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From the FEMS President Dear Friends and Colleagues, Let me say a few words of welcome to the second FEMS Congress. In this congress we bring the centre of attention to the front-line topics in microbiology today and to cover the very broad area of our interests. Not an easy task, but an interesting one. We all enjoyed planning this microbiology congress, as it helped us realize the exciting developments in the area, which bridges biology, medicine and biotechnology. We also realized the very high impact of European microbiologists in the field and we are glad to highlight one of these outstanding microbiologists - Prof. Jörg Hacker - by giving him the FEMS-Lwoff Award. I hope you will find the congress important, stimulating and beneficial. Whatever your microbiological interest, have a great scientific meeting and a pleasant stay in Madrid. Regards, Eliora Ron

Jörg Hacker is the Lwoff Awardee The FEMS-Lwoff Award is given for outstanding service to microbiology in Europe. Initiated in 2000, it was named in honour of the 1st FEMS President, André M. Lwoff. At the Congress, the Award will be presented to Prof. Jörg Hacker, one of the pioneers in the molecular analysis of bacterial pathogens, an ingenious, creative and co-operative scientist, an academic and strategic leader and one of the most innovative medical microbiologists. At the Congress, the prize-lecture “Evolution of microbial pathogens” is given by Jörg Hacker. Read below Hacker’s message to the young microbiologists. “Why has Darwin been so often misunderstood?”, “What are the driving forces in evolution?”, “How do human behaviour and evolution interact?”, “What is the role of neutral mutations in evolution?” All these questions were raised during the scientific meeting “Evolution” in Halle (East Germany) in 1973, organized by the German Academy of

June 2006 No. 1

Welcome to the first edition of FEMS FOCUS! Yes, you guessed correctly, this is a new newsletter replacing our Circular. The Circular was started in 1977. Its 60 numbers (issue 60 coming soon) provided good service to the community thanks to all who contributed to it in the p past rcular 30 years. The Circular ned has been redesigned several times overr the years, yet, we see a urneed for restructurer ing our messenger y. more profoundly. While the old circular was informing twice a year mainly MSabout societies, FEM FEMSaffairs, Executive Committee, ar and lately prominent meetings calendar, European microbiologists from the past, the new Focus will…well, the name says it…will focus on particular topics of your interest. Microbiology is changing, FEMS is changing, FEMS is moving forward and this is reflected also in the newsletter. Check out the future issue to learn how and where microbiology and nanoscience meet. Peter Raspor & Alenka Prin:i: Editors

Scientists “Leopoldina”. The topics, discussed then are still “on the market”. I was a young student of Biology at the University of Halle at that time and the conference, and further discussions with colleagues, professors and friends during that time opened my eyes for the exciting questions of evolution. Microorganisms are, of course, considered as excellent model organisms for addressing such questions of general importance for biology and medicine. Also during my PhD work that I carried out at an institute in Wernigerode, which is now part of the Robert-Koch-Institut, my

supervisors, Helmut Tschäpe and Helmut Rische, often discussed the role of gene transfer on the evolution of microorganisms. The scientific questions mentioned above, i.e., the role of gene transfer in evolution, the genetic basis of infectious diseases and the mechanisms of evolution in general, were also discussed in Würzburg, where I continued my studies in 1980. I had the chance to

FEMS is moving forward... Read more on page two.

move from East Germany to West Germany and met distinguished scientists including Werner Goebel of the Chair for Microbiology and Volker ter Meulen of the Chair for Virology who created a very fruitful atmosphere for the development of infectious diseases research at the University of WĂźrzburg. We often discussed the role of gene transfer on the evolution of pathogenic microorganisms, the genetic basis of deletion events, which we described for enterobacteria, and the view that many virulence-associated gene clusters represent highly exible genome regions. A consequence of ongoing discussions was the development of the concept of pathogenicity islands, which are mobile, highly exible genetic elements important for the evolution of bacterial pathogens. The gene products encoded on these islands contribute to the adaptability and ďŹ tness of microorganisms and thus also to pathogenicity. Especially Werner Goebel’s view on the genetic basis of virulence was essential for the development of this concept.

ronments, will be determined in the future. As George Klein, the outstanding virologist from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, said: “The simplest microbe is much more clever than the cleverest microbiologist.�

In my talk at the 2nd FEMS Congress in Madrid, I summarize our current knowledge on this particular issue. To date, pathogenicity islands have been described for more than 30 species of pathogenic microbes. In addition, non-pathogenic microbes also carry particular genomic regions, termed “genomic islandsâ€? that belong to the exible gene pool and are essential for the adaptation of numerous microbial species to their environments.

From the work on the genetic basis of pathogenicity done in WĂźrzburg, I learned one thing, which is important also for the young generation; strong collaboration is needed to establish new concepts and to do successful research. Werner Goebel, Volker ter Meulen and others in WĂźrzburg had the charisma and the knowledge to bring together scientists working on different aspects of infectious diseases. Especially at the cutting-edge areas of science, progress in research can be achieved. I should mention here that a number of co-workers, including Ulrich Dobrindt at the University of WĂźrzburg, are successfully working on the role of virulence factors of enterobacteria. It is my strong belief that the sentence “Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolutionâ€?, written by Th. Dobshanski in 1972, will be as valid in the future as it was in the past.

Especially at the cutting-edge areas of science, progress in research can be achieved. Thus, despite the fact that there are, as always in science, more open questions than answers, our view on the evolution of microorganisms has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. It is my guess that further exciting mechanisms that microbes use to adapt themselves to particular envi-

In my view, the younger generation of scientists – microbiologists has chosen a very exciting ďŹ eld with a huge future potential, both scientiďŹ cally and practically. I guess, more and more mechanisms that microbes use to interact with their host organisms will be described. It is my strong belief that, in addition to the host organism and the pathogenic microbe, the residential commensal ora will be the focus of future infectious diseases research. From an evolutionary perspective, there are supposedly always three players: the incoming microbe, the residential ora and the host cells, and the defense molecules expressed by the host cells, which interact with each other. The description of commensal microbes, the adaptation mechanism and the interplay between different types of microorganisms will therefore be an exciting subject of future research. Microbiology will not only help understand the basic mechanisms of microbe – host interactions but also microbe – microbe interactions.

JĂśrg Hacker, Institute for Molecular Infection Biology at University of WĂźrzburg

From Ljubljana to Madrid and then to‌.? Where will we meet in three years at the 3rd FEMS congress to celebrate the discoveries in our ďŹ eld? It will be announced at the closing ceremony of this congress.

FEMS is moving forward The Federation of European Microbiological Societies remains, as it was stated at the time of its founding just over 30 years ago, the voice of microbiology in Europe, supporting microbiologists in this area. It was established in 1974 to bring together microbiological societies from Northern and Western Europe. At its beginning, 17 societies from 16 countries were associated through this organization. Currently, it encompasses 46 microbiological societies in 36 countries thus linking some 30.000 microbiologists. From its small but sure beginnings FEMS has grown into a dynamic organization. FEMS is moving forward.

‌ so what is new about FEMS?


o most of you FEMS is known as an organization publishing microbiology journals and handling grants, awards, and fellowships. These activities expanded over the years. As the needs of the scientiďŹ c community changed, new kinds of fellowships and grants have been introduced; several years ago, congress became an important addition to the FEMS portfolio. For the newcomers and young researchers, grants will be undoubtedly of vital importance for expanding their careers. The Federation currently distributes grants worth 0.37 million euros each year. These beneďŹ ts are restricted though - only members of FEMS Member Societies can apply for research fellowships and/or support when organizing a meeting. FEMS can assist young scientists to pursue short-term research projects via the FEMS Research Fellowships. These fellowships fund visits for up to three months in a European country different from that in which the applicant lives. N E W






d Fellow

The Fe de Fellowshi ration of Europ ps, for a ean Micro period The fel of six to biological So lowships cie twelve nationa are int months. ties is pleased l to anno the mo research of theended to ackno unce lon st g-term, 36 years prestigious lab highest scien wledge excel FEMS Ad lence tiďŹ c of age. oratories vanced in Europ standard by yo in research an Full de e. Appli un d tai cants mu g and promi to stimulate an can be ls of conditio sing st be me d obtaine mbers European mi promote interd from ns and applicat of cro grants@f The clo ion a FEMS sing da ems-micr procedure Society biologists in te for rec are given and les obiolog s than eipt of online applica at www.f tions is ems-micr 1 Octob obiolog er, 2006 or .

. . . F E M S





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E U R O P E . . .

Thi d F ll hi This year th the FEMS Ad Advanced Fellowships have been introduced to support excellence in research and to promote long-term international research of the highest scientiďŹ c standard in the most prestigious laboratories in Europe. In 2006 FEMS has made available 75 000 euros for granting a few of these fel-

‌ FEMS is European ‌ and FEMS is global


oday, the Federation is devoted to promoting microbiology and unifying microbiology knowledge – not only in Europe but also worldwide. FEMS is encouraging joint activities among the societies, facilitating communication among the members, supporting meetings and laboratory courses, providing fellowships and publishing journals and books. The Federation aims at stimulating and establishing a strong community of microbiologists in the European area by crossing geographical borders in

Europe and by crossing borders of disciplines within microbiology. At the occasion of the 1st FEMS Congress in Ljubljana three years ago, member societies agreed and signed a European Declaration for Microbiology, which summarizes our main views and goals. European Declaration for Microbiology can be downloaded from or obtained from the FEMS Central OfďŹ ce.

