Sara Pais awarded “ALFAGENE - Jovem Investigador em Microbiologia”

Sara Pais, PhD student in the Infection Biology Lab (led by Jaime Mota), at UCIBIO - FCT NOVA, was awarded the “AWARD ALFAGENE - Jovem Investigador em Microbiologia” for the best communication presented at the Congress of Microbiology and Biotechnology (MICRIOBIOTEC’17), held in Porto, Portugal (7-9 December 2017). This is a 1000 € prize and an award diploma from the Sociedade Portuguesa de Microbiologia (SPM), with the financial support of ALFAGENE. Cláudia Godinho from Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, has also been awarded with this prize.

The title of Sara Pais presentation was “Identification of a type III secretion effector of Chlamydia trachomatis that associates with the Golgi complex of host cells”. The presentation described part of the PhD work Sara Pais is developing, aimed at identifying virulence proteins of Chlamydia. The work is a collaboration with the laboratory of Derek J. Fisher, from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois, USA. Chlamydia are responsible for over 100 million sexual transmission infections/year (which can cause infertility in women) and for infections that can lead to visual impairment and affect about 2 million people in developing countries.

Sara Pais identified a Chlamydia virulence protein that targets the Golgi complex of human host cells. The Golgi is an organelle that plays an essential role in protein and lipid modification/transport in all eukaryotic cells. Therefore, understanding the mode of action of this newly identified virulence protein could provide alternative ideas to fight or prevent Chlamydia infections, as well novel insights into cell biology processes essential for the normal functioning of human cells.

Sara Pais is a student of the PhD Program in Molecular Biosciences (MolBioS), funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, and the work was partially supported by a FCT R&D Grant.