Our fellows and their projects

Approximately 100 postdoctoral researchers will be employed under the Scientia Fellows international fellowships programme until 2024. They are all excellent experienced researchers and cover different research fields. Here you can read about their various projects. 

Puneet Rawat

Country of origin: India
Host: Dr. Victor Greiff
Group: Computational and Systems Immunology (Greifflab)
Thematic area: Computational Immunology
Project title: Unravelling the key to antibody-antigen interactions using artificial intelligence.

My project

Antibodies are part of the immune system that identify and neutralize foreign objects such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses. They are also a part of the immune response generated by vaccines. Due to their high specificity towards antigen, they are also considered promising protein-based therapeutic candidates. Currently, there are 79 antibodies approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA ) for various diseases and hundreds are in clinical trials. However, the antibody research is limited due to high experimental cost and time consuming experiments. Many antibodies also face developability hurdles. Our lab aims to understand the biological phenomena of antigen-antibody interaction and incorporate machine learning/deep learning methods for their real world application.

We aim to revolutionize the health technology field by developing robust machine learning/deep learning methods on large scale data for computer-based screening of antibodies, vaccine development and early detection of developability issues. It can significantly reduce the cost and time to develop new antibody-based therapeutics/vaccines.

Georgina Faura Muñoz

Country of origin: Spain
Host: Lars Eide
Group: Mitogroup, Institute of Clinical Medicine
Thematic area: Mitochondrial integrity (Ophthalmology)
Project title: The impact of mitochondrial integrity in human retinal pigmented epithelium function; from an hypothesis to a sensing application

My project

Age-related macular degeneration is the cause for vision loss to millions of people in the industrialized world. One of the most promising options for its treatment is the implantation of retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) to ease the regeneration of the damaged tissue. However, reliable non-destructive methods to assess the quality of the cells before transplantation are needed. During this project, we will determine how mitochondrial integrity affects RPE function and we will use the found correlations to develop a machine-learning-powered sensor array to non-destructively asses RPE quality in culture using the apical and basolateral supernatants of the culture as only sample.

The sensing technology developed during this project will ease the quality assessment of RPE before transplantation in a rapid and non-destructive way.

Anna Katharina Frank

Portrait of Anna Katharina Frank

Country of origin: Germany
Host: Tom Hemming Karlsen
Group: Experimental Hepatology
Thematic area: Immunology
Project title: Inflammation in liver disease. 
Liver immunology studies using a bile duct on a chip.

My project

Studies of the bile duct immunology are essential for developing immune based therapies seeking to treat life threatening liver diseases such as primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and primary biliary cholangitis (PBS).

We are aiming to develop an in vitro perfused bile duct system with primary human and/or murine cells. The system will be perfused with bile and immune cells to establish an in vitro system closely modelling the in vivo situation in patients and mice. We will use the chip to model the interaction of bile with cholangiocytes and immune cells, and to modulate immunologic processes with pharmacological agents.

Cécile Echalier

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Country of origin: France
Host: Stefan Krauss 
Group: Hybrid Technology Hub - Centre of Excellence
Thematic area: Microphysiological systems
Project title: Organ-on-a-chip: Development of an integrated pancreas-on-a-chip.

My project

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or does not respond effectively to insulin. With over 422 million people with diabetes worldwide, there is an urgent need for prevention and improved treatment.

The development of a miniaturized pancreas model, called “pancreas-on-a-chip”, would provide insight into this disease and would help to identify drugs to regulate insulin levels in the body. I am working at the development of a pancreas-on-a-chip by engineering a real-time insulin sensor and a biomaterial suitable for long-term preservation of insulin-producing islets.

Mathias Busek

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Country of origin: Germany
Host: Prof. Stefan Krauss
Group: Hybrid Technology Hub - Centre of Excellence
Thematic area: Organ-on-a-Chip
Project title: Research Development and Validation of a Bio-printed Liver-on-a-Chip with integrated Vasculature.

My project

The liver is a key organ responsible for metabolism, detoxification and protein production. Developing an in-vitro model is therefore of interest when drug response and disease conditions should be studied in animal-free models.  Emerging technologies like microfabrication and tissue engineering promise the possibility to rebuild functional tissue ex vivo in an Organ-on-a-Chip system.

A major challenge in developing a Liver-on-a-Chip is the complex morphology and the different functional areas of the liver. This project aims to combine different microfabrication technologies and the advanced cell culture knowhow at HTH to develop and validate an in-vivo like model of the liver.

Cristina Zibetti

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Country of origin: Italy
Host: Prof. G.Petrovski
Group: Center for Eye Research, Institute of Clinical Medicine
Thematic area: Stem Cells, Ophthalmology
Project title: iPSC-derived RPEs: Investigation of the epigenomic contribution to the induction and maintenance of RPE cell fate.

My project

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in the elderly, affects the photoreceptors and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) in the macula of the eye, responsible for central vision. By leveraging a recently described workflow on stem cells derived, clinical-grade autologous RPE, I intend to identify sources of variability among transplantable RPE lines, to decipher, assess and tentatively correct, the relative contribution of the genome, in its predetermined and acquired configurations.

Induced RPEs may potentially serve as platform for disease modelling, drugs screening and genome-editing studies to instruct patient-tailored strategies of precision medicine for treatment of AMD.

