GACR President’s awards

The GACR President´s awards is awarded by the President of the Czech Science Foundation since the year of 2003 as an appreciation of outstanding results achieved within projects funded by GACR and focused on basic research.

 

GACR President´s awards in 2020

Multiscale Nonequilibrium Dynamics
RNDr. Michal Pavelka, Ph.D., Faculty of Mathematics & Physics, Charles University, Prague

The project’s objective was to find a unifying geometric description of the development of physical systems on various levels of detail. The investigators identified procedures to reduce levels of detail, while still obtaining irreversible behaviours associated with an increase in entropy. The findings are being applied in research related to e.g. new, ultrafast-charging batteries, the possibilities of antivirus nanoparticles, and machine learning.

The Origins of Life on Earth and in the Universe
Judit E. Šponerová, Ph.D., Institute of Biophysics, Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno

The project made a fundamental contribution to how we understand the origins of the first molecules of genetic information on Earth. The project demonstrated that asteroid and meteorite impacts may have affected the creation of the first small RNA molecules. The project was also instrumental in generating possible scenarios of the origination of the first functional genetic molecules, composed of simple substances present on early-stage Earth, such as formamide, hydrogen cyanide, or formaldehyde.

Detailed Analysis of the Functions and Regulatory Potential, and the Subcomplexes, of the Subunits of Eucaryotic Translation Initiation Factor 3 in Humans
 Dr. rer. nat. Leoš Shivaya Valášek, DSc., Institute of Microbiology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague

The project explored the regulation of protein synthesis (aka translation), which is a process of the translation of genetic information – stored in the form of DNA in genes – into proteins. The investigators established how the eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF3) in humans ensures the assembly of ribosomal complexes in charge of detecting the exact start of the synthesis of individual proteins. This project’s findings are important mostly for the research of translation deregulation, which facilitates the progression of certain types of malignant tumours, and a number of other diseases.

The Bohuslav Martinů Complete Edition (BMCE) Phase 2
Mgr. Aleš Březina, Ph.D., Bohuslav Martinu Institute, benevolent association, Prague

The major contribution from the project is the critical publication of nine volumes of the works of Bohuslav Martinů – a Czech music composer of worldwide acclaim. The project served to assemble and publish a database of the sources which are key to the discovery and examination of his life and works, as well as the history of 20th century music in the historical region of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, the United States, France, and Switzerland. The project also opens up nearly 900 letters from the voluminous correspondence of this leading Czech figure.

Missing Links: Genome Evolution in the tribe Camelineae (fam. Brassicaceae)
RNDr. Terezie Mandáková, Ph.D., Central European Institute of Technology, Masaryk University, Brno

Camelina sativa (aka “gold-of-pleasure”, “false flax”, “linseed dodder”, “Siberian oilseed”, or “German sesame”) from the Brassicaceae family is an ancient oilseed crop cultivated in Europe as early as several thousand years B.C. This project was instrumental in the identification of the most likely parents in the family, characterisation of the genome structure of the five most closely related species, and the identification of the mechanisms of evolution of the genomes. The new findings provide the information necessary for the future cultivation of this significant crop.

GACR President´s awards in 2019

Ion beam modifications of graphene-based structures
doc. Ing. Zdeněk Sofer, Ph.D., University of Chemistry and Technology – Faculty of Chemical Technology

The project focused on the study of two-dimensional materials, especially graphene and layered chalcogenides and their interaction with ion beams. The interaction with high-energy ions leads to the formation of structural and chemical modifications in the irradiated material. For instance, oxygen functional groups in oxide graphene based foils are decomposed, which is accompanied by a significant increase in electrical conductivity. By using localized irradiation of the so-called ionic microprobe, it was possible to create complex conductive structures on a flexible non-conductive graphene oxide foil for various application in flexible electronics. The project also dealt with the interaction of ion beams with layered chalcogenides, where an increase in catalytic activity as a result of the formation of catalytically active defects on the surface of the material was observed. Several new graphene derivatives and other two-dimensional materials were synthesized. The results were published in prestigious journals such as ACS Nano and Angewandte Chemie.

