13. Dec. 2022

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic awarded outstanding personalities from academia and research. Minister Vladimir Balas awarded 18 laureates in five categories and stated that he rewarded exceptional and motivated personalities of the Czech academic and scientific research sector.  Among the awardees was also Dominik Hrebík, recent alumni of CEITEC Masaryk University, who received the award from the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports for outstanding students and graduates and their spectacular achievements in the year 2022.

Dominik Hrebik was awarded for his scientific discoveries during his PhD studies. Dominik Hrebik is a structural biologist of Slovak origin who currently works as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of John Briggs at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich, Germany. He completed his PhD studies under the supervision of Pavel Plevka. In his dissertation thesis, he presented completely new discoveries in the field of molecular virology.

"I would like to thank Pavel Plevka for his excellent guidance during my doctoral studies and also my parents for their support and patience," said Dominik Hrebik after the ceremony.

The talented structural virologist Dominik Hrebik has succeeded in elucidating completely new mechanisms of entry of prokaryotic and eukaryotic viruses into the host cell using cryo-electron microscopy. Already during his PhD studies, Dominik published his first pro-author publication in the impacted peer-reviewed journal Science Advances (IF = 14.14). In this publication, he was the first scientist who managed to describe the almost complete structure of a bacteriophage in different parts of its life cycle. It was the 3D atomic structure of a phage called P68 during his invasion into the golden staphylococcus cells. Golden staphylococcus is a dangerous and highly resistant bacterium with the ability to develop resistance to various drugs, including antibiotics, and it is the phage therapy that could provide a new treatment alternative.

The perfectly assembled structure of this bacteriophage caught the attention of the editor of the popular magazine National Geographic, who contacted Dominik Hrebik and Pavel Plevka and asked them to provide their images of bacteriophage P68 for a special issue of National Geographic about viruses, which was published worldwide in February 2021.

Another key achievement of Dominik Hrebik during his doctoral studies includes the description of genome release processes in human viruses of the family Picornaviridae. This discovery was published in two international science journals: PNAS (IF = 12.78) and Nature Communications (IF = 17.69). The first publication describes the mechanism of activation of rhinovirus 14 after entry into human cells by a molecular switch hidden within the virus. In the second publication, Dominik described a novel mechanism of enterovirus genome release. Together, these two publications describe the details of the penetration process of Picornaviridae viruses into the human cell at an unprecedented atomic level detail. Detailed knowledge of the structure of viruses is very important for the entire mankind as this knowledge can serve as a basis for the development of effective antivirals.

Dominik Hrebik's passion for science, enormous creativity, and perseverance, which are reflected in the scientific publications described above, make him an exceptional scientific talent. In addition to his scientific activities, Dominik is actively involved in the field of science communication and popularisation. He has given several interviews for Czech Television and Czech Radio, has his blog in Slovak DennikN and won first place in the Masaryk University science popularisation competition Science Slam. Dominik's success is clear proof that Brno can be a great stepping stone for a world-class scientific career.

And what is the secret of Dominik's success? "I have a personal motto: Per Ardua ad Astra - Through obstacles to the stars. Because in science, there are always many obstacles, but through hard work, determination and perseverance, one reaches the goal and the discovery. And it is also important to be spontaneous and do something that one really enjoys," concludes Dominik Hrebik.