Ruth Ley receives Advanced Grant from the European Research Council

Max Planck Institute Director receives funding for Silent Flagellin in Chronic Inflammatory and Auto-immune Disease (SilentFlame)

April 11, 2024

Dr. Ruth Ley, Managing Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen and Director of the Department of Microbiome Science, has been awarded the Advanced Grant by the European Research Council.

Silent Flagellin in chronic inflammatory and auto-immune disease (SilentFlame)

This funding will enable Ley and her team to investigate how flagellins produced by beneficial gut bacteria interact with the human immune system. Flagellin is the protein building block of the flagellum, a whip-like appendage that allows bacteria to move through their environment. ‘Silent’ flagellin is a new class of flagellin, discovered by Ley’s team, that interacts with the immune system without triggering an inflammatory response. Silent flagellin is linked to chronic inflammatory diseases, including Crohn’s disease (CD) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME): the ERC funding will allow Ley and team to investigate the mechanisms underlying this disease association, with potential therapeutic outcomes.

By studying the interactions of these flagellins and bacterial colonization of the gut in the host's immune system, Ley hopes to shed light on their antibody response and their role in gut inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Understanding these connections could pave the way for developing new, targeted treatments for chronic inflammatory conditions.

“We are excited to apply advances in bacterial genetics to understand how the immune system responds to normal gut bacteria both in health and chronic inflammatory disease,” explains Ley.

About the ERC Advanced Grant
The ERC Advanced Grant funding is amongst the most prestigious and competitive EU funding schemes, providing researchers with the opportunity to pursue ambitious, curiosity-driven projects that could lead to major scientific breakthroughs. They are awarded to established, leading researchers with a proven track-record of significant research achievements over the past decade.

About the ERC
The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation. The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. Since November 2021, Maria Leptin is the President of the ERC. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, under the responsibility of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.

About Ruth Ley
Ruth Ley is currently the Managing Director of Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, where she is the Director of the Department of Microbiome Science. She is also acting as co-Speaker for the Cluster of Excellence “Controlling Microbiomes to Fight Infection” with the University of Tübingen, Germany.
Ley received a BA in Integrative Biology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1992, a PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2001. She conducted post-doctoral work at the University of Colorado Boulder and at Washington University School of Medicine, where she was named an Instructor in 2005 and a Research Assistant Professor in 2007. In 2008, Ley joined the Department of Microbiology at Cornell University as an Assistant Professor, and in 2013 became an Associate Professor with tenure in the Departments of Microbiology and Molecular Biology and Genetics. She was named Director of the MPI for Biology in Tübingen, Germany, in 2016.
Ley’s awards include a Fellowship in Science and Engineering from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the ISME Young Investigator Award, and the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine. She is a member of EMBO, of the European Academy of Microbiology, and of the American Academy of Microbiology. In 2020 she was elected to the Leopoldina German National Academy of Sciences. She is the recipient of the 2020 Otto Bayer award.

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