Yi Han Tan receives the 2024 Human Frontier Science Program Fellowship

Dr. Yi Han Tan, a Postdoctoral researcher at Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen, received the prestigious award for investigating the role of pattern recognition receptor variants in immune response and disease.

April 16, 2024

Understanding the Host-microbe Arms Race Through the TLR5-flagellin Axis

Our bodies constantly encounter bacteria, especially in our gut and lungs. To fight harmful bacteria, we have immune system soldiers called Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRR) that recognise flagellins produced on bacteria as enemies. Flagellins are tail-like proteins that facilitate tissue invasion and are a common feature of harmful bacteria. One PRR is TLR5, which detects flagellins and triggers inflammation to fight them.

This research focuses on two variants of TLR5, F616L and N592S, associated with inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and colorectal cancer. Tan and her team are interested in whether these variations change how TLR5 interacts with different classes of bacterial flagellins and how it triggers inflammation. They will look at situations where TLR5 is present in normal and variant forms.

By understanding how these variations work, Tan hopes to learn more about why some people get certain diseases caused by an imbalanced immune response and how to develop treatments that could potentially target TLR5.

“Immunological adaptations such as diversity in PRRs have important implications for the interaction between the host and microbes, and ultimately human health.” explains Dr. Yi Han Tan.

For more information on Tan’s project: https://www.hfsp.org/node/75195#book/67

HFSP awardees 2024: https://www.hfsp.org/hfsp-news/fellowships-awardees-2024

With the Human Frontier Science Program fellowship, Dr. Yi Han Tan joins fellow Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen and Nobel Prize winner Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, who received her HFSP award in 1993 and won her Nobel Prize in 1995.

About Yi Han Tan

Born in Singapore, Yi Han is a Postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiome Science at the Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen. There, she focuses on Immune interactions with silent flagellin. Her research interests include host-pathogen infections, infectious diseases, and microbiome-health interactions.

She received her Ph.D. in 2023 from the National University of Singapore in the pathogenesis of hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacterial pathogen endemic to Singapore and other parts of Asia in the group of Associate Professor Gan Yunn-Hwen (Infectious Diseases Translational Research Program and Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore).

To add to her illustrious career, Yi Han was supported by a four-year National University of Singapore Research Scholarship during her Ph.D.

About the Human Frontier Science Program Fellowship (HFSP)

The HFSP fellowship program supports proposals for frontier, potentially transformative research in the life sciences. Applications for high-risk projects are particularly encouraged. The projects should be interdisciplinary in nature and should challenge existing paradigms by using novel approaches and techniques. Scientifically, they should address an important problem or a barrier to progress in the field.
HFSP Fellowships last for three years and, on average, provide about $200,000 USD, depending on the host country. Fellows work in the laboratory of a host scientist in a country other than where their Ph.D. was conferred.

The Human Frontier Science Program was founded in 1989 by the G7 nations and the European Commission to advance international research and training at the frontier of the life sciences. It aims to promote intercontinental collaboration and training in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research on the life sciences. HFSP receives financial support from the governments or research councils of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK, the USA, as well as from the European Commission. Since 1990, more than 8,500 researchers from more than 70 countries have been supported; 29 awardees have won Nobel Prizes.

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