Microbial evolution comprises a continuum of processes occurring with differing tempo and pace. In some cases such as in the context of eukarotic microbes, the macroevolutionary time frame involves hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. In the case of prokaryotes, one can discuss changes happening at both the macro- and microevolutionary levels with time frames that may involve time spans from thousands of years to decades. The shortest time frames for microbial evolution are manifest in the genesis and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance determinants where events are developing on a time scale of a few years to months. Each of these systems provides unique opportunities and challenges to understanding and elucidating the mechanisms driving microbial evolution. Moreover, the basic tools for unraveling these systems exploit shared technologies encompassing genomic and post-genomic technologies, bioinformatics and molecular-based phenotypic analyses. The centre is integrative due to the recognition that common molecular mechanisms are operative and that thus, subdisciplines of microbial biology are no longer isolated fields of study.
The mission of CIME is ultimately to understand how microorganisms evolve and function as a result of interactions at the molecular, cellular, and community levels. Microbes are members of complex communities. It is through the study of interactions between microorganisms and their environment that we can elucidate the roles and relationships of genetic and phenotypic variation in shaping long- and short-term evolutionary processes, spanning the continuum of evolutionary time ranging from organelle development, via adaptation of microbial communities and the molecular origin of pathogenicity, to antimicrobial resistance, which is currently emerging as a serious threat to global human health. To achieve this, we will execute cutting-edge research in microbiology by uniting different biological and biomedical disciplines. Our strength is to combine expertise in organismal, evolutionary and molecular biology. A portfolio of selectively chosen model systems enables us to address fundamental questions on microbial biology in novel ways. In conjunction with this, we aim to develop new, advanced methodologies to assist these studies. It is essential that CIME bridge the cross-disciplinary barriers to create and foster an integrated approach to addressing fundamental questions in biology. The overarching goal is to generate an environment in which scientific excellence can be developed, maintained and fostered.