 

Effect of gravity-induced stress on sandstone erosion: physical and numerical modelling
doc. RNDr. Jiří Bruthans, Ph.D., Charles University – Faculty of Science

The project dealt with the impact of stress in rock on weathering and erosion of sandstone, and the development of rock formations such as e.g. rock gates, overhangs, rock clocks. Rock stress is present in every rock on Earth, but its impact on erosion and weathering has not been given any significance yet. Physical modelling with sandstone from the Střelec quarry and other materials from the Czech Republic and abroad has proved that the stress field strongly affects the intensity of erosion, salt and frost weathering, and that it causes the formation of rocks. For the first time, we managed to simulate the formation of perfectly developed rock gates (e.g. Arches, USA; article Geology) and to model the rock formation on a computer (article Earth-Science Reviews).

 

The regulation of B cell receptor (BCR) signalling pathway by microRNAs
doc. MUDr. Mgr. Marek Mráz, Ph.D., The University Hospital Brno – Internal Hematology and Oncology Clinic and Masaryk University – Faculty of Medicine; CEITEC Masaryk University

The laboratory of doc. Mráz is focused on the study of B cell leukaemias and lymphomas, which are diseases arising from B lymphomas. These tumours are often created due to the damage of the molecular pathway that manages the production of antibodies in B lymphocytes, the so-called B cell receptor (BCR) signalling. The award-winning project described for the first time the existence of mechanism, by which malignant B lymphocytes attenuate BCR pathway activity, when their DNA is damaged. The discovered mechanism includes the p53 protein and the so-called non-coding miR-34a RNA and its target molecules. Measurement of miRNA level can also be used to predict a treatment response in patients witch chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and B lymphomas. Patients with no functional p53 pathway (approx. 15 % of CLL patients) have an active BCR signalling, despite chemotherapy, and choosing another treatment e.g. direct BCR inhibitors is highly required.

 

The role of social media in transformation of political communication and citizen participation in the Czech Republic
PhDr. Václav Štětka, Ph.D., Charles University – Faculty of Social Sciences – Institute of Sociological Studies; Loughborough University – School of Social Sciences (UK)

The project comprehensively mapped the process of social networks adoption for the electoral and non-electoral communication of the political parties and the individual politicians in the Czech Republic, and helped to a better understanding of the growing role that social media play in communication between citizens and political actors, including the factors that influence the willingness of the internet users to engage in the political process through digital technologies. The project captured the crucial period of the arrival of populist and alternative parties in the Czech political system and contributed to highlighting the key importance of social networks for these new political entities and their communication strategies. In relation to the use of social networks for political communication from citizens’ perspective, the project discovered, among other things, that virtual and real forms of participation are not mutually exclusive, but rather supportive, while revealing surprisingly significant differences between men and women in the intensity and character of online political participation.

 

Oro-pharyngeal interface: mapping gene expression patterns on the germ-layer dynamics during vertebrate primary mouth formation
Mgr. Robert Černý, Ph.D., Charles University – Faculty of Science

During the project investigation, our team successfully discovered and documented the so-called pre-oral intestine in the embryonic development of ray-finned fish. This enigmatic structure was by the classics in the field expected to appear in our common ancestors, but it has not yet been discovered in any of the currently living vertebrates. The bichirs, sturgeons and gars that we studied retained this archaic feature in the early development of their unique larvae, which other vertebrate lines lost in ancient evolution in connection to the increase of amount of egg yolks in their eggs. Thus, the studied species represent a unique evolutionary-developmental model, and our work, published in Nature journal, has shown that this embryonic domain represents an up-to-now unsuspected contribution of the inner germ cell layer (entoderm) to the head surface.

