The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation granted SEK 94 million to three research projects at Umeå University

Umeå, Sweden, 10-Oct-2016 — /EuropaWire/ — The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has granted over SEK 94 million to three research projects in medicine and natural sciences at Umeå University. The projects are led by researchers Maria Fällman, Jan Karlsson and Markus Schmid. Also, several Umeå researchers are co-applicants to a large joint project at Umeå Plant Science Center. All research projects are considered to be of the highest international level, and potentially lead to future scientific breakthroughs.

“It’s incredibly honouring for Umeå University to again be granted such a substantial part of the Wallenberg Foundation’s large project grants. These grants will provide our researchers with good conditions for both important and prominent breakthroughs. It’s especially exciting that the research projects span across a wide range of fields within medicine and natural sciences – all from infection biology and plant physiology to aquatic ecology and biogeochemistry,” says Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University.

In the first of the granted Umeå projects, researchers will study why some bacteria can cause long-term infections. The objective is the development of whole new antibiotics in the long run. In the second project granted funding, researchers will dig deeper into how current and future environmental changes affect the ecosystems in northern lakes. The third project that was granted fund will investigate what controls the season for flowering, and how various plants’ growth and productivity can be affected by upcoming climate change. The fourth project – a large joint project involving several research teams at Umeå Plant Science Centre – deals with identifying key genes controlling tree growth, wood formation, and climate and environmental mitigating actions.

In total, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has granted over SEK 752 million to 22 Swedish research projects in medicine, technology, and natural sciences.

“The grants go to cutting-edge, independent research in Sweden. We want to give researchers the opportunity to try out new and bold ideas over an extended period,” says Peter Wallenberg Jr, chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

All applications to the Foundation have been peer-reviewed by the foremost international researchers in each field.

“Funding is awarded to the most excellent researchers in Sweden. Their projects should be innovative and of high international class. This year’s applications have been evaluated by over 300 reviewers in different disciplines,” explains Göran Sandberg executive director of the Foundation.

Researchers at Umeå University are main applicants in the following three projects:
Identifying targets for antibiotics in persistent bacteria

Maria Fällman.Professor.Molekylärbiologi.Foto: Mattias Pettersson.Fotad för Aktum.

Maria Fällman.Professor.Molekylärbiologi.Foto: Mattias Pettersson.Fotad för Aktum.

Main applicant: Maria Fällman, professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), Umeå University
Project: “New in vivo adapted approaches to reveal molecular mechanisms of bacterial persistence”
Grant: SEK 28,740,000 over five years
Co-applicants: Mikael Rhen, professor at Karolinska Institutet, and Mikael Sellin, senior lecturer at Uppsala University.

Resistant bacteria are becoming increasingly common and are at present a great global threat. In order to develop new antibiotics, we need to find suitable mechanisms and molecules in bacteria that can constitute targets for future pharmaceuticals.

In this project, led from Umeå, researchers will in detail study how the intestinal bacteria Salmonella enterica Typhimurium and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis can cause long-term persistent infections. The particular aptitude of the persistent bacteria to infect and survive an active and living immune system is supposed to be due to specific mechanisms and molecules. These structures can in turn constitute suitable targets for entirely new, efficient antibiotics against most types of bacteria. Since the majority of experiments will be carried out in vivo, on whole living organism that is, the project will also lead to innovative method developments in infection biology.

For more information, please contact:
Maria Fällman, professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), Umeå University
+46 90-785 67 25
maria.fallman@umu.se

Wants to understand and predict climate effects of ecosystems in northern lakes

Jan Karlsson. Photo: Mattias Pettersson.

Jan Karlsson. Photo: Mattias Pettersson.

Main applicant: Jan Karlsson, professor at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences and Climate Impacts Research Centre (CIRC), Umeå University
Project: “Climate change induced regime shifts in Northern lake ecosystems”
Grant: SEK 36,970,000 over five years
Co-applicants: Richard Bindler, Sebastian Diehl and Xiau-Ru Wang, all professors at Umeå University; Ann-Kristin Bergström, Åke Brännström and Pär Byström, all associate professors at Umeå University, and David Bastviken, professor at Linköping University.

Arctic and boreal lake ecosystems are sensitive to environmental change, and a warmer climate with higher water temperatures and increased inflow of nutrients and carbon from land is expected to have dire consequences on the fish population, small animals and algae in these lakes, as well as on the turnover of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane gases). The researchers in this project will focus on increasing the understanding of and better being able to predict the effects of a warmer climate on northern lake ecosystems. Since lakes on other latitudes work differently, it is usually not possible to use previous experiences and models of other systems.

Through experiments and along a variety of climate gradients, researchers will for instance study the production of fish and greenhouse gases in various types of lakes. Researchers will also develop ecosystem models to be used to predict future production of fish biomass and greenhouse gas in northern lakes.

For more information, please contact:
Jan Karlsson, professor at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences and director of Climate Impacts Research Centre (CIRC), Umeå University
+46 90-786 60 02, +46 70-980 28 65
jan.p.karlsson@umu.se

How flowering season is controlled can decide how different plants will cope with environmental change

Markus Schmid. Photo: Mattias Pettersson.

Markus Schmid. Photo: Mattias Pettersson.

Main applicant: Markus Schmid, professor at the Department of Plant Physiology and Umeå Plant Science Centre, Umeå University
Project: “Epigenetic and Metabolic Control of Flowering Time”
Grant: SEK 28,680,000 over five years
Co-applicants: Johannes Hanson, senior lecturer at Umeå University, and Karin Ljung and Ove Nilsson, both professors at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

At what point plants flower is crucial for their reproduction and survival. The timing also decides the quality and quantity of the harvest of biomass, fruit and seeds. The time of flowering is controlled by a number of genes, which in turn has been controlled by various signals, such as length of day, temperature and plant metabolism and hormonal status. The crucial decision of when to flower is, however, made in certain tissues and cells, in particular in the vascular tissue and growing shoots, which so far have been too small to analyse in detail.

With the help of new, advanced technology, researchers in this project will, for the first time investigate these complex, regulatory networks of single tissues, even down to the level of cell type. Experiments are conducted on various plants; such as Arabidopsis and hybrid aspen, which will enable the results to predict how most plants will react on future climate change.

For more information, please contact:
Markus Schmid,
professor at the Department of Plant Physiology and Umeå Plant Science Centre, Umeå University
+46 90-786 58 54
markus.schmid@umu.se

Researchers at Umeå University are co-applicants to the following projects:

Forest biology and forest biotechnology

Ove Nilsson. Photo: Johan Gunséus.

Ove Nilsson. Photo: Johan Gunséus.

Main applicant: Ove Nilsson, professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Umeå Plant Science Centre
Project: “Forest biology and biotechnology”
Grant: SEK 48,000,000 over five years
Co-applicants: Catherine Bellini, Torgeir Hvidsten, Pär K. Ingvarsson, Stefan Jansson, Markus Schmid, Nathaniel Street and Hannele Tuominen, all professorer at Umeå University and SLU professors Vaughan Hurry, Karin Ljung, Ewa Mellerowicz, Torgny Näsholm and Harry Wu.

For more information, please contact:
Ove Nilsson professor at the Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and director of Umeå Plant Science Centre.
+46 90-786 84 87, +46 70-286 90 82
ove.nilsson@slu.se

Read more about the project on the SLU web (In Swedish)

For more information, please contact:
Hans Adolfsson
Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University
Phone: +46 90-786 53 50
Email: hans.adolfsson@umu.se

SOURCE: Umeå University

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