University of Vienna: “Microbiomes drive Planetary Health” project clears hurdle in FWF Excellence Program

The Excellence Initiative of the FWF is entering the next, final round. The ‘Microbiomes drive Planetary Health’ project coordinated by the University of Vienna has been invited to the final round of the FWF Centers of Excellence program. Scientists from the University of Vienna are involved in seven other consortia that are involved in the decision-making phase.

Eleven of the 35 applications for the FWF Centers of Excellence program are entering the next phase in the selection process and are invited to submit the final application, including the 30-strong team led by microbiologist Michael Wagner from the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science at the University of Vienna. Topic of the project “Microbiomes drive Planetary Health”, in which the Austrian Institute of Technology, the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, the Medical University of Graz, the Austrian Academy of Sciences with the Research Center for Molecular Medicine (CeMM), the Technical University Vienna and the University of Linz are involved, the microbiome is an indispensable basis of “Planetary Health” (global health).

“We are pleased with the applicants that they have made it to the next round and are still in the race for the excellence funds,” said Rector Heinz W. Engl in a first reaction.

Microbiomes as the health engine of our planet
‘Planetary Health’ describes the health of human civilization and the natural systems in which it is embedded. Microbiomes are a core element for global health. They form the basis of the biosphere, control the earth’s material cycles, and can both accelerate and weaken global change. As symbionts, microorganisms colonize macroorganisms such as plants, animals and also humans and influence their health in a variety of ways. However, our knowledge of how microbes interact with each other and with other organisms and the inanimate environment and how microbiomes react to anthropogenic disturbances is still very fragmentary. In addition, despite the many similarities between ecologically and medically relevant microbiomes,

The aim of this consortium is to functionally and mechanistically understand environmental and host-associated microbiomes in order to better identify the many services they perform and to be able to influence them more efficiently – in the interest of planetary health. In order to be able to achieve this transformative goal, new synergies should be used in the Cluster of Excellence by dissolving the boundaries between environmental and medical microbiome research in Austria and researchers of all disciplines carry out innovative cutting-edge research on fundamental questions in this field together.

Microbiome research is an integral core part of planetary health science. Microbiologists in Austria have done pioneering work in the field of functional analysis of microbiomes and have gained groundbreaking insights. “Through the interdisciplinary cooperation of the scientists of the seven participating Austrian research institutions and our innovative research concept, a radically new understanding of the microbiology of global change and the function of the human microbiome should be achieved. This is essential to tap the potential of the microbiome and thus our planet into a sustainable future,” says Michael Wagner.

Scientists from the University of Vienna involved in seven other consortia
The scientists Markus Aspelmeyer, Leticia Gonzalez, Gunda Köllensperger, Melanie Malzahn involved in Claudia Rapp’s application (submitted by the ÖAW), Hans Bernhard Schmid, Andreas Stohl and Manuel Zimmer are involved in seven other consortia whose projects also entered the last phase of the three-stage procedure were invited. “I would also like to congratulate these colleagues on this success,” said Rector Engl.