The 2019 Symposium of the Belgian Society for Microbiology, “Microbes without Frontiers”, organized jointly with the National Committee for Microbiology occured on Friday October 18th 2019 at the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium (RASAB), in Brussels.
Our Sponsors for 2019 :
Preliminary pogramme :
Plenary session speakers :
Section A : Sonja-Verena Albers (Freiburg, D).
Section B : Jan Roelof van der Meer (Lausanne, CH).
Section C : Caroline Goujon (Montpellier, Fr).
Section D : Dirk Bumann (Basel, CH).
New : Four parallel sessions of short talks in the afternoon
Agar Art competition
Winner: Laurens Maertens
Prizes for the best talk and the best poster
Section A : Kilian Dekoninck – University of Louvain
Section B : Jovana Kaljevic – University of Louvain
Section C : Alice Raymackers – Liège University
Section D : Agnès Roba – Namur University
Sonja-Verena Albers will be welcomed as the plenary speaker for section A (General Microbiology). Sonja-Verena Albers is one of the key scientists investigating archaeal microorganisms, prokaryotes that are phylogenetically distinct from bacteria. Already during her “diploma” and PhD studies (at the University of Würzburg (DE) and University of Groningen (NL), respectively), she was fascinated by archaea, with a focus on the model organism Sulfolobus spp. Sonja-Verena Albers delivered important contributions to the basic understanding of physiological processes in these organisms such as the assembly and composition of the cell envelope and surface appendages. A major accomplishment is the unravelling of the structure and function of the archaeal motility structure, named “archaellum”. Besides basis science, Sonja-Verena Albers contributed to the field by developing an advanced genetic toolbox for the genetic manipulation of these organisms, which is widely adopted by other scientists. After establishing an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg (DE) in 2008, she moved to the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg (DE) in 2014, where she obtained a full professorship. Recently, she is extending her research focus towards other archaeal model organisms (haloarchaea).
Jan Roelof van der Meer (University of Lausanne, Switzerland) is the plenary speaker of section B (Applied and Environmental Microbiology). Jan Roelof van der Meer studied Environmental Sciences at the Agricultural University in Wageningen, The Netherlands. He performed his PhD research with Alexander Zehnder and Willem de Vos as advisors, still at the Wageningen Agricultural University. After a postdoc at the Dutch Dairy Institute, he became Junior Group Leader in Environmental Microbiology at the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Sciences (Eawag). In 2003, he moved to the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland. Since 2011, Prof. van der Meer is Head of the Department of Fundamental Microbiology at the University of Lausanne. His research interests are genetic adaptation mechanisms in bacterial communities under pollution stress, as well as applications of bacteria for environmental benefits, for example, as biosensors or for community engineering.
Caroline Goujon (Montpellier, Fr.) is the plenary speaker of section C. Her main research interest has always been understanding the cell’s natural defense mechanisms against viral infections. She studied at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) of Lyon (France), and performed her PhD in Prof. Jean-Luc Darlix’s laboratory (INSERM / ENS-Lyon), in Dr Andrea Cimarelli’s team. She worked on understanding the restriction of HIV-1 infection in myeloid cells and discovered that an auxiliary protein from HIV-2 (called Vpx) was able to relieve this restriction. This work paved the way to the identification of SAMHD1 as a potent restriction factor of HIV-1. After gaining her PhD in 2007, she joined Prof. Michael Malim’s group at King’s College London (United Kingdom) in 2008 and was initially awarded a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship to study whole-genome expression changes in primary T cells following HIV-1 infection. In parallel to this work, she started to develop an interest in the relationships between the interferon system and HIV-1. Indeed, it had been known for decades that type 1 interferon treatment induced a potent block to HIV-1 infection but the effectors of this block were unknown. She characterized this interferon-induced block in depth and undertook a comparative transcriptome analysis in order to generate a list of interferon-stimulated gene candidates potentially responsible for the inhibition of HIV-1 infection. This approach led, in 2013, to the identification of the GTPase MX2 (also called MxB) as one of the effectors in the HIV-1 interferon block (Goujon et al, Nature 2013). Interestingly, MX2 is homologous to MX1 (or MxA), a very well-known restriction factor able to inhibit a broad range of viruses, including influenza A virus. In 2014, she was awarded the Andy Kaplan prize, which honors the accomplishments of a distinguished postdoctoral scientist in the retrovirology field. In 2015, she moved back to France and started her own lab at the CNRS/Montpellier university co-funded IRIM institute (Institut de Recherche en Infectiologie de Montpellier), thanks to the support of an INSERM researcher permanent position and a CNRS/INSERM ATIP-Avenir grant. Using two major pathogenic viruses as models, HIV-1 and influenza A virus, Caroline was awarded an ERC Starting Grant in 2017 to study the innate cellular defense mechanisms against viral infections. In collaboration with her former lab, she recently identified the short isoform of NCOA7 as a new interferon-induced barrier to endocytosis-mediated viral entry into host cells (Doyle et al, Nature Microbiology 2018).