Denis Reis de Assis

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Country of origin: Brazil
Host: Ole Andreassen and Srdjan Djurovic
Group: NORMENT - Centre of Excellence
Thematic area: Psychiatric Molecular Genetic
Project title: Modelling schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with hiPSC neurons and cortical spheroids

My project

Psychiatric disorders are a leading cause of disability worldwide. Despite being distinct diseases, schizophrenia (SCZ) and bipolar disorder (BD) share a number of mechanisms and risk alleles. Therapies based on drugs with more efficiency and reduced side effects are still lacking. The advent of iPS cells derived from patients and its neural differentiation has enabled to access human neural cells bearing molecular mechanisms of the disease. We will use iPS cell-derived neural stem cells, neurons, and brain organoids to identify mechanisms and characterize cellular phenotypes involved in the pathology of SCZ and BD.

Anna Pöntinen

Image of Anna Kaarina Pöntinen

Country of origin: Finland
Host: Prof Jukka Corander
Group: Department of Biostatistics
Thematic area: Bacterial population genomics and transcriptomics
Project title: Multi-layer omics to understand the evolutionary success of E. coli ST131 – ExPEC population genomics study

My project

Multi-drug resistant (MDR) Escherichia coli is one of the WHO global critical priority pathogens. Our current understanding of the evolution, selection and rapid dissemination of high-risk bacterial clones is limited.

The project aims to elucidate the underlying mechanisms that contribute to these features of successful bacterial lineages by characterizing population-level variation of the genome and transcriptome of the major MDR E. coli ST131 clone.

This data can be further employed in designing optimized treatment protocols that may limit the evolution and spread of high-risk clones and in predicting future emergence of resistance to last-resort antibiotics in E. coli ST131.

Annikka Polster

annikka polster image

Country of origin: Germany
Host: Marieke Kuijjer
Group: NCMM, Kuijjerlab
Thematic area: Network medicine
Project title: Patient-specific modelling of gene regulatory networks and association to clinical characteristics in Alzheimer's Disease

My project

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) leads to increasing problems with memory, thinking and behavior and, ultimately, death. It has become clear that it is necessary to personalize treatment. Thus it is important to understand what causes differences in symptoms and individual disease progression between patients. Gene regulatory networks are complex mechanisms that steer cellular function and likely malfunction in AD, but it is unclear how.

This project aims to analyze and compare gene regulatory networks in AD patients and healthy people. I will model disease-specific networks features and relate them to different disease characteristics to identify new personalized treatment strategies in AD.

Inga Põldsalu

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Country of origin: Estonia
Host: Irep Gözen
Group: Gözen Group - Bionanotechnology and Membrane Systems
Thematic area: Biomembrane interfaces
Project title: Impact of interfaces at nano- and microscale on the migratory behaviour of cellular or cell-derived membranes.

My project

Cells migrate to perform tasks essential for life and are associated with disease development. While migrating, cells continuously interact with the contact areas they establish on surfaces, and with their surrounding environment. Migration is highly dependent on how cells sense the interface they migrate on. Despite the known roles in cell migration, the materials associated processes at the interfaces between a migrating cell and its environment have received little attention.

This project will focus on soft- and hard matter solid interfaces, with the aim to fabricate substrates at the nano- and microscale to study their interaction with simplified, minimal cell models.

Kate Porcheret

Country of origin: United Kingdom
Host: Grete Dyb
Group: Norwegian Centre of Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies
Thematic area: Trauma related health
Project title: 2011 Utøya Island Attack: longitudinal sleep disturbance trajectories and intrusive memories in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

My project

My work is focused on the role sleep plays following a traumatic event on the development of post-traumatic stress reactions such as disruptive memories of the event (intrusive memories). During my fellowship I will be working on the Utøya Project: a longitudinal assessment of the survivors and their parents for the 2011 terrorist attack on Utøya Island. Participants have been assessed at 4-5, 14-15, 30-33 months and eight years following the attack.

I will be looking at how sleep changes in this population and how this might relate to post-traumatic stress reactions and other psychological problems.

Marta Sanz Gaitero

Country of origin: Spain
Host: Hartmut Luecke
Group: Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway (NCMM)

Thematic area: Gastric cancer therapy: Helicobacter pylori eradication
Project title: Structure-Function studies and inhibitor discovery targeting the cytoplasmic urease from H. pylori

My project

Helicobacter pylori infects about 50% of the world’s population, being chronic colonization of the stomach associated with several gastric diseases, including gastric carcinoma.

H. pylori is able to colonize the acidic environment of the mammalian stomach via the mechanism of acid acclimation, involving a proton-gated plasma-membrane urea channel and a urease that hydrolyses urea into NH3 and CO2, that buffer the low pH caused by gastric acid, allowing the bacteria to survive. The effectivity of 25 previously-identified urease inhibitors to reduce the growth of live H. pylori in low pH conditions will be tested. The mechanism of action of these compounds will be elucidated and the possible adverse effects of these compounds will be determined.

Sakshi Singh

Country of origin: India
Host: Prof. Anne Simonsen
Group: Simonsen´s lab
Thematic area: Bioinformatics in Autophagy
Project title: Lipid Binding proteins in autophagy; molecular mechanisms and links to disease (AUTOLIPID)

My project

Living organisms are able to eat parts of themselves in order to survive. This involves activation of a process called macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy), which facilitates degradation of cellular components to provide breakdown products needed to support metabolism, as well as removal of deleterious components (e.g. damaged organelles and microbial invaders).

Autophagy is crucial for the normal development of cells and organs, but defects in autophagy have also been linked to various diseases, such as Cancer, neurodegeneration, Crohn’s disease, liver diseases and metabolic syndrome. Characterization of molecular mechanisms of autophagy can provide insight that will pave the way for the development of specific autophagy-modulating drugs, which could effectively treat or even cure many devastating diseases.

Our understanding of the hierarchy of autophagy-related proteins have increased significantly, however very little is known about the lipids involved, their interaction with the autophagic protein machinery and how these are regulated under various metabolic conditions and in disease. 

In the current project I will use various bioinformatic tools in combination with molecular cell biology and biochemistry to characterize candidates identified in these screens with an aim to reveal novel interactions between lipids and proteins in autophagy and understand their regulation and importance in health and disease.

Wietske van der Ent

Country of origin: The Netherlands
Host: Camila Esguerra
Group: Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway (NCMM)
Thematic area: Neuroscience
Project title: Dysfunctional SLC6A1: investigating the link between genotypes and phenotypes.

My project

In a healthy brain, GABA transporter 1 (GAT-1, encoded by SLC6A1) is expressed on neuronal cell membranes, where it takes up GABA neurotransmitter and transports it back into the neuron, readying the neuron to signal again. Mutations in SLC6A1 perturb GAT-1 function, impairing its ability to clear GABA after the neuron has fired.

Most individuals carrying SLC6A1 mutations develop epilepsy and suffer from developmental/intellectual disabilities. How SLC6A1 mutations lead to these symptoms and to what extent they will respond to current medications is unclear.

We aim to develop zebrafish models for SLC6A1-linked neuropathies, and perform drugscreens to identify potential therapeutics.

Weiqiu Cheng

Country of origin: China
Host: Ole Andreassen
Group: NORMENT - Centre of Excellence 
Thematic area: Biostatistics
Project title: Applying machine learning tools to reveal the molecular genetic underpinnings of psychiatric disorders

My project

Psychiatric disorders are known as a significant public health problem. Although recent GWAS studies have identified several risk genes. However, the disorders are polygenic(determined by polygenes), with numerous small genetic effects which are difficult to capture with current sample size and traditional methods.(PBS).

Here we aim to identify the genetic basis of psychiatric disorders using an integrated approach building on Norwegian biobank and registry samples, GWAS data, large hospital samples and our novel biostatistical methods. The analytical tools can quantify polygenic overlap and detect weak genetic effects, and identify the polygenic architecture and discover specific shared gene loci.

Filipa Vaz

Country of origin: Portugal
Host: Rasmus Iversen
Group: Ludvig Sollid Group
Thematic area: Immunology
Your research project title: From gut to bone marrow: linking mucosal and systemic immune responses

My project

Our gut is constantly exposed to potentially harmful substances, including bacteria and food antigens, which stimulate the immune system.
Gut immune responses give rise to antibodies that may protect us from infection both locally and systemically. However, we do not understand how local immune responses in the gut are connected to systemic antibody production. This knowledge will be important for future development of efficient oral vaccines.

My project aims to understand how immune responses in the gut contribute to systemic immunity. I study if gut antibody responses give rise to bone marrow plasma cells that secrete antibodies into the circulation.

Annika Krutto

Picture

Country of origin: Estonia
Host: Prof Magne Thoresen
Group: Department of Biostatistics
Thematic area: Biostatistics and Biomathematics
Project title: Advancing Frontiers in the Use of Graphical Models for High-Dimensional Biomedical Data

My project

The sustainable development of medical and information technologies has enabled a large number of relational data on individual's diseases, medicaments, genes, proteins, chemical compounds, environmental features, etc. Having access to such large-scale data attracts the attention to promising issues such as preventive medicine and personalized healthcare. Our research objective is to provide innovative approaches for discovering knowledge in biobanks (at the molecular dynamic and genetic levels) via exploiting the state of art methods of graphical models.​

Vandana Ravindran

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Country of origin: India
Host: Prof Arnoldo Frigessi and Prof Tero Aittokallio
Group: Department of Biostatistics and Department of cancer genetics
Thematic area: Computational biology
Project title: Network approach to understand the etiology of complex diseases

My project

Cancer and other complex diseases cause yearly millions of deaths worldwide. Viruses are involved in the pathogenesis of many of the diseases including cancers. Interestingly, viruses grow easily in cancer cells making cancer patients vulnerable to infection. Thus, whether it is cancer or infection, the immune system becomes compromised. Different types of cancers require targeted treatment strategies to prevent the patient from a viral infection.

This project aims to address the relationship between selected cancers and viral infections, and design treatment strategies specific to that cancer type using complex network approches.​

Jonathan Arias

Jonathan Arias

Country of origin: Chile
Host: Jorrit Enserink
Group: CanCell - Cancer Molecular Medicine
Thematic area: Immunotherapy - CAR-T, CAR-NK development
Project title: Development of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) proteins against novel tumorigenic epitopes & evaluation of their functional antitumorigenic activity in natural killer cells. 

My project

The focus of this project is to develop off-the-shelf cell-based therapeutics. Particularly, natural killer (NK) cells containing a synthetic protein called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), which mediates an immune response against tumour cells. CAR proteins have become an increasingly popular therapeutic strategy for the treatment of hematological malignancies in recent years, and it has already dramatically increased the survival of patients with lymphoma. In this project we will generate a collection of new CAR proteins, and will use efficient immune cells as a platform for these developments, to further improve cell-based cancer immunotherapeutics.

The outcomes of this project can contribute to the creation of cell-based immunotherapies, which can positively influence the accessibility of patients to new therapies, the better understanding of general audience and society to immunotherapies, and cross-seed ideas and technologies to other research areas.

Amani Al Outa

Country of origin: Lebanon
Host: Helene Knævelsrud
Group: Jorrit Enserink Lab
Thematic area: Autophagy
Project title: Termination of Autophagy in a Multicellular Organism

My project

Our cells need to regularly sense and respond to their nutritional status to survive. When starved, cells activate “self-eating” or “autophagy” whereby they eat their own material. This provides them with building blocks essential for their survival. If this process becomes dysfunctional diseases might arise. Most importantly, this process should also be tightly regulated; however, little is known about how autophagy is turned off, especially in a multicellular organism. To address this, I will alter genes potentially involved in the regulation of this process in cultured cells and fruit flies, so that we can understand the mechanism of how autophagy is turned off.

This project will help us understand how cells regulate the termination of an important process for cell survival in all organisms and which when defective can lead to diseases. The identification of regulators of turning autophagy “off” can lead to the development of therapeutic targets to a variety of diseases including cancer.

Marlene Fyrstenberg Laursen

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Country of origin: Denmark
Host: Bjarne Bogen
Group: Cellular and Molecular Immunology
Thematic area: Immunology
Project title: Turning recessive epitopes into dominant epitopes: application to a universal influenza vaccine

My project

Each year, influenza viruses causes up to 5 million cases of serious disease and up to 650,000 deaths worldwide. The influenza virus have the ability to transmit between species and hereby cause severe pandemics. Furthermore, the viruses transmitted between humans undergo antigenic mutations, which give rise to seasonal influenza epidemics. While today’s vaccines are efficient against homologues virus strains, it fails to protect against strains that have mutated and those from non-human sources.

A universal influenza vaccine will be groundbreaking in the international research field and lead to a paradigm change in vaccinology. The societal impact of an effective universal influenza vaccine will be invaluable, since this could decrease seasonal influenza-associated disease and death, and protect against future pandemic outbreaks.

Mathijs Janssen

Image of Anna Kaarina Pöntinen

Country of origin: the Netherlands
Host: dr. Andreas Carlson
Group: Department of Mathematics, Mechanics Division
Thematic area: Computational biophysics/mechanics
Project title: ESCRT-induced formation of intraluminal vesicles​

My project

The endosome, a membrane-bound compartment inside the cell, encapsulates cargo in nanometer-sized intraluminal vesicles (ILVs). Despite the essential role ILVs play in cell communication, with irregularities linked to diseases such as cancer, mechanistic models describing ILV formation are scarce and have overlooked essential physical mechanisms identified in recent experiments. We will develop a theoretical model of ILV formation that accounts for the coupled effects of adsorption/desorption of proteins on the endosomal membrane, elastic membrane deformations, and fluid flow.

Irregularities in intraluminal vesicle formation have been linked to different diseases, including some forms of cancer. A better theoretical understanding of such irregularities may pave way for the development of better treatments.

Timo Koch

Timo Koch

Country of origin: Germany
Host: Kent-Andre Mardal
Group: Mechanics group, Department of Mathematics
Thematic area: Computational bio-physics/mechanics
Project title: Advanced in-silico transport models for vascularized tissues with focus on the brain

My project

Project description: In my project, we develop and use computer models to advance the understanding of passive transport processes in tissue, that is, transport of substances in the blood stream, in the space between cells (interstitium) and across the capillary walls. In the proposed simulation framework, we explicitly resolve the microvascular network structure. We develop novel algorithms to enable the simultaneous simulation of blood flow and interstitial fluid flow. In combination with magnetic resonance (MR) simulations, (MR imaging being an essential imaging technique in the clinical workup of diseases of the brain,) we want to understand the effects of vascular structure and variability on the MR signal.

Understanding microvascular transport patterns is essential in the understanding of many aspects of brain function, therapy and imaging, such as waste removal mechanisms in the brain, targeted drug delivery, or the interpretation of MRI studies involving a contrast agent. Specifically, the simulation tools developed in this project might allow to infer physical and functional parameters from MRI data that are currently unavailable to clinicians.

Maurício Moreira Soares

Country of origin: Brazil
Host: Arnoldo Frigessi and Eivind Hovig
Group: Oslo Centre for Biostatistics and Epidemiology (OCBE) and Center for Bioinformatics
Thematic area: Artificial intelligence, Medicine
Project title: Big data and artificial intelligence for early detection and personalized treatment in head and neck cancer

My project

Head and neck cancer (HNC) involves aggressive tumors which are challenging to treat due to their high variability among individuals: a successful strategy employed for one patient may not work for others. Treatment may be extremely invasive and its impact on quality of life (QoL) can be devastating. We will analyse a unique data set of more than 10,000 HNC patients, including clinical, biomolecular, and QoL layers, as part of an international collaborative project on HNC, managing possibly the world’s largest cohorts of HNC patients.

We will apply machine learning methods on this existing but unexploited data set, with focus on the efficacy of treatment, prediction of clinical outcomes and prediction of deteriorations of QoL. Our effort is towards improving QoL and survival of HNC patients by delivering statistical models for personalized treatments.

Frans Suurs

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Country of origin: The Netherlands
Host: Kjersti Flatmark
Group: Tumor Biology
Thematic area: Cancer biology and biochemistry
Project title: A theranostic approach to the identification and treatment of colorectal cancer liver metastases in orthotopic mouse models 

My project

Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of tumor-related morbidity and mortality worldwide. Around half of all patients with colorectal cancer will develop liver metastasis. However, many patients will not be eligible for surgery and will require other treatment forms for management of their disease. Targeted alpha therapy (TAT) is a new treatment modality based on the delivery of radioisotopes to the surface of tumor cells using antibodies which specifically bind to proteins expressed on the surface of tumor cells. In combination with a molecular diagnostic utilizing the same antibody, we may establish a pairing suitable for developing a "theranostic approach" to patient management using PET or SPECT imaging in addition to TAT.

Using molecular imaging to develop and evaluate TAT may facilitate its transition to the clinic, and will provide insight into the disease as well as this novel therapeutic strategy.

Paula Istvan

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Country of origin: Romania
Host: Trine B. Rounge og Torbjørn Rognes
Group: Centre for Bioinformatics, University of Oslo and Cancer Registry of Norway
Thematic area: Covid-19/SARS-Cov-2, Microbiome (Virome), Resistome and Cancer
Project title: BEffects of pandemic protective of Covid-19/SARS-Cov-2 measures on the human gut microbiome and resistome

My project

The gut microbiota is key for several metabolic and immunological process, while it is also relevant for the gut homeostasis and for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARG), the so called resistome. This project aims to study the effect of the extra hygienic measures adopted during this current pandemic scenario on the gut microbiota of humans and the impacts to cancer-screening participants using sequence-based approaches, in association with de novo assembly and functional annotation.

The project website, will communicate the main results to users and the research community. and any software tool developed will be shared on Github.​

Kevin Ching Wei Li

portrait of scientia fellow Kevin Ching Wei Li

Country of origin: South Africa
Host: Sunniva Siem
Group: Nuclear Physics
Thematic area: Medical radioisotopes and cell-damage simulations
Project title: Studying novel radioisotopes and the simulation of cell damage and photosensitizers. 

My project

Currently, most prevalent cancer treatments manifest a scale of biological damage to the human body which often rivals that of the cancer itself. Research into novel medical radionuclides, which enable a drastically reduced radiation does to the patient, will present a different regime in cancer treatment. Studying the production of such radionuclides is crucial as the limited access to clinically-relevant quantities is the primary reason this medical research is being impeded. Another topic of this our research is the simulation of cell damage, which may ultimately provide better models of medical treatments.

Research into novel medical radionuclides will present a different regime in cancer treatment as such radionuclides enable a drastically reduced radiation dose to the patient. Simulations assist our understanding cell-damage to ultimately provide better models of medical treatments.

Fekadu L. Bayisa

portrait scientia fellow fekuda lemessa

Country of origin: Ethiopia
Host: Manuela Zucknick 
Group: Oslo Centre for Biostatistics and Epidemiology (OCBE)
Thematic area: Biostatistics
Project title: Statistical learning for personalized cancer therapy modelling and prediction in pharmacogenomic cell line screens

My project

A major challenge in cancer therapy is the development of drug resistance by cancer cells, which they can achieve through mutation of genes in the targeted signalling pathways. Using drug combinations which target several multiple signalling pathways is one possible way to reduce drug resistance. Because drugs given in combination can work together to fight the tumour, this can even increase efficacy and decrease adverse side effects for patients. However, it is experimentally costly and time-consuming to screen all possible drug pairs to find effective treatments, because the number of possible drug combinations grows rapidly even for a few numbers of drugs. Thus, for the implementation of personalized cancer therapies the development of novel methods for predicting synergistic drug responses is needed.

This project is aimed at developing statistical learning methods, which will integrate multiple heterogeneous data sources and predict synergistic drug combinations to improve the treatment of cancer patients.

Tamás Gábor Tornyi

Tamás Gábor Tornyi

Country of origin: Hungary
Host: Sunniva Siem
Group: Nuclear Physics
Thematic area: Medical isotopes
Project title: Searching for new methods in medical isotope production

My project

The need for stable, safe and economically affordable production methods of medically used radioisotopes has increased substantially in the past couple of decades. The supply of the most widely used radioisotopes in medicine are mainly produced by nuclear research reactors. These entities are being decommissioned at an increasing rate due to public concern of proliferation of nuclear weapons and scepticism towards nuclear reactors in general. To solve this problem we need to develop alternative production methods for medical isotopes. This project is aiming to expand and exploit the existing infrastructure for production of radioisotopes for imaging and therapy.

More cost effective and environmentally friendly production of medical isotopes will lead to higher availability. In the longer term, increased availability and a larger variety of medical isotopes at lower cost will lead to better health care.

Rakesh Kumar Majhi

Rakesh Kumar Majhi

Country of origin: India
Host: Karl-Johan Malmberg
Group: Natural Killer cell biology and cell therapy
Thematic area: Cancer Immunology
Project title: Characterization of the biochemical pathways regulating signaling from acidic Ca2+ stores inside NK cells (INSIDE-NK)

My project

Natural Killer (NK) cells can selectively eliminate cancer cells, as they can distinguish between healthy and cancer cells. Understanding how NK cells are educated to deliver fine-tuned anti-cancer responses is critical to develop new NK-cell-based therapies

During NK cell education, the secretory lysosomes undergo structural remodeling and a lysosomal ion channel is critical in this process. In INSIDE-NK, we will explore the calcium signaling mechanisms of lysosomes that regulate NK cell maturation, migration and fusion of lytic molecules to NK - cancer cell contact sites.

This project will contribute to increase the functional efficacy of NK cells, by triggering specific pathways, which can be harnessed in anti-cancer therapy.

Andrea Dalmao Fernández

Andrea Dalmao Fernández

Country of origin: Spain
Hosts: Hege Thoresen, Arild Rustan and Eili Tranheim Kase
Group: Muscle Research Group
Thematic area: Energy metabolism
Project title: Development of a 3D cell-model of myotubes as a useful tool to study the effects of n-3 fatty acids to counteract obesity and improve muscle functions.

My project

Obesity has increased dramatically in the last decades, becoming an epidemic disease, which affects more than 650 million people worldwide (World Health Organization data). Different lifestyle interventions such as an increased intake of long-chain polyunsaturated n-3 fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) may have a significant impact on whole-body energy metabolism, promoting body weight regulation by lipid metabolism conversion and muscle function improvement.

By studying myotubes from lean and obese donors establish in a 3D cell-model before and after 10 weeks n-3 PUFA supplementation, we will improve current knowledge about the impact of diet interventions combining clinical and basic research data.

The development of a 3D cell-model will help us to increase the confidence of the in vitro results as well as to improve the knowledge on cell and energy metabolism providing a better understanding of diet interventions related to a physiological environment.

Sergio Arredondo Alonso

Sergio Arredondo Alonso

Country of origin: Spain
Host: Prof. Jukka Corander, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo Prof. Stephen D Bentley, Wellcome Sanger Institute
Thematic area: Bacterial population genomics, evolutionary modeling
Project title: Unravelling the dynamics of multidrug-resistance plasmid dissemination in the nosocomial pathogen Escherichia coli

My project

Escherichia coli is a bacterial commensal pathogen representing the most common cause of bloodstream and urinary tract infections in the developed world. Emerging resistance against last-line antibiotics, hinders the treatment of life-threatening infections in endemic areas such as South-East Asia.

Many of these resistance genes are present in plasmids, bacterial sequences that can be horizontally transferred between different lineages of E. coli or even across distinct bacterial species. Using the latest sequencing technologies, we aim to obtain the plasmid sequences present at more than 14,000 E. coli isolates.

This will be essential to identify if there are plasmids conferring resistance to last-line antibiotics which are shared and transmitted between distinct E. coli lineages or isolation sources.

This project has the potential to reduce the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance genes mediated by plasmid sequences. Ultimately, we aim to provide novel targets to disrupt plasmid replication and/or transmission, with potential clinical and industrial interest.

Daniel Osorio

Daniel Osorio

Country of origin: Colombia
Hosts:  Marieke Kuijjer
Group: Kuijjer Group
Thematic area: Computational Biology
Project title: Towards identifying regulatory mechanisms driving breast cancer phenotypes by integrating multi-omic and multimodal single-cell data in a network-based approach.

My project

Towards identifying regulatory mechanisms driving breast cancer phenotypes by integrating multi-omic and multimodal single-cell data in a network-based approach.

c. My research focuses on developing tools to correctly modeling and detecting alterations in gene regulation driving diseases like breast cancer. I do this by integrating different kinds of single-cell data types (multi-omic and multimodal) using network-based approaches. My goal is to solve very foundational questions such as: What are the cell-type-specific changes in the regulatory architecture associated with breast cancer development?  What is the cell type exhibiting the most severe changes in its regulatory architecture during breast cancer development? What are the most consistent changes in the regulatory architecture across cell types associated with breast cancer development?

Answering these questions may help define therapeutic targets that in synchrony lead to breast cancer development. The identified targets may be subject to further testing, modeling, and cross-validation to delineate their role in a possible breast cancer treatment.

Natasha Josifovska

Natasha Josifovska

Country of origin: North Macedonia
Host: Prof. Goran Petrovski
Group: Center for Eye Research, Institute of Clinical Medicine
Thematic area: Stem cells, Ophthalmology
Project title: Generation of clinical-grade stem cell-laden 3D bioprint equivalents of the human cornea

My project

Human corneal blindness, due to injury or disease, severely affects the quality of life of millions of people worldwide. Currently, corneal transplantation is a promising way to treat blindness, being one of the most successful surgery types in the human body. A desperate shortage of donor corneas necessitates development of engineered corneal equivalents for restoring vision. 3D bioprinting is an emerging technology for development of scaffolds and manufacturing of stable and scalable corneal tissue equivalents for clinical applications.

In this project, complex 3D bioprinted clinical-grade hemi-corneal tissue equivalents will be produced with anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic properties and transplanted into organ cultured corneas. The tissue equivalents will be anatomically analogous to a human cornea with help of human stem cells, smart biomaterials, and collagen scaffolds.

3D bioprinting of the cornea is a potential solution that can alleviate the shortage of donor tissue with clear positive societal impact and benefits in treating corneal blindness.

Amini Salah-Eddine

Amini Salah-Eddine

Country of origin: Algeria (but living in France)
Hosts:  Ruzzin's Team
Group: Ruzzin's Team
Thematic area: Biology & Life Sciences 
Project title: Role of intestinal pregnane X receptor in inflammation

My project

Pregnane X Receptor (PXR) is a master regulator of detoxification and has thus a key role in protecting organisms against potentially harmful chemicals. Recently, PXR has emerged as an important modulator of inflammation. However, the mechanisms involved and the tissue-specific roles of PXR remain poorly identified. Indeed, the majority of PXR animal studies have employed total PXR knockout transgenic mice (PXR-/-), which does not allow determining the role of PXR in a particular tissue. In my project, my first objective is to determine how intestinal PXR modulates inflammation. To this end, I will use a new mouse model developed by the Host lab: mice lacking PXR specifically in intestinal epithelial cells (iPXR-/-). Furthermore, since microorganisms colonizing the intestine (i.e. intestinal microbiota) are known to regulate inflammation, a second objective of my project is to investigate the relationship between intestinal PXR and microbiota. Taken together, the findings obtained from my project will clarify the role of intestinal PXR and its impact on inflammation.

Intestinal inflammation has been linked to many chronic diseases -IBD, PSC, T2D- and a better understanding on how intestinal PXR can modulate and protect from inflammation will represent a substantial breakthrough that will attract great interest in the scientific community.

Gerard Boix Lemonche

Gerard Boix Lemonche

Country of origin: Spain
Host: Prof. Goran Petrovski
Group: Center for Eye Research, Department of Ophthalmology, Institute of Clinical Medicine
Thematic area: Regenerative medicine, Ophthalmology
Project title: Bacteria- and fungus- resistant 3D bioprinted human cornea for clinical transplantation purposes

My project

Human corneal blindness severely affects the quality of life of millions of people worldwide. Currently, corneal transplantation is a promising way to treat blindness, being one of the most successful surgeries performed in the human body. Transplants are, however, at serious risk for infection and inflammation, which can cause vision loss or blindness. A desperate shortage of donor corneas urges the need to develop engineered corneal equivalents with anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties for restoring vision. Antimicrobial Peptides have been demonstrated to be good molecular modifications in tissue engineering due to their broad antimicrobial/fungal action.

To avoid this issue, complex 3D bioprinted hemi-corneal tissue equivalents with anti-microbial/fungal properties anatomically analogous to a human cornea will be produced.

Benjamin Caulier

Benjamin Caulier

Country of origin: Colombia
Hosts:  Jorrit Enserink
Group: CanCell (Cancer Molecular Medicine)
Thematic area: Cell Therapy
Project title: Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) cell-based immunotherapy. Development of novel CARs directed against "hard-to-target" tumor-associated antigens for hematological and solid malignancies

My project

My research project is focused on the development of an innovative anti-cancer modality, the Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) therapy. This approach harnesses the potential of patients’ own immune cells to specifically kill their cancer. Practically, patients’ cells are transformed with an innovative receptor (the CAR) to be redirected against a tumor antigen. The main goal of my project is to identify novel “targetable” antigens and develop innovative CAR designs to address the impediments of current CAR therapy especially against solid tumors.

The project seeks to develop novel strategies for broad cancer immunotherapy, which may result in a substantial improvement in survival and quality of life for patients. In the long term, it may lead to reduced costs for health care providers. Finally, the project may shed light on specific cancer physio-pathological mechanisms as well as basic immune cell biology.

Håkon Høgset

Håkon Høgset

Country of origin: Norway
Host: Stefan Krauss 
Group: Hybrid Technology Hub
Thematic area: Microphysiological systems
Project title: Improve stem cell derived organ models through developmental induction and cell self-organisation.

My project

In this project we will use the latest advancements in stem cell technology and harness the remarkable ability of embryonic stem cells to self-organise during early development to improve the spatial arrangements of organ models. Moreover, the project will focus on developing novel methodologies to directly assess and control cell differentiations during early organ development.

This project aims to create improved human organ models for use in drug testing, personalized medicine and for regenerative medicine and organ replacement. This can contribute reduce the costs of drug development, increase the accuracy of drug testing and provide future tools for organ repair and replacement.  

Miriam Formica

Miriam Formica

Country of origin: Italy 
Hosts:  Helene Knævelsrud
Group: Jorrit Enserink
Thematic area: Autophagy
Project title: Autophagy Termination: Mechanism, Regulation and Functions

My project

Autophagy (Greek for self-eating) is a mechanism used by the cells to remove unnecessary material. Dysfunctions of this process lead to tumorigenesis. Currently, how the autophagy pathway is turned off is largely unknown. Shedding light on this aspect could represent a turning point in the fight against cancer. Therefore, this project aims to elucidate how autophagy is terminated and its relevance for tumors. I will use fruit flies to perform a genetic screen to identify key regulators of autophagy termination. Then, I will evaluate the role of the candidate genes in flies and human cancer models.

