Jan. 09, 2020

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The research group of BGU's Prof. Itzik Mizrahi in the Department of Life Sciences has won a prestigious and highly competitive DIP grant, sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), a German organization that funds research. He will collaborate with his German colleague, Prof. William F. Martin of Heinrich-Heine-University Dusseldorf.
Prof. Mizrahi is also a member of the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev​ (NIBN).

Israeli research universities are invited to submit two proposals each and grants are provided to just two of the 14 proposals submitted each year. The grants are designed to increase Israel-German research cooperation.

Last month, the European Research Council​ announced that Prof. Mizrahi was among the recipients of its Consolidator Grants. The Mizrahi Group also received an ERC Starting Grant a few years ago.

The project “Unraveling the evolutionary, ecological and structural basis of microbial fiber degradation in nature" aims to understand the evolutionary history of fiber degradation and its interconnectivity with microbial ecology at a nanoscale resolution.

The groups will better our understanding of how microbes degrade plant biomass and how and when they learned to do so in evolutionary history. Plant biomass is an elemental part of carbon cycling on the planet earth and, as the biggest biomass on our planet, constitutes a large portion of the waste that humanity produces.

Learning how to degrade and recycle this biomass in an efficient manner is extremely relevant to many sustainable environmental issues - ranging from global warming and alternative energies to waste treatment. Microbes are the most efficient organisms to perform plant biomass degradation, and yet we still do not fully understand how they operate. Therefore, learning from them, then mimicking and bettering this process, would bring about great advances in our efforts towards full sustainability.

Prof. Mizrahi is an expert in the environmental and microbial ecology of fiber-degrading systems and has assembled a team of leading specialists backed by internationally recognized excellence for this project. In proteomics (Prof. Dorte Becher, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University Greifswald, (EMAU)), structural biology/cryo-EM (Prof. Ohad Medalia, BGU), enzymology of fiber degradation (Prof. Edward Bayer, BGU), and microbial evolution (the German PI, Prof. Martin).