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Mariana Gomes de Pinho is new ERC Awardee

Research project focus on internal organization of Staph bacteria

Oeiras, 11.09.12

Mariana Gomes de Pinho, researcher at ITQB since 2006, is one of the most recent recipients of the European Research Council Starting Grants. The list of 536 awardees in 2012 was released yesterday by the ERC and includes five researchers working in Portugal.  With an award of 1.6 M€ for the next five years, Mariana Pinhos's research project will focus on the internal organization of the pathogenic bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, mainly known for its resistance to antibiotics.

In the now funded ERC project Mariana Gomes de Pinho will investigate how the different synthetic machineries involved in the construction of the bacterial surface find their proper localization, so that a correct surface is assembled, enabling bacteria to resist antibiotics and establish successful infections. For that purpose, the Gram positive bacteria Staphylococcus aureus will be used as a model organism. This is a very important clinical pathogen, resistant to many different classes of antibiotics, which currently kills more than AIDS and tuberculosis combined, in the USA.

The European Research Council (ERC), established in 2007, is the first pan-European funding body supporting the best frontier research in Europe. The ERC aims to stimulate scientific excellence in Europe by supporting the very best scientists from anywhere in the world, in any field of research. There are neither thematic priorities, nor geographical quotas. To date, the ERC has funded over 2,500 projects throughout Europe, representing almost € 4.2 billion in grants. In this Starting Grant competition, 4741 applications were received and the total budget amounts to nearly €800 million [see statistics].

About the awardee


Mariana Gomes de Pinho studied Applied Chemistry at the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa. She started her research career studying mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, in the Laboratory of Prof Hermínia de Lencastre, at the Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Oeiras.

She continued these studies with Prof. Hermínia de Lencastre during her PhD, for which she moved, in 1997, to the Laboratory of Prof Alexander Tomasz at The Rockefeller University, in New York. In 2001 she became interested in understanding where and how bacterial proteins localize and joined the Laboratory of Prof Jeff Errington in the University of Oxford, UK, to work on this subject.

After 8 years abroad she decided to return to Portugal and in 2006 started her own research group, the Bacterial Cell Biology Laboratory, at the Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biologia. She is currently the mother of three girls, aged 11, 8 and 3 years old, and is happy to combine her roles as scientist and mother.


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