pixel Mariana Pinho from ITQB NOVA receives third consecutive ERC grant to study antibiotic resistance | Universidade NOVA de Lisboa

Mariana Pinho from ITQB NOVA receives third consecutive ERC grant to study antibiotic resistance

The funding for the three grants totals seven million euros which demonstrates the relevance of the topic under study.

ITQB NOVA Researcher Mariana Gomes de Pinho has won an ERC Advanced Grant. The 3M€ funding will be invested in one of the most significant health problems of our time: antibiotic resistance. This is the third time the researcher has been selected by the European Research Council, ensuring continuous funding since 2013, in a total of 7M€ distributed by three grants, highlighting the importance of this critical global challenge.

Multidrug-resistant bacteria are expected to claim over 300 million lives over the next 35 years. One of the leading causes of this mortality is Staphylococcus aureus, a pathogenic bacterium highly resistant to antibiotics studied by Mariana Pinho's group at ITQB NOVA. For a bacterial cell to grow and divide, a complex series of events, such as DNA replication or construction of the cell wall, must occur in a coordinated and orderly manner. Pinho´s research aims to uncover unknown links between these key events in the cell cycle, enabling the identification of vulnerable points where antibiotics can be more effective.

"Despite our knowledge about the individual events in the cell cycle, we know very little about how they are coordinated. This coordination is essential for the survival of bacterial cells and, therefore, their ability to cause infections. Our aim with this project is to find the missing links between major cell cycle events, while also developing tools and assays useful for antibiotic discovery”, says Mariana Pinho.

This work complements the work developed in the two previous grants: in 2012 (Starting) and 2017 (Consolidator), and will make it possible “to go further”, namely by “allowing us to buy state-of-the-art equipment to study the division machinery of bacteria with exceptional spatial and temporal resolution", the researcher adds.

With a degree in Applied Chemistry from FCT NOVA, Mariana Pinho started her research career at ITQB NOVA. After about a decade abroad, she returned to Portugal and in 2006 started her own research group: the Laboratory of Bacterial Cell Biology, at ITQB NOVA. The researcher is also a proud mother of three daughters.