Régis Hallez awarded a prestigious WELBIO "Starting Grant" to boost the fight against pathogenic bacteria

Dr. Régis Hallez, F.R.S.-FNRS Research Associate since 2015 at the UNamur, is leading a research group focusing on Bacterial Cell cycle and Development. His team, consisting at the moment of four young researchers, is established within the Research Unit in Biology of Microorganisms (URBM) and is part of the Namur Research Pole in Infectiology (NaRePI).

His research project "Molecular characterization of the cellular processes targeted by the second messenger (p)ppGpp in bacteria", which has been submitted to the 2019 FRFS-WELBIO call, was selected for funding through a prestigious "Starting Grant". This new grant of € 200k per year (for the first two years of a 4-year program) will allow him to finance three extra researchers as off October 1st.

Deciphering the molecular mechanisms of bacterial virulence and survival, with the aim to develop new strategies to defeat pathogenic bacteria

Bacteria encounter fluctuating environments that must be efficiently sensed and countered in order to ensure survival. One of the systems used by virtually all bacteria to respond adequately to stress conditions relies on the production of the alarmone (p)ppGpp. Accumulation of these second messengers profoundly reshape the bacterial metabolism and physiology to slow down the growth during nutrient starvation. Régis Hallez previously shed light on the mechanisms that trigger (p)ppGpp synthesis in response to nutritional stress using the bacterial model Caulobacter crescentus (Ronneau et al., 2018). The aim of his new project will be to dissect, at the molecular level, the cellular processes targeted by the alarmone.

As a central regulator of bacterial stress response, the alarmone (p)ppGpp turns out to be crucial for virulence and long-term persistence and to play a key role in antibiotic resistance. Inhibition of (p) ppGpp production may therefore be a promising approach to render bacteria sensitive to stress and to disarm virulent pathogens. Hence, Régis Hallez’ research work is expected to help in designing new potential antimicrobial strategies.