Prestigious award for bioinformatician
After a tough selection procedure there was good news: Prof. Erich Bornberg-Bauer from the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity at Münster University has received a prestigious Program Grant from the international "Human Frontier Science Program" (HFSP). With this grant the HFSP supports outstanding scientists from various countries who jointly work on innovative research topics. The bioinformatician from Münster receives the grant together with two chemists, Dr. Florian Hollfelder from Cambridge University in England and Dr. Nobuhiko Tokuriki from the University of British Columbia in Canada. The trio will receive just over a million US dollars (around 800,000 euros) for three years.
The HFSP is financed jointly by numerous countries and is the only programme of its kind in the world for funding international cooperation in the life sciences. Its primary objective is to bring together first-rate scientists from different disciplines. A total of more than 700 international research teams had submitted applications for 2013. After a highly competitive selection procedure, 33 projects are now to be funded, including ten especially for junior scientists.
The team of researchers led by Erich Bornberg-Bauer aim to analyse how proteins, which are indispensable molecule components for every living organism, are able to take on new functions. In the course of evolution an enormous variety of proteins have developed over billions of years. They possess elaborate structures and take on highly specialised tasks in the organism. Researchers can further develop proteins for special purposes in laboratories too, but often they do not achieve the efficiency of their natural models. One cause of this is the fact that although natural proteins are excellently adapted to their specific task, it is precisely this that means they are no longer flexible enough to take on other tasks. The researchers want to develop a mathematical model that can describe the evolutionary processes of proteins and groups of proteins – so-called protein populations. As a result they hope not only to gain fundamental insights into the development of specialized proteins, but also to find better possibilities specifically to construct proteins in the laboratory.
Erich Bornberg-Bauer, an Austrian by birth, has occupied a Chair for Molecular Evolution and Bioinformatics at Münster University since 2003. After studying Biochemistry, Physics and Mathematics he received his doctoral degree in Theoretical Biochemistry at Vienna University in 1995, where he then became an Assistant Professor of Mathematics. After periods spent at the universities of Heidelberg and Manchester, in England, he took up his current position at Münster University.