Outstanding research in cell biology
Lena Pernas, Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing was selected as EMBO Young Investigator and awarded with the BINDER Innovation Prize 2022.
EMBO announced 24 life scientists as the newest members of the EMBO Young Investigator Programme. The programme supports excellent group leaders who have been in independent positions for less than four years and have an excellent track record of scientific achievements. EMBO Young Investigators receive an award of 15,000 euros in the second year of their tenure and can apply for additional grants of up to 10,000 euros per year.
The BINDER prize is awarded by the German Society for Cell Biology (DGZ) together with BINDER, a manufacturer for laboratory equipment, honors outstanding research in the field of cell biology. Lena Pernas receives her award for her new discoveries about the metabolism of infection.
When pathogens attack the cells of a body, they need nutrients to grow and multiply - the same nutrients that the organelles of the host need. This creates competition for nutrients between the microbe and the host. A key player in this competition is the mitochondria, which are organelles that are the powerhouses of cells and take up and breakdown different nutrients to provide energy.
With her research, Pernas aims to understand how mitochondria respond to pathogen invasion. For her studies she uses the human parasite Toxoplasma gondii. She previously found that mitochondria restrict the parasite's growth by depriving it of nutrients. Recently, her group discovered that pathogens can hijack the host's mitochondria and cause them to shed their outer membrane, thus disabling its defense mechanisms.
About Lena Pernas
The American researcher Lena Pernas performed her Bachelor’s studies in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics at the University of California in Los Angeles, and pursued her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the US with support from a Stanford/NSF graduate fellowship. In 2014 she joined the group of Luca Scorrano at the University of Padua in Italy where she was supported by DTI-Telethon, an EMBO Long-term fellowship, and the Life Science Research Foundation. She started her lab at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in January 2019.