lowships with each lasting from six to twelve months. Applicants should be promising, young (less than 36 years of age) European microbiologists, who have recently completed a PhD and have done less than three years of postdoctoral work. Young scientists wishing to attend microbiology meetings should check the Meeting Attendance Grants. They support attendance at meetings worldwide but preference is given for meetings within the European area. The Federation presents several awards. The ďŹ rst one, the FEMS-Lwoff Award, was established at the occasion of the Federation’s 25th anniversary in 2000. It was named in honour of the 1st FEMS President, Dr AndrĂŠ M. Lwoff. The award is given for outstanding service to microbiology in Europe. It is intended as a reward for a person or a group of persons. Recently, a new award for young microbiologists has been established, named after the Danish soil microbiologist Dr Hans Laurits Jensen (1898-1977), who selessly helped young scientists in establishing their scientiďŹ c careers. The award has been initiated through a donation by the microbiologist Dr John R. Norris, known as an Editor of Methods in Microbiology and former FEMS Treasurer. The award, given once every two years, is intended to recognize academic achievement and superior research accomplishments of outstanding European students of microbiology in the ďŹ nal stages of their PhD studies. The award enables spending at least half a year in an outstanding research laboratory. More information on the grants and awards of FEMS is available on the website at www. Not only the grants, the congress and further member societies are new about FEMS. Take a minute to read further about the new website, the AfďŹ liates and Microbiology Protocols. Last of all, also new is the location of the FEMS Central OfďŹ ce in Delft, the city of eminent founding fathers in microbiology in The Netherlands.

…and the five FEMS journals These are undoubtedly the m marker of the Federation. The fi first issue of the rapid turnaro round journal, FEMS Microbiolo Letters, appeared in 1977. ology Tod the Federation publishes, in Today addi addition to Letters, FEMS Microbiolo biology Ecology, FEMS Microbiology Reviews, FEMS Immunology

and Medical Microbiology, and the addition from 2001, the young FEMS Yeast Research. They have now been published almost a year by a new publisher, Blackwell. See their online homes on the FEMS website with direct links to article and issue listings on Blackwell Synergy (http://www. Many articles are currently available with free online access.

Online subscription to the full set of FEMS journals for only 140 Euro. To qualify for this rate your society must be a member of FEMS. For information please contact FEMS Publications Office at T: +31-15-269 3920; F: +31-15-269 3921.

FEMS has a new, improved website The newsletter Focus is meant for you, microbiologists. If you wish to share microbiology-related information and news with your fellow researchers, please contact the Editorial team.

…what is in it for you as an individual? The nature of Europe is such that FEMS, unlike ASM or ISME, does not have individual members, but is a federation of national societies. As an individual member of a national society, you can benefit from the Federation’s activities. For those who wish to communicate more directly, FEMS has introduced the possibility to register as “FEMS Affiliate”. This registration is not linked to the membership in national societies; you just need to be interested in microbiology and in FEMS. As an affiliate you get access to several new initiatives and interesting microbiology-related informa-

Register as an Affiliate! FEMS invites you to register as a FEMS Affiliate at the FEMS booth at the Congress or any time through the FEMS website.

tion. You will be kept up-to-date about relevant grants deadlines, about the suite of five FEMS journals and you will receive the newsletter Focus. In future, more information on microbiology jobs in Europe will be added to the website. Just recently, an electronic forum has been started, based on controversial topics published in our journals; with a possibility to contribute. And while you are there – do not forget to look at the FEMS Microbiology Protocols. This initiative aims to be the principal online resource for microbiologists seeking comprehensive, updated and high-quality information on microbiological protocols, methods and techniques. Novel and stateof-the-art methods as well as significant improvements to existing methods and interesting applications of current methods can be deposited. The Protocols work as an open-access repository source of methods in microbiology.

Take a look at the new online home of FEMS, launched just a month ago, at www. You will find information on all activities of the Federation easily available. The members of the Executive Committee and the Central Office addresses are given under “About FEMS”. Look also at “Who is who in FEMS” on that page. If you wish to check if your local society is a member of the Federation and find out about its representative, check the list under “Member Societies”. Of course, journal pages are restructured too. A new feature of the website is the possibility to share documents for certain groups via the website. For the aficionados of the old bi-annual Circular, this is archived on the website too.

The FEMS Focus is published three times a year by the FEMS Central Office. Whom to contact? Key members of the Editorial team: Dr Alenka Prin:i: ( and Prof. Dr Peter Raspor (peter.raspor@ Design: Ilumina Photo of Delft: Max Jeleniewski FEMS is registered charity (no. 1072117) and also a company limited by guarantee (no. 3565643). © FEMS FEMS Central Office Keverling Buismanweg 4 2628 CL Delft The Netherlands Tel: +31-15-269 3920 Fax: +31-15-269 3921 E-mail:



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