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Second ERC Advanced grant for Mike jetten

Mike Jetten, Darwin researcher and Spinoza Prize 2012 laureate, will receive a second ERC Advanced Grant. To the best of our knowledge, no other scientist has achieved this before. Jetten will use the 2.5 million euro to elucidate the secrets of anaerobic methane-munching microbes such as the bacterium Methylomirabilis oxyfera.


The idea that methane could be oxidized without oxygen was long controversial, till M.oxyfera was discovered by Prof. Jetten and his co-workers. The bacterium was found in the Twentekanaal in 2006 and is able to convert methane - CH4, a strong greenhouse gas - without oxygen into CO2. With the help of molecular markers, M.oxyfera has been observed in many other places worldwide in follow-up studies.
‘We found that this bacterium has several highly unusual properties. It can make oxygen from nitric oxide, which is subsequently used to oxidize methane. Also the polygonal cell shape is very unusual. With this grant we hope to investigate all molecular properties of this group of bacteria, and find other hitherto unknown methane-munching microbes. Together this will also help to speed up industrial implementation.'


Waste water treatment
In 2008 Jetten received his first ERC Advanced Grant for sophisticated research into the anammox bacteria. Anammox can convert nitrogen compounds into dinitrogen gas without oxygen. This is very beneficial to the development of sustainable waste water treatment. Anammox has therefore been implemented worldwide. ‘The fundamental knowledge obtained in the first ERC project together with the ERC Proof of Concept Grant were instrumental to achieving a stable operation of the novel treatment systems,' according to Prof. Jetten.

‘When the European Research Council provided the opportunity to submit a second proposal 18 months before the end of the first one, I immediately started to write the second proposal. It is magnificent that my world class team will be able to continue our search for novel microbes, and to elucidate their molecular secrets.'