3. Apr. 2023

JAROSLAV KOCA BRIDGE FUND is a traditional internal stipend fund addressed to CEITEC PhD candidates which aims to promote interdisciplinary projects connecting life sciences and material sciences at CEITEC. For the sixth consecutive year, CEITEC would like to award students engaged in an interesting multidisciplinary project connecting the two major disciplines in which the institute is excelling. The selected students will have the opportunity to spend time in two laboratories and combine the newest findings from both areas - life and material sciences. The Bridge Fund is named after deceased professor Jaroslav Koca, who was a visionary chemist and structural biologist and one of the founding members of the CEITEC consortium. Under his leadership, CEITEC successfully realised its vision to become an international multidisciplinary research centre.

The call opened on 1st April 2023. Interested PhD candidates can submit their proposal until 31st May 2023. This year, in addition to the short written proposals, the applicants will present their proposals in a short four minutes pitch in front of a multidisciplinary scientific committee. Students whose projects will be accepted will receive an additional monthly stipend of 10 000 CZK and 50 000 CZK lump sum for consumables per year. The stipend is assigned for a fixed duration of one year (September 2023 – August 2024). The awarded student has a possibility to apply in the next call for an additional extension, with an explanation of why her/his project should be funded for one more year. The deadline for applications is 31 May 2023.

Four projects were awarded during the last year´s call. Peter Pajtinka from Robert Vacha lab collaborated with Michal Urbanek from the CEITEC NANO core facility on the development of a structured substrate for the study of protein curvature sensing by correlative force microscopy on supported lipid membranes. The main objective of this project was to develop a novel technique for the determination of the protein's ability to sense the local curvature of lipid membranes and open a pathway for evaluation and understanding of intracellular protein localisation based on interaction with curved membranes. The essence of the project was the combination of state-of-the-art nanopatterning of solid substrates acting as templates for membranes and correlative microscopy (atomic force microscopy combined with fluorescence microscopy) to determine the preferred localisation of proteins depending on the membrane curvature.

Eva Cerna from Lucy Vojtova’s lab collaborated with Pavel Plevka’s lab on Gum Karaya-based hydrogel for phage therapy of chronic wounds. The bacterial resistance deeply impacts wound management of chronic wounds, as it affects over 1 – 2% of people worldwide, increasing patient morbidity and mortality. Phage therapy is a promising alternative to treating multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections as a replacement for conventional antibiotics because phages are a natural enemy of bacteria. This project aimed to develop gum Karaya-based hydrogel for chronic wound treatment loaded with polyvalent bacteriophage JK2(=812K1/420) with an antibacterial effect against Staphylococcus aureus. The project team strived to develop a multifunctional hydrogel capable of loading phages while remaining active during storage with sufficient healing properties for chronic wound healing.

Jyoti Jyoti from Martin Pumera lab collaborated with Pavel Plevka lab on the development of phage-based microrobots for the removal of biofilms.  Biofilms are complex clusters of bacteria containing one or more species. They are bound by extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and attached to surfaces such as living tissue, medical devices, food, industrial equipment etc. According to the National Institutes of Health, biofilms are responsible for more than 60% of microbial infections in humans and 80% of chronic infections. Microrobots attract everyone’s attention because they are able to harvest and convert energy from their surrounding media into autonomous motion. Their active motion enables them to accomplish desired tasks in a shorter time and in previously inaccessible environments, promising great possibilities from biomedicine to environmental remediation to sensing. As a result of the self-propulsion capability of micro/nanorobots, the project team tried to overcome the limitation posed by the passive diffusion of ions and catalysts and accelerate the eradication of biofilms.

Arezoo Saadati led by supervisor Lukas Richtera collaborated with Jan Zouhar on the development of an electrochemical microsensor for in-vivo determination of L-proline in Arabidopsis leaves as a model plant. Drought is a slowly elaborating natural phenomenon that affects several environmental processes and has serious aftereffects. Therefore, timely prediction of its onset and its end is of great importance. L-proline can be considered as a promising market for detecting drought in the early stages. The team decided to use electrochemical sensors to detect L-proline levels in Arabidopsis leaves. Electrochemical sensors have attracted the attention of the research team due to their sensitivity, cost-effectiveness and short response time.

“By combining the knowledge and expertise of life sciences and material sciences we can gain a better understanding of complex biological systems. The main advantage of the Bridge Fund is that it is ours and thus not subject to the usual constraints of funding agencies. Thus, I encourage PhD candidates to apply with bold ideas!” concludes the director of the CEITEC consortium Pavel Tomancak.

Apply HERE!

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