to those methodologies aimed at correcting microbiota imbalances in the gut.”