A young microbiologist from Masaryk University impressed NATO experts with her research on the decomposition of waste plant biomass

NATO Science and Technology Board (NATO STB) awarded the prestigious Early Career Scientist Event 2023 Award for best presentation to Barbora Hrnčířová, a student of the doctoral study program at the Faculty of Science, Institute of Experimental Biology, Department of Microbiology.

22 Sep 2023 Leoš Verner

Photo: Mariya Ostrenko

Barbora’s research on the decomposition of waste plant biomass and its potential has attracted the attention of NATO and partner nations. NATO recently recognized the biotechnologies as the technologies of the future. Barbora well prepared her poster and explained clearly and fluently in content her research in time-restricted limit.

Barbora was selected as one of four from nationwide selection of candidates and NATO Science and Technology Organization invited only thirteen nominees from 31 NATO nations, four partner nations and NATO organization implementing research and development. NATO Early Career Scientist Event (ECSE) took place on September 19–21, 2023, in Espoo, Finland, as part of the autumn NATO Science and Technology Board Meeting.

In her presentation, she showed the audience how genetic engineering and synthetic biology approaches can be applied to modify selected natural bacteria to break down this resistant material into simple sugars. These bacteria can then be used to produce substances with added value, such as biodegradable plastics, biofuels or pharmaceutical compounds, which today are commonly produced from oil. "I am thrilled with the award for the best presentation. It proves that microbial bioengineering is a field with huge potential, in which very important organizations are interested," said Barbora Hrnčířová when describing the possible benefits of her research.

Be invited to the ECSE is a huge achievement. “We received a total of nine nominations for the Czech Republic, of which four were sent through a short selection procedure”, said Czech representative at the NATO STB and national coordinator Pavel Zůna in his report. "I am very pleased that I was able to show the members of the NATO STB that research outside of a military focus deserves their attention as well. Alternative energy sources are beneficial not only for sustainability and the environment, but also for overall safety in our region," Barbora Hrnčířová summarized.

The research of Barbora Hrnčířová and her colleagues in the team of doc. Pavel Dvořák deals with the use of an abundant renewable resource, lignocellulose (the indigestible component of plant biomass), as a carbon source for the bioproduction of chemicals that have the potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Barbora presented her research topic “Unlocking the potential of inedible plant biomass using microbial engineering and synthetic biology” at the NATO Early Career Scientist Event.

Burning fossil fuels is unsustainable in the long-term and harms both human health and the environment. Waste plant biomass is an alternative material that has the potential to replace fossil raw materials. The long-term goal of our project is to use this material as food for bacteria, which will break it down into simple sugars from which they can then produce biofuel. Use of these biofuels will contribute toward carbon neutrality and the principles of a circular economy. Author: B. Hrnčířová

The significance and uniqueness of the award was highlighted also by Pavel Dvořák of the Department of Experimental Biology (Masaryk university, Faculty of Science), who oversaw the research. “We are happy that even at this type of meeting, biotechnology topics have gained ground. It suggests that microbial biotechnology and synthetic biology are on the rise and that, in the most developed countries, these subjects are already contributing to improving people’s quality of life and the environment. We would like these topics to resonate in the Czech Republic too, and I believe that Bára’s success will contribute to this. For Bára and our entire workplace, this is a remarkable success and a motivation for our future work”.

NATO STB is the Board governing whole NATO Science and technology enterprise withing which the NATO STO is part. NATO STO is a NATO subsidiary body created to meet the collective Science and Technology needs of the NATO Alliance and its partner nations. The STO does this by generating, sharing, and disseminating advanced scientific knowledge, technological developments, and innovation resulting from its many activities completed within the Collaborative Programme of Work (CPoW).

More about NATO STO can be found at the portal.


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