4. Jan. 2023
The year 2022 kicked off with an international meeting of Early Stage Researchers organised by a community of scientific institutions called Alliance4Life, which CEITEC founded and coordinates. Nearly 800 young scientists from eleven European countries came together to learn, network, and explore exciting career opportunities and research funding options.
In January 2022, The South Moravian Region awarded research group leader and head of the Mendel Centre for Plant Genomics and Proteomics Jiri Fajkus for his contribution to science. Jiri Fajkus is an internationally renowned expert in the field of telomere biology and a member of the prestigious European Molecular Biology Association EMBO. Jiri Fajkus described the genes encoding the RNA subunits of plant telomerase and thus contributed to a fundamental change in the view of telomerase evolution in plants.
In February, our scientists succeeded in developing a new method for better cancer diagnosis based on nanoparticles. Zdenek Farka and his colleagues have developed a new diagnostic methodology using photon-converting nanoparticles to prepare special markers for more accurate and faster detection of cancer biomarkers. This methodology enables the early detection of several types of cancer and allows doctors to diagnose even mild deterioration in the early stages of the disease.
In early March 2022, Czech Television launched a new children's series about G.J. Mendel. This thrilling eight-part story full of adventure and discovery brought children closer to the life and work of G. J. Mendel. The series was screened on the children's channel of Czech Television Decko. It was partially filmed at CEITEC Masaryk University, and several of our scientists were involved as expert consultants in the development of the script for the series.
The best news of March came from the European Research Council (ERC). Research group leader Pavel Plevka was awarded the prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant. He was the only one from the Czech Republic to succeed in this year's call. In his research project BioPhage, Pavel Plevka will focus on the study of phage infection with bacterial biofilms formed by golden staphylococcus cells. The aim of the project is to describe how phages infect and multiply in bacteria, and to explain the previously uncharacterized interactions of phages with bacteria. In the future, phages may help mankind in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Another pleasant news came from Dubai. The joint exhibition of the biotechnology company Photon Systems Instruments (PSI) and CEITEC scored at the Dubai EXPO. The organisers of the world´s fair rated the We Speak Plantish exhibit as the eleventh most interesting of the thousands of exhibits presented by 192 countries. The exhibited technology can determine the plants' immediate needs, various types of stress or potential diseases based on their reactions to light, but also the quality of their genetic makeup when data is collected and analysed over a long period of time. Nowadays, the citizens of Brno can see this exhibit at the VIDA Science Centre.
Thanks to Thomas Evangelidis and the research he started during his time at CEITEC MU, Masaryk University has another spin-off company. The results of his research will not remain only on the university's soil but will find its application in practice. The spin-off company AI|ffinity, which Thomas Evengelidis founded, has obtained a licence for software that uses artificial intelligence to determine the structure of biomolecules down to the atomic level.
CEITEC´s administration also has something to be proud of. In spring 2022, we introduced a new Leadership Policy to our employees, which serves as a tool to inspire, develop and empower leaders and their teams. The new leadership policy, which CEITEC MU is now rolling out, provides several practical tools to help leaders of research groups, core facilities and administrative departments develop their leadership and management skills. High-quality leaders are then better able to lead, motivate and develop their team members.
The research team led by Professor Radek Marek from CEITEC MU described the secrets of chemical bonding in their publication in the journal Chemistry Europe. The work by Ben J. R. Cuyacot, Jan Novotny, Radek Marek and others describes relativistic spin-orbit electronegativity and chemical bonding between heavy and light atoms. The results of their research have implications for a wide range of fields, from NMR spectroscopy to materials science.
In May, Nikola Kostlanova, Robert Vacha and Zdenek Farka were awarded by MU Rector Martin Bares for their outstanding achievements in science, research and teaching. Scientific secretary Nikola Kostlanova received the Rector's Award for Innovation in Teaching, biophysicist and research group leader Robert Vácha received the Rector's Award for Outstanding Achievement in an International Grant Competition, and biochemist Zdenek Farka received the Rector's Award for Outstanding Research Achievement for Young Scientists under 35.
