Professor Kevin Foster's 'Bacterial Warfare' project a winner in ERC €650m funding call

How does air pollution affect the development of baby's brains? Can innovative heart regeneration treatments increase the long-term survival of heart attack victims? How did non-living matter evolve into living systems that established themselves on Earth? Why are bacteria extremely aggressive towards one another?

These are some of the issues that leading researchers will be exploring thanks to Advanced Grants from the European Research Council. This EU funding, worth a total of €653 million, announced today will benefit 269 senior researchers across Europe, giving them a chance to realise their most creative ideas and potentially produce results that will have a major impact on science, society and the economy. The grants are part of the EU's Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

We are delighted to announce that amongst the 12 grants awarded to Oxford University is one to Professor Kevin Foster for his project 'Bacterial Warfare'.

Bacterial warfare

Bacteria are often extremely aggressive towards one another. They release toxins into their environment, stab neighbours with poisoned molecular spears, and may even commit suicide in order to launch their attack. This contrasts with animal contests, where a large body of work has sought to understand why animals are so reluctant to fight one another. The evolution of aggressive behaviour in bacteria thus challenges our current understanding of competition in biology. Professor Kevin Foster, from the University of Oxford, intends to use bacteria's extreme aggression as a model to provide a new perspective on competitive evolution. To be able to understand bacteria behaviour, the research team will combine several methods, including competition experiments, game theory, experimental evolution, and molecular genetics. They will also co-develop techniques to provide images of bacterial battlegrounds at the molecular scale.

  • Project: The Evolution of Bacterial Warfare (MicroWars)
  • Researcher: Kevin R. Foster
  • Host Institution: University of Oxford
  • ERC Funding: € 2.75 million for five years


To read more, visit the ERC website.