ERC Consolidator Grant success for Prof Aris Katzourakis

We are delighted to congratulate Professor Aris Katzourakis, who has just been awarded a prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant. These grants are awarded by the ERC for scientists to consolidate and establish their research team, allowing them to continue to develop a successful career in Europe. 

Upon receiving this award, Professor Katzourakis said:”I am absolutely thrilled to be awarded an ERC consolidator grant. This project will enable me to tackle crucial questions regarding the evolutionary biology of viruses and their interactions with their hosts, and to develop paleovirology from a recently established discipline to one that regularly solves fundamental problems in biology.”

“What determines the transmission of a virus between species, and the potential that transmission has to give rise to a novel viral epidemic or pandemic?”, continues Katzourakis. “Understanding outbreaks resulting from viral cross species transmission has been of significant interest for some time. These are not new, and in fact we have been expecting a significant global pandemic like the one that lead to COVID-19 for some time. Successful viral cross species transmissions have occurred regularly in nature, and this project will reveal the evolutionary processes that govern transmissions between different viruses and hosts over time.”

This ERC-funded project will also reveal the role for the transfer of genetic material between viruses and their hosts, in their evolutionary arms race that has played out for hundreds of millions of years. 

There are a number of examples where ancient viral infections have been inserted into genomes and put to work by their hosts, to combat the viral infections from which they are derived, and intriguing strategy in the evolutionary battles between viruses and their hosts. The project will enable Professor Katzourakis to hire a team of postdoctoral researchers to not only discover such natural antivirals, but also to establish whether their formation is rare or part of a general phenomenon.

“The scale of the project that an ERC consolidator award would enable, coupled with the methodological innovations and inference framework, will allow me to use paleovirology to answer fundamental questions that will have wide societal implications. How frequently and why do viruses cross between species, potentially leading to devastating novel diseases, and to what extent has gene flow between viruses and their hosts altered the course of evolution.”