The CEITEC PhD Conference in June was a showcase of the research results of our talented PhD students. The PhD conference is an excellent tool for monitoring students' progress. It gives each student the opportunity to see what other students are working on and it is also a great opportunity to practice presenting research results in a rather informal setting. It is no coincidence that graduates of our PhD School receive job offers from prestigious organizations such as Yale Medical School, Harvard, and the Max Planck Institute.
Helene Boisivon and her team have revealed how climate change affects seed development in plants. Droughts and heat waves are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change. Helene Robert Boisivon described how high temperatures affect seed production, from the time of flowering to the time when seeds mature. Her research has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Plant Science.
At the beginning of the summer, the director of CEITEC MU Jiri Nantl invited all employees and PhD students to a special summer meeting with the aim of further improving the working environment and communicating plans and visions for the future.
Sarka Pospisilova was elected as a member of the prestigious European Association of Molecular Biology. Geneticist and molecular haematologist Professor Sarka Pospisilova, leads the medical genomics research group at CEITEC MU and also serves as Vice-Rector for Research and Doctoral Studies at Masaryk University. EMBO members collectively influence the direction of life science research in Europe and beyond and promote excellence in this socially important scientific discipline.
Albert Cairo, Karel Riha and their colleagues at CEITEC MU have discovered a previously unknown mechanism responsible for the reprogramming of gene expression during cell differentiation. This process takes place at the end of meiosis and is closely linked to seed production and could open up new possibilities for developing crops better adapted to environmental changes. The results of this research were published in August in one of the world's leading scientific journals – Science.
Tibor Fuzik, Jana Moravcova and Sergej Kalynych from Pavel Plevka's research group have determined the molecular structure of enterovirus 70, the causative agent of acute haemorrhagic conjunctivitis (AHC). AHC is a highly contagious viral eye infection with no available treatment options. The research team described the structure of enterovirus 70 in its native form during genome release, as well as the structure of the empty capsid after genome release. In addition, the team determined the structures of the virus in complexes with two compounds that were able to block viral infection. Their results will enable the development of therapeutics against enterovirus 70 and could lead to treatments against AHC.
In August, we held a practical EMBO light-sheet microscopy course. For two weeks, CEITEC MU hosted more than 70 scientists from laboratories around the world who gathered in Brno to attend the renowned course of the European Association of Molecular Biology (EMBO). The primary objective of the light-sheet microscopy course was to enable 16 students, selected from a large number of applicants, to learn and implement the latest light-sheet microscopy technologies in their home laboratories. The EMBO brand stands for excellence in science, and the main aim of this professional association is to support talented researchers at all stages of their careers, to stimulate the exchange of scientific information and to help build a research environment in which scientists can achieve the best possible results. This course was developed through a collaboration between the prestigious EMBO Association and CEITEC MU and was very well received by the participants.
For the fourth time, young investigators of ribonucleic acid (RNA) gathered in Brno for a week full of science, learning and networking. The RNA Summer School was designed for master's and PhD students in biological sciences who are interested in modern experimental research approaches and practical applications and the latest findings and methods applicable in RNA biology. RNA is of interest to many scientists and was also of major importance during the COVID-19 pandemic when advances in RNA biology helped to reveal the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
A team led by Dalibor Blazek discovered a new mechanism for regulating RNA splicing, which was published in September in one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals - Nature. RNA splicing is a crucial process for controlling gene expression. Scientists have shown that a protein called CDK11 plays a central role in the assembly and activation of the spliceosome and in the regulation of splicing. In addition, Blazek's research team showed that the anti-cancer molecule OTS964, which has the ability to target CDK11 exclusively, influences the splicing process. The effect of CDK11 on spliceosome activation was previously unknown. The results of the research by Dalibor Blazek and his colleagues open new avenues in the study of RNA splicing and gene expression. Controlling splicing through CDK11 inhibition may also lead to therapeutic applications in the future.
