Renowned US evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran receives Kiel Möbius Prize

Collaborative Research Center 1182 honours professor from the University of Texas for her pioneering work in symbiosis research

Yesterday, Monday 25 September, the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1182 “Origin and Function of Metaorganisms” at Kiel University awarded its most important science prize, the Karl August Möbius Fellowship: Professor Nancy Moran from the University of Texas in Austin received the award during a ceremony at the Centre for Molecular Biosciences (ZMB). Moran has done important pioneering work in symbiosis research over the course of her more than 40-year scientific career. Her work on the joint evolution of insects and symbiotic microorganisms contributed to helping microbiome research achieve its current central importance in the life sciences. The internationally renowned researcher accepted the Möbius Fellowship 2023, endowed with 10,000 Euros, from CRC 1182 spokesperson Professor Thomas Bosch.

Pioneering research into the symbiosis of insects and microorganisms

Moran has been researching the joint evolutionary development of insects and microorganisms for many years and has used this example to help define the modern concept of symbiosis in the sense of a metaorganism consisting of multicellular host organisms and microbial symbionts. In this way, she has actively accompanied the paradigm shift in the life sciences in recent years, which, with the introduction of novel genomic analysis methods, has made the decoding of the molecular mechanisms in the relationships between host organisms and colonising microorganisms possible in the first place.

Moran and her research group have also characterised the specific gut microbiome of honey bees, providing a new and useful model system for understanding more complex microbial communities that affect organismal health. Their work on the honeybee microbiome and its possible disturbance by antibiotics and pesticides could eventually lead to a better understanding of the role of the human microbiome in maintaining human health. In a 2020 article published in the journal Science, she and her team described the development of a new strategy to protect honey bees from deadly mites and viruses by using genetically modified strains of bacteria.

“Nancy Moran’s successful and extraordinarily fruitful career has contributed significantly to bringing symbiosis research into the focus of modern life sciences. She has elucidated in an exemplary manner how microbial symbionts can contribute to the functioning of host organisms and entire ecological communities, for example, by providing their metabolic capabilities,” emphasises Bosch. “Her scientific achievements are therefore of central importance to our Collaborative Research Center and make her a particularly deserving recipient of the Kiel Möbius Award,” Bosch continues.

In her keynote talk following the award ceremony, Moran spoke on the topic “The world of insect-bacterial symbiosis: What we have and have not learned”, exemplifying the achievements of symbiosis research in the past decades and its further development potential for the future.

Renowned award winners
As a Kiel Möbius Fellow, Nancy Moran now joins the circle of distinguished international scientists who have been awarded by the Kiel CRC 1182 since 2016. These include the US researchers Professor Rob Knight from the University of California, Professor Angela Douglas from Cornell University, Professor Martin Blaser from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Professor Eugene Rosenberg together with Dr Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg from Tel Aviv University in Israel. The members of the Kiel Collaborative Research Center hope that their science prize will help to raise public awareness of the central importance of research into the interplay between host organisms and microorganisms for health and disease.

About the eponym Karl August Möbius:
In the second half of the 19th century, the zoologist and ecologist discovered the concept of biocoenosis in Kiel, which is the interdependence of different organisms within an ecosystem. Today’s metaorganism researchers in Kiel and their partners around the world are continuing the research direction pioneered by Möbius by further developing the concept of multi-organismic relationships and its significance for the health and disease of humans, animals and plants.

Images are available for download:
Caption: Professor Nancy Moran from the University of Texas in Austin, pictured here with CRC 1182 spokesperson Professor Thomas Bosch, received the CRC 1182’s Möbius Fellowship 2023 for her important pioneering work in symbiosis research.
© Christian Urban, Kiel University
Caption: In her plenary lecture entitled “The world of symbiosis of insects and bacteria”, Moran exemplified the achievements of symbiosis research in the past decades.
© Christian Urban, Kiel University
Caption: Prof. Moran accepts the 10,000 euro science prize of the Collaborative Research Centre 1182 “Origin and Function of Metaorganisms” from Prof. Bosch.
© Christian Urban, Kiel University

Prof. Thomas Bosch
Spokesperson CRC 1182
Origin and Function of Metaorganisms“, Kiel University
Phone: +49 (0) 431-880-4170

More information:
Priority research are Kiel Life Science (KLS), Kiel University:

Nancy A. Moran Research and Lab Group, University of Texas, Austin:

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