DECRA Success

ARC DECRA fellowships for Centre to Impact AMR early career researchers

Three early career researchers from the Centre to Impact AMR were awarded prestigious DECRA Fellowships to pursue their microbiological projects. Dr Meiling Han, Dr Rachael Lappan and Dr Chris Stubenrauch have received in excess of $400 000 each to undertake their research for the next three years, contributing to Australia (and the world’s) knowledge of bacteria and microbial biology. The Australian Government funded a total of 200 promising early career researchers for their projects commencing in 2023.

At the announcement of the $85 million in funding results Australian Research Council (ARC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms Judi Zielke PSM, said “The DECRA scheme allows researchers in the early stages of their career to develop and apply their research skills, on projects that benefit Australians. The projects also give these researchers the opportunity to collaborate and build connections that will help them progress through a career in research.”

Dr Meiling Han

Dr Han

Bacterial membrane remodelling and the interaction with peptides

One major group of bacteria, the Gram-negative bacteria, have posed a serious threat to human and animal health worldwide. The properties of their unique outer surface make them extremely resistant to many antibiotics. However, there is a lack of understanding on how bacteria modify their cell surface to resist antibiotics. Hence, Dr Han's project aims to study the precise composition of the outer surface of Gram-negative bacteria and understand how the surface adjusts to and protects against noxious chemicals in the environment. Findings from her research will uncover new targets for medicines and antibiotics to fight these bacteria and this will be pursued through productive academic-industry collaborations.

Dr Rachael Lappan

Dr Lappan

Microbial life in the atmosphere

Microbes are present almost everywhere on Earth: on land, in water and in the atmosphere. Even though the atmosphere is vital for life on Earth, its microbial life is the least understood. Dr Lappan's project seeks to generate new knowledge about microbial communities in the atmosphere, including how they adapt to survive in this extreme environment, how they regulate the atmosphere, and how they shape new ecosystems on land. This improved understanding will increase our capacity to predict how land environments will adapt to rapid changes in climate and how new environments are colonised by microbes. Understanding atmospheric microbial ecosystems therefore has wider implications for environmental and public health.

Dr Chris Stubenrauch

Dr Stubenrauch

A novel bacterial secretion system for applications in nanobiotechnology

Some bacteria cause disease in animals and plants, yet others are beneficial. This is because bacteria can pump out different chemicals: some toxic and some protective. Recently, a new type of pump was found in both harmful and beneficial bacteria. Dr Stubenrauch's project aims to increase our understanding of this new pump, including how it works and what chemicals it releases. Doing so will allow the design of strategies to turn these pumps off in harmful bacteria and speed them up in beneficial bacteria. New knowledge of these bacterial pumps would allow engineers and industry partners to harness their properties, paving the way for many applications.