An Israeli researcher has won a prestigious award for the most outstanding Ph.D. thesis in the field of genome research on human-pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria and fungi). Dr. Michal Feldman is one of three winners to receive the Ph.D. Award 2009 from ERA-NET PathoGenoMics, a project funded by the European Commission aimed at advancing transnational research in the field of pathogenomics. Feldman studied Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaire's disease. She found a novel gene family, named fir genes, which is important in enabling this pathogen to permeate its host cells, as well as another protein important for entrance of the bacteria into the cell, named IcmQ. Feldman studied IcmQ and found specific functional domains within the protein that both compromise the host's protective cellular membrane and activate a destructive response within the host cell. Feldman, and the other winners, Dr. Eric Alix from France and Dr. Matej Butala from Slovenia, will receive their award, of ?2000, at a ceremony in Göteborg, Sweden. Pathogen infections are among the leading causes of disease and mortality. As more pathogenic strains develop resistance to existing drugs, the race for finding novel anti-bacterial and anti-fungal drugs becomes ever more urgent.
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