Sara Vieira-Silva awarded the Antoine Faes Prize


20 September – Dr Sara Vieira-Silva has been awarded the Antoine Faes Prize for her postdoctoral research on the role of the human gut microbiome in health and disease. Sara joined the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) as an Adjunct Group Leader this year and is also a Group Leader at the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

The Antoine Faes Prize is awarded every three years by the Antoine Faes Foundation to support biomedical research in Belgium with a positive societal impact. The winners were selected by an international jury of leading experts. This year, the winning research theme was “Microbiology: good and bad micro-organisms”. The prize was jointly awarded to Prof. Sarah Lebeer (University of Antwerp, Belgium) and Prof. Jeroen Raes, Dr Gwen Falony and Dr Vieira-Silva (KU Leuven, Belgium).

Sara’s research focuses on microorganisms that live in the human gut. When these gut microbe populations are disrupted (e.g. by changes in diet), they can contribute to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or ageing by promoting inflammation or producing carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. The Antoine Faes prize recognises Dr Vieira-Silva’s work on the Flemish Gut Flora Project at the Catholic University in Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium, where she worked for the last 8 years as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Prof. Jeroen Raes. For this project, she studied gut microbe samples from more than 3,000 individuals to understand natural variation in the human microbiome and its metabolic contribution to human health.

The results of the study, which were published in two articles in the journal Science in 2016 and Nature Microbiology in 2019, revealed that humans have at least four distinct patterns of gut microbes and that one of these is associated with inflammatory diseases. More recently, Sara and her collaborators showed that lipid-lowering drugs called statins may restore disturbed gut microbiome profiles in obesity-associated low-grade inflammation, opening future opportunities for new therapeutic treatments (published in the journal Nature in 2021).

We warmly congratulate Sara on receiving the Antoine Faes Prize.

Further details

Sara Vieira-Silva is an Adjunct Group Leader at IMB and a Group Leader the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Further information about research in Vieira-Silva lab can be found at www.imb.de/vieira-silva.

About the Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH

The Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH (IMB) is a centre of excellence in the life sciences that was established in 2011 on the campus of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). Research at IMB focuses on the cutting-edge fields of epigenetics, genome stability, ageing and RNA biology. The institute is a prime example of successful collaboration between a private foundation and government: The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation has committed 154 million euros to be disbursed from 2009 until 2027 to cover the operating costs of research at IMB. The State of Rhineland-Palatinate has provided approximately 50 million euros for the construction of a state-of-the-art building and is giving a further 52 million in core funding from 2020 until 2027. For more information about IMB, please visit: www.imb.de.

About Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) is a globally recognized research-driven university with around 31,000 students from over 120 nations. Its core research areas are in particle and hadron physics, the materials sciences, and translational medicine. JGU's success in Germany's Excellence Strategy program has confirmed its academic excellence: In 2018, the research network PRISMA+ (Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter) was recognized as a Cluster of Excellence – building on its forerunner, PRISMA. Moreover, excellent placings in national and international rankings as well as numerous honors and awards demonstrate the research and teaching quality of Mainz-based researchers and academics. Further information at www.uni-mainz.de/eng

Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that is committed to the promotion of the medical, biological, chemical, and pharmaceutical sciences. It was established in 1977 by Hubertus Liebrecht (1931–1991), a member of the shareholder family of the Boehringer Ingelheim company. Through its Perspectives Programme Plus 3 and its Exploration Grants, the Foundation supports independent junior group leaders. It also endows the international Heinrich Wieland Prize, as well as awards for up-and-coming scientists in Germany. In addition, the Foundation funds institutional projects in Germany, such as the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB), the department of life sciences at the University of Mainz, and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. www.bistiftung.de

Press contact for further information

Dr Ralf Dahm, Director of Scientific Management

Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH (IMB), Ackermannweg 4, 55128 Mainz, Germany

Phone: +49 (0) 6131 39 21455, Email: press(at)imb.de