Frickel Mercer
Eva Frickel and Jason Mercer

The Institute of Microbiology and Infection (IMI) at the University of Birmingham is expanding its team of researchers with the appointment of two major research groups who will relocate to the Institute early in 2020.  Eva Frickel is bringing her research group to Birmingham, which looks at Host-Toxoplasma Interaction, and Jason Mercer also brings his team, which is exploring mechanisms of poxviruses.

Eva Frickel, a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow and currently head of the Host-Toxoplasma Interaction Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute, studies mechanisms of human interferon-induced innate defence against Toxoplasma gondii and Salmonella typhimurium. Recently, her lab discovered a ubiquitin-mediated anti-Toxoplasma acidification pathway and defined apoptosis as a host cell death pathway regulated by Guanylate Binding Proteins during infection. Eva has a background in chemistry and biochemistry and she completed her PhD with Ari Helenius at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland, studying glycoprotein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum. Eva became interested in pathogen protein degradation during her postdoctoral training with Hidde Ploegh at MIT, USA. She used chemical biology and in vivo cloning techniques to decipher immune surveillance of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Throughout her career, Eva has incorporated latest technologies in her research, most recently an artificial intelligence-driven pipeline for host-pathogen image analysis.

Jason Mercer joins the IMI from University College London where he is Group Leader at the Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and a Reader in Viral Cell Biology. Throughout his scientific career Jason has been fascinated by the elegant simplicity of viruses. During his PhD with Prof. Paula Traktman (Medical College of Wisconsin) he became interested in how poxviruses subvert cellular systems to build new viral particles. To further explore poxvirus host-cell interaction, Jason joined the lab of Professor Ari Helenius (ETH Zurich, Switzerland) for his postdoctoral training. As an EMBO postdoctoral fellow Jason discovered that poxviruses use a novel entry strategy termed viral apoptotic mimicry. In 2014, Jason was appointed as Associate Professor of Virus Cell Biology at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (UCL). Supported by the MRC and a European Research Council Consolidator Award, Jason’s lab strives to incorporate state-of-the-art technologies including advanced imaging (super-resolution microscopy) and analysis (artificial intelligence) to uncover novel mechanisms by which poxviruses subjugate host cell function.

Robin May, Professor of Infectious Disease and Director of the IMI said; “We are delighted to welcome Eva and Jason to the institute. Both of their groups have made major advances in our understanding of how two very different pathogens manipulate host cells.  They bring with them not only two cutting-edge research programmes that will extend and augment the world-leading research undertaken at IMI but also state-of-the-art expertise in imaging and computational analysis that will have wide implications for understanding a diverse range of human infections.  Eva and Jason are leading scientists in their field, and we are very excited that they have chosen to continue their important work here in Birmingham.”

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