Direct Use of Micro-Organisms

Next submission deadline: 20.07.2018

With its initiative, Gebert Rüf Stiftung seeks to generate a significant impact by exploiting the potential and widespread use microbial resources in health and technology.  The program supports with CHF 2 Mio. p.a. innovative and applied projects dealing with the direct use of modified or domesticated micro-organisms. The focus is on applications in human and veterinary medicine, the environment, energy production, water treatment, food science and other areas.

The winners of the call 2017

5 finalists out of 47 submissions

  • Polyfermenthealth, Dr. Guy Vergères, Agroscope, Functional Nutritional Biology Group,CHF 420’000
  • Micropearls as Bioremediation Agents, Daniel Ariztegui, University of GenevaCHF 325’000
  • Microbiome Diagnostics, Dr. Klaus Schaeppi, Agrospcope, Dept. of Agroecology and Environment, CHF 410’000
  • Vaccination/Niche Competition for Microbiota Engineering, Dr. Emma Weter-Slack, ETH Zurich, Institute of Microbiology, CHF 410’000
  • Microbial Wastewater Treatment, Prof. Dr. Ardemis Boghossian, EPF Lausanne, Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, CHF 340’000

Objective: Microbial Resources in Health and Technology

The opportunities for the development of new tools in health care, drug discovery, the environment, agriculture and food production are increasingly limited by the availability of novel chemical compounds. Innovative approaches and solutions are needed.

Whereas «biologics» describes products extracted from biological sources, there is a far greater potential in the direct use of micro-organisms – engineered viruses, bacteria, populations of microbes that work together in symbiosis – as a means of production, treatment and research. The use of microbial resources to produce desired effects within living organisms or in natural or man-made ecosystems bears powerful and underexploited tools.

Microbes could move a petroleum-based economy towards sustainable and environmentally-friendly industry. They could also change the way we handle drug delivery and help to develop new and efficacious therapies for health challenges. The exploration of microbial biodiversity to find «bioactives» can be integrated into microbiology, chemistry and biochemistry disciplines to create coordinated pipelines for discovery and commercial development.

The Potential of Microbes and Microbioms

Microbes are micro-organisms so tiny that millions can fit into the eye of a needle. They occur naturally in the environment and are found almost everywhere. The human body alone is estimated to host 10 to 100 trillion microbes. Countless micro-organisms live in the soil and in close relation to plants, making up the plant’s microbiome. Advances in genome technologies have led to spectacular insights into the complexity and prevalence of microbiomes throughout the planet, including those within the human body.

The microbiome is now known to contribute significantly to human health and disease, to regulate global biogeochemistry, and to harbour much of our planet’s genetic diversity. Microbes play important roles in ecosystems of all types. Despite their small size, the sheer number of microbes living on the planet will influence resource management and distribution. They evolve and adapt rapidly; they provide a largely untapped resource for innovation and technological advances in many fields. Its potential for applications in medicine, the environment, agriculture, energy production and nutrition is clear, yet an innovative exploration of the power of micro-organisms is needed.

Support Criteria

  • Clear project identity
  • Application- and impact-oriented in high-impact fields
  • Original, innovative, creative
  • Interdisciplinarity and cross-institutional collaborations
  • Not merely additional (residual) financing of large initiatives
  • 2 to 3 years, max. CHF 300,000 to 500,000;
  • No infrastructure financed, only salaries and material costs linked to project

Submission of Projects

  • The documents must be submitted by the leader of the project management team.
  • The application must include a letter of endorsement from the Institute or Department Head.
  • The application form can be downloaded from the Gebert Rüf Stiftung website.

Submission deadline for projects: 20 July 2018

Project Evaluation

  • The projects will be evaluated by a programme jury.
  • The foundation’s decision will be communicated in mid-November 2017.
  • The leaders of the successful projects and the programme management of Gebert Rüf Stiftung will define the deliverables and the reporting requirements in a contract.

Jury Members

  • Prof. Dr. Roland Siegwart, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, President
  • Dr. Jürg Ernst Frey, Agroscope
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Fussenegger, ETH Zurich 

  • Dr. Frank Petersen, Novartis
  • Prof. Dr. Jürg Schifferli, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Board Member 

  • Prof. Dr. Marcel Tanner, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Board Member
  • Prof. Dr. Didier Trono, EPF Lausanne 

Programme Management

Dr. Pascale Vonmont, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, CEO/Director, Haus der Stiftungen, St. Alban-Vorstadt 5, 4052 Basel
Fon +41 61 270 88 24, pascale.notexisting@nodomain.comvonmont@grstiftung.notexisting@nodomain.comch

Networking and Collaboration Platform

Join the Microbials Group on LinkedIn.

Approved projects Microbials

Picture Credits Header

1. Algae C. Staurestrum; © Dr. Martin Oeggerli, Micronaut, in cooperation with Susanne Erpel, CCINA, Biozentrum, University of Basel

2. Map Egg Clutch, Captions: What looks like piles of yoghurt pots is an egg clutch of the Map (Araschnia levana), which deposits one egg on top of the other. Copyrights: © Martin Oeggerli 2010, supported by School of Life Sciences, FHNW.

3. Stinging Hair of a Stinging Nettle, Captions: Stinging hairs (trichomes) produce a painful stinging sensation by injecting a chemical mixture when touched by humans or other animals. They act like hypodermic needles: after the tip breaks off, a chemical mixture composed of histamine, acetylcholine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes and formic acid is injected and causes pain or paresthesia. Copyrights: © Martin Oeggerli 2015, supported by S. Erpel, CCINA, Biozentrum, University Basel.