Vaclav Seda received the Purkyne Foundation Award for the best publication. The award-winning publication, which was published in the most prestigious haematology peer-reviewed journal Blood, described a fundamental insight into the biology of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). Vaclav Seda, under the expert guidance of Marek Mraz, discovered how cancer cells regulate their migration in the patient's body and, above all, how they survive treatment with drugs from the group of so-called BCR inhibitors. This research team was the first in the world to show that this adaptation mechanism can be blocked with new GAB1 inhibitors.
At the end of September, we opened the doors of our research centre to the public as part of a Europe-wide event called RESEARCHER´S NIGHT. Science fans and visitors from the general public engaged in lectures, experiments, workshops and games in our impressive research facilities. We are glad that we had the opportunity to bring the magic of science closer to our neighbours and citizens of Brno.
Gabriel Demo from CEITEC MU won the prestigious NEURON award for promising scientists for his research on transcription and translation. His main research interests are bacterial infections, translation control and RNA biology.
In October, we had the honour of carrying out a special project for the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA). The project, called the Masaryk University Science Journalism Initiative, was designed to pave the way for a new type of ERC grant focused on science communication. British science journalist Edwin Colyer spent the whole month of October at CEITEC and Masaryk University and looked around our laboratories and tracked down the most interesting stories about our research.
In October, we also hosted a live broadcast of the Czech Television programme Fokus Vaclava Moravce. The popular TV show, this time with the theme Science as Salvation, was filmed live in our impressive Atrium. The show´s moderator Vaclav Moravec invited two of our scientists as guests on his famous red stage. Pavel Plevka and Karel Riha spoke about health, climate and food emergency. They brought the importance of basic research and the opportunities that modern science offers to society.
The biggest event in October was undoubtedly the scientific evaluation by the International Scientific Advisory Board ISAB. The evaluators wrote in their report that most of our research groups are of excellent quality. According to the evaluators, CEITEC MU has developed into one of the most important research centres in Europe during the eleven years of its existence. The evaluators praised the involvement of our scientists in education at Masaryk University and for their work in leading positions in clinical departments of the University Hospital Brno.
The evaluators also stated in their report that thanks to its remarkable achievements, CEITEC MU is without a doubt the leading life science centre in Central Europe and one of the most advanced research institutes in Europe. The ISAB also praised the excellent leadership of director Jiri Nantl, deputy director for research Karel Říha and deputy director for research infrastructures Pavel Plevka. ISAB also commended the appointment of Pavel Tomancak as director of the CEITEC Consortium. According to the advisory board, Pavel Tomancak's vision and passion have re-energized CEITEC, and there is no doubt that CEITEC will continue to flourish and gain international recognition under his leadership.
Richard Stefl and his colleagues have discovered a unique mechanism of action of the mammalian enzyme Dicer. Dicer is an enzyme whose ability to process RNA is essential for regulating gene activity in cells. The research team described how Dicer could be reactivated to serve as an antiviral enzyme. Their results were published in the Molecular Cell journal.
In December, Dominik Hrebik received the Award of the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports. CEITEC PhD School graduate Dominik Hrebik received from Minister Vladimir Balas the prize for outstanding students and graduates for the year 2022.
Marek Mraz received honorary recognition from the Minister of Health for Health Vlastimil Valek. Marek Mráz was awarded for his research project studying the role of microRNAs and their target molecules in the transformation of follicular lymphoma and their role in the aggressiveness of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
And because this year was really something to celebrate, we closed the end of the year with a great Christmas party for all those who contributed to the success of CEITEC MU. The party started with the award ceremony of the CEITEC MU AWARD 2022 for the best scientific achievements of the past year with an international impact. After the ceremony, our institutional band Death Science Seminar took care of the entertainment. The band was founded by our bioinformatician and drummer Vojtech Bystry and core facility manager and singer Katerina Hoskova. The CEITEC Atrium turned for one night into a dance floor, and our scientists proved to everyone that they could rock it not only in life sciences!
Big thank you to all our employees and PhD students for their effort, creativity and willingness to continuously develop their talents!