For their outstanding doctoral theses in the fields of infection research and primate biology, the two young scientists Prerna Arora and Delphine De Moor have received the PhD Thesis Award of 500 euros each from the Sponsorship Society of the German Primate Center ("Förderkreis des Deutschen Primatenzentrums e.V.). Prerna Arora, who completed her doctorate in the Infection Biology Unit at the DPZ, was honored for developing a new therapeutic approach in the fight against the influenza virus, and Delphine De Moor for her work on the importance of paternal kinship relationships in Assam macaques. With the doctoral award, the Sponsorship Society supports young scientists at the German Primate Center and highlights particular successes in primatological research.
Prerna Arora received the award in the field of infection research for her doctoral thesis "Novel production system for influenza virus-derived defective interfering particles and analysis of antiviral activity", which she successfully completed in August 2020. As part of her work, she developed a system for producing defective influenza virus particles capable of inhibiting the spread of intact influenza viruses. These "defective interfering particles" arise as a natural concomitant during influenza virus infection and have lost portions of viral genetic information. Because the influenza virus mutates rapidly, the vaccine must be adjusted annually, and therapy with antiviral drugs has limited effectiveness. New approaches to combating influenza are therefore needed. Stefan Pöhlmann, head of the Infection Biology Unit at DPZ and supervisor of Arora's doctoral thesis, says, "Ms. Arora's work shows how intact influenza viruses are inhibited by their defective counterparts. These data will help to construct defective viruses in the lab that inhibit intact viruses particularly well and may be suitable for influenza therapy." Prerna Arora continues to be active in research as a postdoctoral researcher in the Infection Biology Unit after receiving her doctorate.
Also receiving an PhD Thesis Award was Delphine De Moor for her doctoral dissertation, "Kinship and sociality in wild Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis): are they related?" in organismic primate biology, which was successfully completed in February 2020. She investigated the influence of Assamese macaques' kinship relationships on their social life. It was already known that maternally related females form strong relationships and support each other during conflicts, while the role of paternal kinship in the development of social relationships was largely unclear. Oliver Schülke, who supervised the work in the Research Group Social Evolution in Primates at DPZ, explains, "Even in monkeys, blood is often thicker than water - there is a particular preference for the maternal line, with whom most female monkeys spend their entire lives in a group. The mother-child relationship is easy for conspecifics to observe in mammals. The father-child relationship is different, as all females ready to conceive mate with all adult males in the group during the short mating season. It's all the more amazing that Delphine De Moor has shown with molecular genetic pedigree analyses and behavioral data from our long-term field project in Thailand that female Assamese macaques also preferentially treat their paternal half-sisters." Delphine De Moor joined the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter, UK, as a postdoctoral researcher in December 2020.