Dirk Bumann (Biozentrum, Universität Basel, CH), the plenary speaker for section D is, by training a chemist and a biologist. He did his PhD thesis at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (Martinsried, Germany). He was a post-doctoral fellow at the same institute and later at the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Hole (USA). Back to Europe, he became team leader at the Max-Planck Institute for Infection Biology (Berlin) and later independent junior group leader at the Hannover Medical School. In 2007, he was appointed as Associate Professor for Infection Biology at the Biozentrum (University of Basel) and was promoted to Full Professor in 2015. His career is marked by deep thinking, great curiosity and innovative approaches such as the use of fluorescence-activated cell sorting to identify bacterial genes expressed in the host, which unraveled the heterogeneity of host-pathogen interactions in vivo. Unlike many infection biologists, Dirk Bumann investigated several different pathogens including Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella enterica, Shigella flexneri and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and was among the pioneers in drawing attention to the bacterial metabolism during infection. He received several rewards including the prestigious EMBO Young Investigator award (2006) and the Pettenkofer Prize of the City of Munich (2015). He is an EMBO Member since 2015.
Willy Verstraete (April 25, 1946) is the Belgian honorary lecturer nominated for 2019. He graduated in 1968 from the Gent University as bio-engineer and in 1971, he obtained a PhD degree in the field of microbiology at the Cornell University, Ithaca (USA). Since 1979, he worked at the Gent University as professor and head of the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology. In 2011, he became emeritus professor. His R&D has as central theme: Microbial Resource Management; i.e. the design, operation and control of processes mediated by mixed microbial cultures. Willy Verstraete has field experience with respect to drinking water production plants, aerobic wastewater treatment, anaerobic digestion of wastewaters and sludges, solid state fermentation of organic residues and bioremediation processes of soils and sediments. He has also gained experience in various aspects of pre- and probiotics used in human and animal nutrition and in systems which simulate the latter. In 2005, he received the prestigious Excellence in Science Prize , awarded by the Science Foundation FWO , Belgium. Since 2014 , he ranks in the list of Highly Cited Researchers , due to the fact that several of his papers belong to the top 1% most cited papers of his field . In april 2016 , Willy Verstraete was elected President of the Science Foundation FWO, Belgium. In september 2016 , he received from the International Water Association (IWA ) and the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME ), the Ardern and Lockett Award for his contributions in the fields of water engineering and microbial ecology. In october 2016 , Nature Microbiology published a new archaeal phylum Verstraetearchaeota, recognizing the contributions of his team at the Ghent University to the development of engineered microbial ecosystems. In 2018 , the Dutch Water Institute KWR proclaimed him as Honorary Fellow for his invigorating resource recovery science and application work. In 2018 he also received the Great Award of the Flemish Government for his contributions to science and science governance.