When Pavel Plevka, a leading researcher at the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC), received an ERC Starting Grant to study human picornaviruses in 2013, he became the first-ever scientist from Brno to win the prestigious form of support. Now, nine years later, he has repeated this success in the ERC Consolidator programme, joining an elite group of scientists who have received the ERC grant more than once. The significance of this achievement is all the more remarkable because he was the only researcher from the Czech Republic to succeed out of 2,652 candidates from 42 countries across Europe, among whom 313 grants were distributed. The number of ERC grants received by projects hosted by Masaryk University thus increased to ten.
“Masaryk University is currently among the top five per cent of universities in the world. The news of receiving another ERC grant is further proof that we have excellent scientists conducting cutting-edge research,” said Martin Bareš, Rector of MU.
Pavel Plevka’s recent success is also a testament to the effectiveness of the support scheme under which the university helps researchers obtain grants. Through continuous improvement since its introduction (also through Plevka’s first ERC project), it has become one of the very best in the Czech Republic. “Emphasis on research forms one of the pillars of Masaryk University’s fundamental mission and success like this confirms that investing in science pays off. Pavel Plevka is one of our top scientists and prestigious grants are a benchmark for the quality of not only the research institutions themselves but also the quality of research within regions and countries in general,” said Šárka Pospíšilová, Masaryk University’s Vice-Rector for Research and Doctoral Studies.
BioPhage – Pavel Plevka’s current project – will focus on the study of phage infection in bacterial biofilms made of golden staphylococcus cells. The aim is to describe how bacteriophages infect and multiply in bacteria and to explain the previously uncharacterised interactions between phages and the bacteria forming the biofilm. “The ERC grant provides five years of generous funding without minimum publication requirements. We can thus afford to pursue complex projects that may not ultimately succeed. The risk of failure is balanced out by the prospect of finding out something interesting about phage growth in biofilms. Our research could contribute to tackling the growing threat of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria,” said Plevka about the prospects and potential payoffs of the project.
European Research Council data show that seventy to eighty per cent of all projects funded by ERC grants have made a “breakthrough” or resulted in a “major scientific advance” in the respective field. It is not without interest that since the introduction of ERC grants in 2007, their recipients have won a total of seven Nobel Prizes. Will someone from Brno also succeed?