International Microorganism Day 2022: Research funders supporting microbiology research 

Written by: Amrita Chowdhury

Why is International Microorganism Day celebrated on September 17?

It is very recently that the world started celebrating International Microorganism Day. The Portuguese Society of Microbiology (SPM) established September 17 as International Microorganism Day to commemorate the day in 1863 when Anton van Leeuwenhoek first reported his description of single-celled organisms to the Royal Society of London [1]. Though started recently, this day is now celebrated worldwide and supported by UNESCO as well [2]

International Microorganism Day: A day to celebrate microorganism’s contributions to society 

We celebrate International Microorganism Day to promote awareness of microorganisms and their importance to human society. Microorganisms, after all, existed on the planet way before humans appeared on the scene. We have used microorganisms for a multitude of activities that benefit human society, including using microbes for a better environment, a better quality of life, and better health for humans. Some examples of how microbes help us: 

  • Microbes are used as “cell factories” that help us produce chemicals [3] 
  • Microorganisms are an integral part of wastewater treatment [4] 
  • Understanding microorganisms that cause infectious diseases enables us to develop treatments and vaccines against these diseases [5] 

These are just some examples of the applications of microorganisms and how microbiologists and industrial biotechnologists help us better understand and apply microorganisms to improve our living standards (Fig 1).  

Fig 1: The many applications of microbiology, including food biotechnology, agriculture, wastewater treatment, drug and vaccine development, etc.

Alongside understanding microbes and celebrating the microbiologists who have worked hard to help us better understand and harness the powers of microbes, we must also recognize that the knowledge we have today did not happen overnight and does not come for free. Behind every discovery and every application are the research funders around the world that help make it possible for researchers to make amazing discoveries. On this International Microorganism Day, let’s take a look at some funders that support microbiology and microbiologists.  

Learned societies supporting microbiologists 

Microbiologists around the world have an active network of learned societies that support their members and advance microbiology research. Some examples of these learned societies and their initiatives that support microbiologists include the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS). FEMS is an umbrella microbiology organization, supporting over 50 member organizations in Europe. FEMS facilitates the advancement of microbiology research through knowledge development and networking activities. The Federation provides travel grants and funding to help microbiologists organize conferences that support researchers with their work and to build a strong community through collaboration. FEMS also funds awards such as the “Science Communication Awards” to recognize the public outreach achievements of Europe-based microbiologists. 

The Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM), the oldest microbiology society in the UK, supports microbiologists through all career stages, with funds for research projects, professional development, outreach and PhD scholarships.  

The Microbiology Society, also based in the UK, was formally established in February 1945. It is one of the oldest microbiology societies and had Sir Alexander Fleming as its first President. The society supports education and outreach grants, travel grants, research visit grants, society conference grants and many more.  

The Australian Society for Microbiology is a non-profit organization that works to support the advancement of microbiology in Australia. The society supports its members with travel grants and awards. Applications and nominations are due on March 31 each year. 

Organizations that support microbiology and infectious disease research 

When we discuss microbes, infectious diseases are inevitably part of the conversation. For clinical microbiologists and those working on infectious diseases, major funders such as the NIH, the Wellcome Trust, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, need no introduction. There are, however, many more funders making a concerted effort at improving infectious disease situations around the world, some of these are highlighted below.   

The Fleming Fund is a UK-aid program and supports more than 20 countries across Africa and Asia to combat antimicrobial resistance. This organization funds grants and fellowships at the regional, country, and global levels. The grant applications are accepted throughout the year and are reviewed on a rolling basis.

The Australian Society for Antimicrobials (ASA) supports researchers studying antimicrobials with grants and also funds scholarships and awards to advance the study of antimicrobials. ASA offers an annual research grant of up to $25,000 to its members. Priority for the research grants is given to early-career researchers having stand-alone projects and the principal investigator of the project must have been a member of ASA for at least 12 months. 

The International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (ISAC) supports antimicrobial chemotherapy research by funding project grants, research grants and fellowships. ISAC project grants are given to projects that involve at least two institutions and one of those should be from a low- or middle-income country. Projects that focus on low-resource antimicrobial resistance research are welcome to submit applications for project grants. The principal applicant must be a member of an ISAC member society. 

The TDR is a special program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases and is co-sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO). This global program supports the fight against the diseases of poverty by funding research projects focused on various infectious diseases. TDR offers region-specific research grants. 

 The Novo Nordisk Fonden is an independent Danish foundation with corporate interests. The foundation supports Danish and Nordic researchers and has a mission to progress research for the prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic and infectious diseases, support the green transition in society, and invest in scientific research. The Foundation funds research grants, innovation grants, and fellowships. 

Microbiology research funding: spread the word to facilitate the best research funding decisions in microbiology 

Microbiologists and microbiology research have contributed substantially to advancing many of the global sustainable development goals, and yet much more needs to be done. At scientifyRESEARCH, we are working hard to advance the global SDGs by facilitating the connection between research funding and researchers. This year on International Microorganism Day, we take the opportunity to present our list of funding opportunities in microbiology and related subjects, which is continuously updated to provide microbiologists around the world with the latest funding information. Remember to bookmark this page, sign-up for our grant alerts or our monthly newsletter, to always stay up to date with research funding information, in microbiology and beyond.

References 

[1] International Microorganism Day – Official Website, accessed September 9, 2022. 

[2] Microbiology Community-Official Website, Nature Portfolio, accessed September 12, 2022. 

[3] Cho, J. S., Kim, G. B., Eun, H., Moon, C. W., Lee, S. Y. Designing microbial cell factories for the production of chemicals. JACS Au, 2022. 2 (8), 1781-1799. 

[4] Waldrop, M. M. Microbes for better sewage treatment. PNAS, 2021. 118 (32) e2112863118.  

[5] Microbes and Disease. Microbiology Society Website, accessed September 12, 2022.