Namiko Mitarai part of a new Center of Excellence, BASP – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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07 October 2014

Namiko Mitarai part of a new Center of Excellence, BASP

New Center of Excellence:

Bacteria are hardy and can survive in the most extreme stress conditions – cold, heat, dehydration and even direct attacks by harsh antibiotics. But how are bacteria resistant? – do they have a common strategy for survival? This is something that the researchers will try to unravel. The Danish National Research Foundation has allocated 50 million DKK for a new Center of Excellence, Center for Bacterial Stress Response and Persistence, BASP, which will investigate the survival strategies of bacteria.

Namiko Mitarai, Associate Professor in the research group, Biocomplexity, the Niels Bohr Institute is part of the new Center of Excellence, Center for Bacterial Stress Pesponse and Persistence, BASP

The new Center of Excellence, BASP, is an interdisciplinary collaboration between biophysicists at the Niels Bohr Institute and biologists at the Department of Biology at the University of Copenhagen. The head of the research centre is Kenn Gerdes, Professor at the Department of Biology. Coming from the Niels Bohr Institute is Namiko Mitarai, Associate Professor in the research group, Biocomplexity.

The survival strategies of bacteria

Bacteria are cunning and have a strategy for how they can survive environmental stress factors, for example, antibiotics. Antibiotics primarily affect cells that are active and are in the process of multiplying. So when a deadly attack of antibiotics hits a colony of bacteria, they reprogram their metabolism from high to low and part of the colony goes into hibernation and is not killed by the antibiotics. When the attack is over, the survivors launch new growth.  But the molecular mechanisms that activate these reactions are unknown.

“What are now going to research are the basic survival mechanisms of the bacteria. We want to figure out what is happening inside the bacteria, which signals they send to communicate with each other. I am a theorist, so I use data from the experiments carried out by the biologists and create models of the phenomena in order to gain a deeper understanding of what the bacteria are doing in their strategy for survival,” explains Namiko Mitarai.

The results of this groundbreaking research could bring a much greater understanding of the survival mechanisms of bacteria and it has the potential for improving the biotechnological processes and the handling of bacteria in the future.

Namiko Mitarai, Associate Professor in Biocomplexity at the Niels Bohr Institute, Universitey of Copenhagen, Tel. 3532-5402, Email:

Kenn Gerdes, professor in Biomolecule Sciences, Institute of Biology, Universitey of Copenhagen, Tel. 3533-0219, Email: