New Marie Curie Fellowships at IMBA
The awarded projects propose research on schizophrenia using brain organoids, cancer immunity, immune cell differentiation and the regulation of gene expression.
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) support researchers at all stages of their career, regardless of age and nationality. Researchers working across all disciplines are eligible for funding. The MSCA also support cooperation between industry and academia and innovative training to enhance employability and career development.
Studying schizophrenia in a dish
Understanding how modifications in the DNA sequence make individuals susceptible to complex diseases such as schizophrenia is an important and challenging question. Most of the mutations associated with such diseases are present in the “non-coding” regions of the genome that regulate when, where and to what extent a certain gene should be active. However, due to lack of suitable experimental systems, it has been difficult to address the impact of non-coding mutations associated with such diseases.
“Using the brain organoid technology developed in the Knoblich lab, I plan to investigate whether and how the mutations associated with such neuropsychiatric disorders impact gene regulation in the disease-relevant tissues,” says Jaydeep Sidhaye, who will work on his postdoc project in the Knoblich Lab at IMBA. “This project will benefit from our collaboration with Alex Stark’s group at IMP that has developed methods to study activity of multiple gene regulatory elements at once. Overall, this approach will enable us to understand the functional impact of non-coding mutations directly in the disease-relevant human tissue.”
“Sugar coated” cancer cells
In recent years, the treatment of unresectable cancer has undergone a paradigm shift with the advent of immunotherapy. Yet, despite the great progress made in the field, the majority of cancer patients still do not respond to the immunotherapies that are currently available.
“A major challenge for advancing immunotherapy in cancer is to move beyond the conventional immune checkpoint blockade and to identify new key immunoregulatory mechanisms,” says Stefan Mereiter, who will be joining the Penninger lab at IMBA to work on decoding the cancer immune response driven by the glycoproteome.
One of the prime cancer cell mechanisms whose immunomodulatory function is poorly understood is the aberrant expression of glycans. Glycoproteins and their glycosylation are at the forefront of cells, dictating their interaction with the environment and regulating their recognition by other cells. The complex process of glycosylation is altered during cancer progression and plays a critical role in shaping the microenvironment of the tumour.
“By using a combination of cutting-edge glycoproteomics, glycomics and immune profiling approaches in innovative cancer models, we aim to shed light on the complex interplay between the cancer cell glycoproteome and immune recognition. In so doing, we aim to identify new biomarkers and to provide new therapeutic targets for the next generation of immunotherapies.”