A boost at the right time?

By Rowena Mitchell, Membership Manager, Biochemical Society

Anne-Marie Krachler
Dr Anne-Marie Krachler

Dr Anne-Marie Krachler (McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, USA) was awarded the Early Career Research Award for Biological Systems in 2016. Here we talk to Anne-Marie about her work and how receiving the award has impacted on her career.

Do you feel that winning the award helped you at a crucial time in your career?

Early Career Research Award_frontWinning the Biological Systems Early Career Research Award in 2016 was a great honor, and really helped to highlight my group’s work on bacterial adhesion and the development of adhesion inhibitors. Although everyone now acknowledges that antimicrobial resistance is a major healthcare challenge, there is still a lot of uncertainty on how to address this issue. New antibiotics are not becoming available quickly enough to keep up with the rise in antimicrobial resistance. Although improving antibiotic stewardship is crucial, research into alternative approaches to treat bacterial infections, such as by my group, and of many others who study predatory bacteria, phage therapy and virulence-targeting compounds, is an important complementary approach. I feel winning the award has brought many opportunities to talk about and helped to publicise this area of research, which I hope will accelerate the translation of such alternative approaches into new anti-infective treatments.

Please update us on how has your career moved on, any new research developments and achievements since winning the award?

In fall 2016, I was awarded a STARs (Faculty Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention) award by the University of Texas System and took up a position as an Associate Professor at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Part of my group stayed at the University of Birmingham, and a part works in the US, collaborating with colleagues at the UT Southwestern Medical Center to test and improve prototype adhesion inhibitors to prevent and treat multidrug-resistant burn wound infections. The environment here gives us the opportunity to collaborate more closely with clinical researchers, the US Military, and our industry partners, to hopefully soon use these materials to prevent bacterial wound infections in the field and in surgical settings. Beyond our work on adhesion inhibitors, we also recently initiated a second line of research, exploring how bacteria sense changes in mechanical force when they adhere and how they use this ‘sense of touch’ to colonize tissues and cause infections.

Will you nominate up-and-coming researchers in your lab for an award?

I was incredibly fortunate to receive amazing mentorship throughout my career, especially by my postdoctoral advisor Professor Kim Orth, who is an Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator but really has made it her goal to help people from her lab succeed in their own careers, too. I am definitely trying to pay this forward, and to be a great mentor to the many talented students, technicians, and postdocs in my own lab. Part of this is encouraging them to put themselves forward for or nominate them for awards. So yes, definitely!

Why would you encourage others to nominate?

I think training and mentoring junior scientists is the most important legacy we can leave, and making sure they are acknowledged for their hard work is a part of this. We all have a responsibility to ensure the scientific leadership of tomorrow reflects the diversity of our community, so I think we all need to double-check our invitation and nomination lists to make sure we have done the best we can to be inclusive.

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The Biochemical Society Award Nominations for the 2019 round are open until 31 January 2018, this is an opportunity to help colleagues that deserve recognition. The Biochemical Society Awards are open to both members and non-members, you do not need to be a member to nominate or be nominated. Further details can be found on the Society website.

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