The importance of RNA in maintaining cellular physiology by controlling gene expression in response to intrinsic and external cues has long been underestimated. Now, numerous human diseases have been linked to RNA functioning. Likewise, we now know that bacterial pathogens harness a large suite of noncoding RNA molecules to adapt to environmental stress and to precisely regulate their virulence programs. In an era of antibiotic crisis, it is essential to discover alternative combat strategies against pathogenic bacteria — ideally ones that spare the beneficial microbial species. The high specificity of RNA molecules provides great potential for achieving these goals. This group is located at the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI).
“Infection is a complex interplay of a pathogen, its host, and the resident microbiota that we can only fully understand – and eventually treat – once we consider the role of each player in this process.”
Alexander Westermann studied Molecular Biosciences at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) and worked as a visiting scholar in 2009 at UC Berkeley (California, USA). He obtained his PhD and worked as a PostDoc in the lab of Prof. Jörg Vogel at the Institute of Molecular Infection Biology (IMIB) in Würzburg. In 2017 and 2018, he was a visiting researcher in the labs of Prof. Andreas Bäumler (UC Davis, USA) and Prof. David Holden (Imperial College London, UK). Since March 2018, he is a Junior Professor at the IMIB and leads the HOPI group at the HIRI.
A current overview of the team and further information about the research group can be found on the HIRI page.