 

GACR President´s awards in 2018

Design of new functional materials, and pathways for their atom-by-atom preparation, using advanced computer modelling
doc. Ing. Jiří Houška, University of West Bohemia in Pilsen – Faculty of Applied Sciences

The project’s subject is using advanced simulation techniques to design novel functional materials and pathways for their preparation in the form of thin films (micrometres at maximum). Materials should show the most important features simultaneously, such as transparency, hardness, electrical conductivity or photoactivity. The aim was also to design and test in the experimental part of the project such procedures that allow large-area low-temperature preparation of materials under conditions favourable to industry. The theoretical part of the project included calculations of structures and properties of materials and modelling the growth of thin films atom by atom in different conditions. A part of the project was also modelling of discharge plasma, in which thin film formation takes place. Some modelling algorithms were apparently used for the first time. The results of the project were published in 8 articles in key subject journals.

 

Access to unique modulators of adenylyl cyclase
Mgr. Jakub Švenda, Ph.D., Masaryk University – Faculty of Science

The aim of the project was the preparation of forskolin and its synthetic analogues. Forskolin is a natural substance with significant biological activity – it is an organic molecule that binds to the enzyme adenylyl cyclase. Adenylyl cyclases are an essential part of human biology such as embryogenesis, cardiac activity or aging processes. The project succeeded in developing the chemical synthesis of forskolin, which is currently the shortest published preparation of this structurally complex molecule. This strategy made it possible to prepare several unique forskolin analogues which exhibit significantly different selectivity in the cells to different forms of adenylyl cyclase. Some of the results of this chemical-biological research were published in the journal Angewandte Chemistry, and scientists are working to complete the synthesis of second generation forskolin analogues. In close cooperation with biologists, they have the ambition to make the most of the biomedical potential of this natural substance.

 

In vitro, in vivo and in silico study on overcoming bacterial resistance via combination of antibiotics with silver nanoparticles and silver compounds
doc. RNDr. Aleš Panáček, Ph.D., Palacký University in Olomouc – Faculty of Science

The research team investigated one of the biggest current problems in healthcare: overcoming the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics with the use of silver. Scientists added nano-silver to ineffective antibiotics and discovered that it is possible to restore their therapeutic effect at a very low concentration of silver that is harmless to human cells. Silver nanoparticles, however, lose their antibacterial effect if they aggregate into larger units – aggregates. This weakness was also revealed by bacteria in the development of resistance to nano-silver. By producing bacterial flagellins, they cluster silver nanoparticles, losing biological activity. However, the resistance can be overcome by adding natural substances, such as pomegranate bark extract, which block the production of flagellin. The description of the mechanism of formation and overcoming of the resistance of bacteria to nano-silver is also the greatest benefit of the project, which was published in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology.

 

Václav Hollar: Drawing
PhDr. Alena Volrábová, Ph.D., National Gallery in Prague

The aim of the project was to discover, scientifically elaborate and publish all drawings of one of the most important graphic artists and cartoonists of the 17th century – Václav Hollar. Most of the artist’s drawings are placed in collections in Europe and North America. All of them had to be examined, expertly assessed, documented in detail and published in chronological order. In addition, Alena Volrábová discovered 53 other drawings that she assigned to Hollar’s work. On the other hand, some drawings were excluded from the artist’s oeuvre based on a research. The result of the project is a monograph – a catalogue raisonné of all Václav Hollar’s known drawings in Czech and English versions, which also includes the artist’s biography based on archival surveys and other specialized articles. The book is now the basic source for all who will pursue the work of Václav Hollar. An article in the world’s most prestigious Master Drawings magazine has also been published.

