Congratulations to Kodi Ravichandran, PhD, Harrison Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology, on receiving the Odysseus 1 Award, from the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), Belgium. This award, provided by the Flemish government, is designed to attract outstanding researchers who have built a career outside of Belgium, providing them with funds to initiate and develop a research group within a Flemish university. Dr. Ravichandran won an open competition for this award, and was ranked first among the candidates.
Odysseus 1 Award
This award — which consists of €7.5M in unrestricted funds over five years — will allow Dr. Ravichandran to join the Vlaams Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), considered one of the top five independent research institutes in Europe (that is affiliated with Ghent University) and to set up a second lab at VIB/UGhent in Belgium. The new lab will open in early 2017.
“The two labs will work in sync,” says Ravichandran. “The two groups will address research problems that are independent, but complimentary. It is my hope that this international collaboration will lead to novel discoveries that will, in turn, move the field in new ways. UVA and UGhent have unique strengths. I want to take advantage of the research breadth and the best ideas from both places, and enter into a partnership to share inventions and discoveries.”
Travel to Belgium
Ravichandran will retain his UVA faculty appointment and travel to Belgium a few days a month to the second lab. The new lab will also focus on the broader topic of how our bodies turnover billions of cells on a daily basis, how this process can be tinkered with to dampen inflammation in tissues, initiate immune responses when needed, as well as address questions related to metabolomics of cell clearance. The implications from this research include arthritis, lung inflammation, atherosclerosis, colitis, and eye diseases.
Dr. Rvichandran Says
“I am truly excited to have this opportunity. While the NIH-based funding has been extremely useful to our lab, this new type of unrestricted funds can really help pursue questions that are more open-ended, go into areas that have not been explored, and can lead to science that could be groundbreaking. To cite one example, when one cell eats another, it is akin to a neighbor moving into your house with all their belongings. How the engulfing cell manages the ingested cargo is a fun problem, yet is poorly understood, and could be highly relevant for metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity,” says Ravichandran. “I am also looking forward to the trans-national collaboration with VIB and Ghent University — with other benefits, including a potential exchange of faculty, students, and post-docs between Charlottesville and Ghent. This may stimulate newer ways of thinking about a particular scientific problem as well as collaborations with investigators at both UVa and UGhent.”