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Michael Zimmermann receives FEBS Anniversary Prize

EMBL group leader Michael Zimmermann has been recognised for outstanding achievements as a mid-career scientist

Male scientist in white coat is laboratory setting
Michael Zimmermann, who has been awarded a FEBS Anniversary Prize, studies molecular interactions in the gut and how they influence our health. Photo credit: Amber Brauer

Michael Zimmermann studies how gut microbes influence our health and impact our response to drugs. For this work, he has been awarded a FEBS Anniversary Prize of the Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie.

Each year, the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) recognises two researchers under the age of 40 who are considered part of the upcoming generation of senior scientists for their outstanding achievements in biochemistry, molecular biology, or a related science.

“In our research, we’re interested in microbial metabolism in the human gut and how it influences human physiology,” explains Michael, who is a group leader at EMBL Heidelberg. “One example is how the gut microbiota chemically modifies therapeutic drugs. We recently found that, of 271 drugs we tested, almost two-thirds were converted by gut bacteria. The extent to which gut bacteria can change drugs is surprising, and raises a lot of new research questions. For example, how does an individual’s microbiome composition contribute to drug response and toxicity? And how can the microbiome potentially be altered to help drug treatment?”

These and other related questions are what Michael’s group is working to answer. By addressing the fundamental question of how microbes recognise and transform their chemical environment, members of the group hope to understand these host–microbiota interactions at a molecular level. To accomplish this, they combine various experimental techniques to probe metabolic interactions within the microbiome and between the microbiome and its host. 

“The fact that the microbes colonising our body, collectively called the microbiome, strongly impact human health and disease is fascinating,” Michael says. “However, despite the importance of microbes to human life, many aspects of the intimate interactions between the microbiota and the human host remain poorly understood.”

This year’s awardees will present lectures during the 45th FEBS Congress, which will be held virtually from 3–8 July. Michael’s lecture, ‘The role of the gut microbiota in drug response and toxicity’, will be part of a symposium on immunotherapy on 6 July.


Tags: Awards, drug metabolism, human microbiome, microbiome, Zimmermann

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EMBL PhD student Anniek Stokkermans captured this side view of a Nematostella vectensis larva during this transition, using instrumentation in the Advanced Light Microscopy Facility at EMBL Heidelberg.

By  Jodie Haigh

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