 

The role of hemoglobin in tick metabolism and transmission of tick-borne pathogens
RNDr. Petr Kopáček, CSc., The Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences – Institute of Parasitology

The project examined the physiology of the digestive system of ticks. Scientists discovered the mechanisms by which ticks cope with an enormous excess of potentially toxic heme and iron from host blood. During the evolution of its parasitic way of life, ticks have lost the ability to synthesize heme and at the same time are unable to obtain iron by heme degradation, which makes them is fundamentally different from most organisms on Earth. The researchers used a unique method of artificial membrane suction of ticks on bovine blood and hemoglobin-free serum. Basic research on sucking and digestion of host blood in the future should lead to precisely targeted anti-tick agents and vaccines to combat ticks and tick-borne diseases (e.g. Lyme disease). The scientific community greatly appreciates the work of Petr Kopáček’s team on a project whose results have been published in 19 world periodicals.

 

 

GACR President´s awards in 2017

The archaeologist Gabriela Blažková described ‘’treasures’’ found in the renaissance waste pits at the Prague Castle
Mgr. Gabriela Blažková, Ph.D.
The project of archaeologist Gabriela Blažková from the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences was aimed at the treasures found at the bottom of the renaissance sink water pit at the Prague Castle. During the course of the project, more than 680 pieces of crockery and 250 pieces of glass objects were found. The main outcome of this project is a bilingual (Czech-English) monograph covering all the findings and their usage.

Jiří Kopáček: Natural course of forest regeneration after the bark beetle infestation as the best solution for protected mountain forest areas
Prof. Ing. Jiří Kopáček, Ph.D.
The foremost Czech hydro-biologist Professor Jiří Kopáček was researching the effects of the bark beetle calamity in 2004 on the forest, soil and water ecosystems of the Šumava region in the Czech Republic. The project lasted five years and scientists from three different institutions in the Czech Republic collaborated on it. The project results show that non-interference and natural course of forest regeneration should be considered as one of the most effective ways of forestation in the areas affected by the bark beetle.

Project of Ivana Orlitová provided better understanding of the space’s creation and development
Mgr. Ivana Orlitová, Ph.D.
Dr Ivana Orlitová from the Institute of Astronomy of the Czech Academy of Sciences specialises in observing galaxies and active galactic nuclei in optical and ultraviolet field. In cooperation with an international team of scientists, Dr Ivana Orlitová was able to prove the existence of ionising radiation escape from galaxies and thus contribute to solving one of the fundamental astronomical questions concerning the sources of radiation which ionised the cosmos in its beginnings. The scientist primarily concentrated on the hypothesis that the ionisation was caused by the largest stars in galaxies. The young scientist was granted the possibility to use the Hubble telescope located in the Earth’s orbit. The scientific team has chosen five compact dwarf galaxies for the observations. The observations during the course of the project proved the existence of ionising radiation escape in all five monitored dwarf galaxies which is thus far the most significant confirmation of this phenomenon.

Project of the Czech molecular-biologist Michaela Rumlová brought new hope for HIV patients
Dr. Ing. Michaela Rumlová
Project of the Czech molecular-biologist Michaela Rumlová, who is currently working at the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague, is aimed at the characterisation of interactions necessary for the creation of retroviral particles and for the development of methods of testing HIV inhibitors. Michaela Rumlová’s team was able to solve the detail structure of the HIV retroviral particles. This will enable scientists to work directly on substances which can inhibit the composition of retroviral particles. In the scope of this project, scientists developed an effective large-scale screening method, which was also patented.

Professor Lukáš Sekanina developed unique methods for evolutionary design of complex digital circuits at global leve
Prof. Ing. Lukáš Sekanina, Ph.D.
Professor Lukáš Sekanina, an expert in the field of computer systems, who is currently working at the Faculty of the information technologies in Brno, and his team developed new methods which enable the optimisation of digital circuits used in computer architectures. The research of Professor Lukáš Sekanina proved that it is possible to evolutionarily devise complicated electronic circuits. The results of this praised project aroused large response even abroad. The results were published and quoted worldwide in artificial and computational intelligence publications.

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