Elucidating how autophagy is terminated could lead to new scientific discoveries, paving the way towards better treatments for cancer patients.

Sofie Lautrup

Sofie Lautrup

Country of origin: Denmark
Host: Evandro Fei Fang
Group: Evandro Fei Fang Laboratory on ‘Molecular Mechanisms of Ageing and Age-predisposed Alzheimer´s disease’
Thematic area: Molecular gerontology and neuroscience
Project title: The NAD+-mitophagy axis in senescence-induced stem cell ageing

My project

Ageing is a fundamental inevitable challenge to humans, caused by multiple factors such as dysfunctional mitochondria, senescence, and stem cell exhaustion. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells while senescence (or cellular ageing) is an irreversible cellular growth arrest. During ageing the fundamental cellular metabolite NAD+ declines which is likely the cause of a series of ageing phenomena.  We propose that this age-dependent NAD+ depletion is a driver of defective mitophagy, a mechanism that clears the cell for dysfunctional mitochondria; impairment of the NAD+-mitophagy axis leads to accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria, which activate a variety of signaling pathways related to inflammation and cellular death.  Impairment of the NAD+-mitophagy axis could also be a fundamental driver for both normal ageing and pathological ageing (i.e., accelerated ageing diseases as exemplified by the Werner syndrome). Different model systems, including the roundworms, fruit flies, and patient cell-oriented stem cells will be used to address these scientific questions. 

This project may increase our understanding on the mechanisms of ageing, and hereby shed light on novel interventions or therapeutics to keep or increase people’s quality of life and happiness in their 70s and onwards.

Andreas Romaine

Andreas Romaine

Country of origin: United Kingdom
Group: Institute for Experimental Medical Research (IEMR) – Christensen Group
Thematic area: Cardiovascular research
 

My project

Heart failure is estimated to affect up to 64 million people worldwide. Fibrosis in the heart is frequent in heart failure patients and is a key driver of the disease. It causes stiffening of the heart muscle, which results in a fatal reduction in blood filling. Currently no therapy exists for treatment of fibrosis in the heart.

A lack of basic mechanistic knowledge regarding the receptors expressed by cardiac fibroblasts critical to their activation has hampered therapeutic target discovery. We shall identify specific integrin receptors that propagate fibrosis.

Nadine Parker

Nadine Parker

Country of origin: Canada
Host: Ole Andreassen
Group: NORMENT - Centre of Excellence
Thematic area: Neuroimaging
Project title: Genetic architecture of cortical and subcortical grey matter microstructure and shared implications for psychiatric disorders

My project

Neuroimaging research has produced a greater understanding of brain structure and how it relates to disorders. Although, the underlying biology that contributes to changes in brain structure observed in psychiatric disorders remains unclear. Genetic investigations may provide insights into the underlying biology of brain structure and mechanisms of disorders.

I will study the genetic contributions to neuroimaging measures of the microscopic units of brain structure. This will increase the understanding of genes, biological processes, and cell types that contribute to individual variations in brain structure. Additionally, I will explore the genetic overlap between brain microstructure and psychiatric disorders.

This work can provide insight into the underlying neurobiology that may be altered by psychiatric disorders. The implications of this research may inform future treatment and characterization of these disorders.

 

Parastoo Shahrouzi

Parastoo

Country of origin: Iran
Hosts:  Professor Vessela Kristensen
Group: Oslo University hospital, Laboratory medicine, Department of medical genetics
Thematic area: Genomic instability, targeted cancer treatment
Project title: Harnessing copy number alterations as an emerging area in the treatment of breast cancer

My project

Breast cancer (BC) is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Molecular classification of BCs has provided patients with more personalized therapy options. However, subgroups of patients are still difficult to treat. Hence, there is an urgent need for treatment improvements. Copy number alterations (CNAs) contribute to genomic instability, which is a leading cause of both inter- and intra-tumour heterogeneity. In my project, we take advantage of the observations from our recently developed machine learning method to explore whether specific focal CNAs, including loss of chromosome regions increase the sensitivity of BC cells to specific drugs.

The results from my project may be translated into clinical trials aimed at improving the treatment of BCa patients which may prevent overtreatment and unnecessary side effects. As such, it could not only provide physical health benefits, but also reduce the psychological and socioeconomic impacts of the disease, as well as the effects of modification on appearance and sexuality.

Luca Bordoni

Luca Bordoni

Country of origin: Italy
Hosts: Rune Enger
Group: GliaLab
Thematic area: Neuroscience
Project title: The role of astrocytic signaling in memory formation and spatial encoding 

My project

How can we remember the aspect of our childhood room? During the day, hippocampal neurons called place cells activate in every space we move through. During sleep, place cells prompt the formation of new memories by replaying their daily activity in a highly synchronized pattern (Sharp-wave ripples).

Yet, a crucial question is still unanswered: while sleeping, can other cells also tune this replay? Recently, it has been demonstrated that astrocytes, star-shaped cells with supportive functions, also modulate transitions between sleep phases and synaptic communication. In this project, we will investigate how astrocytes contribute to memory formation by regulating sharp-wave ripples and hippocampal replay.

The results of this study can shed new light on the importance of sleep in forming and retaining new memories. Moreover, it can equip us with basic knowledge on how memory functions, and how it can be  improved as a future target for treatment of memory disorders.