Searching for New Antiviral Immune Systems in Plants
Geneticist Gal Ofir receives the EMBO postdoctoral fellowship and the HFSP long-term fellowship, allowing him to conduct research at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biology in Tübingen until 2026. Ofir wants to discover new antiviral immune systems in plants and therefore continue the research he previously conducted in bacteria. His future findings could help to decipher new antiviral mechanisms in humans, to develop novel biotechnological tools, and to understand the evolution of the immune system among different organisms.
Gal Ofir succeeded to independently convince the selection committees for the postdoctoral fellowship from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the long-term fellowship from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP). These grants will fund Ofir’s research at the MPI for Biology Tübingen.
Ofir’s goal is to uncover unknown antiviral immune mechanisms in plants, similar to those he already discovered in microbes in his previous research. “I plan to explore how to utilize my experience in bioinformatic and experimental methods to expand the known arsenal of plant immunity”, Ofir explains.
The discovery and study of immune systems of diverse organisms already have a profound impact; on the one hand, this knowledge helps protect cultivated organisms; on the other hand, they are instrumental for the development of molecular tools in biotechnology. Ofir hopes to discover unknown immune mechanisms in plants and to thereby improve our understanding of the immune arsenal of plants and its evolution. Eventually, such findings could furthermore help to explain how the immune system in general has developed among bacteria, plants and animals.
Gal Ofir obtained his PhD in 2021 from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. With this work in bacterial immunology, he unraveled how bacteria defend themselves against bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, via a newly uncovered signaling pathway called “Thoeris”. Surprisingly, Thoeris shares components with immune systems of plants, inspiring Ofir’s future research into plant immune mechanisms.
Since April 2022, he continues his research as an EMBO fellow in the department of Molecular Biology led by Detlef Weigel at the MPI for Biology in Tübingen. “The Weigel lab offers a perfect setting for the combined study of genetic and genomic immune diversity – bioinformatically and experimentally”, Ofir emphasizes.
With success rates among all participants of 15% and 10%, respectively, both grants are highly selective.
Gal Ofir, PhD