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Prestigious EMBO Fellowships for two IMP postdocs

15 Jan 2024
Vytaute Boreikaite (left) and Andreea Gheorghita (right) (credit: IMP)

EMBO Postdoctoral Fellowships support early-career researchers for up to two years. Vytaute Boreikaite, postdoc with Clemens Plaschka, and Andreea Gheorghita, postdoc with Tim Clausen, were awarded an EMBO Postdoctoral Fellowship for their innovative research on the maturation of mRNA and antimicrobial compounds, respectively.

EMBO supports researchers in laboratories throughout Europe and the world, with a key international component. In addition to research funding, the Postdoctoral Fellowship programme offers leadership courses and networking opportunities. Two postdocs at the IMP were now awarded EMBO Fellowships.

How cells cut mRNA clutter

Vytaute Boreikaite conducted her doctoral studies at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, in the lab of Lori Passmore. For her PhD, she investigated the machinery that initiates the modifications that turn a pre-mRNA molecule into a mature mRNA, encoding a functional protein. She met IMP group leader Clemens Plaschka at the Microsymposium on RNA Biology, a flagship event for RNA research organised annually at the Vienna BioCenter. In Plaschka’s research, Boreikaite found a perfect match for her ambitions. Her postdoc focuses on splicing, a process that involves the selective excision of sequences in pre-mRNA molecules. The spliceosome, a complex of proteins and RNA, takes on this difficult task, occasionally introducing errors that may prove dangerous for the cell. With support from EMBO, Boreikaite will use cryo-electron microscopy and other technologies to study how these defects occur in human cells, and how they are detected and fixed.

Targeting the proteins of Gram-negative bacteria

Before joining the IMP, Andreea Gheorghita developed a solid expertise in microbiology of Gram-negative bacteria – a group of bacteria with relatively thin cell walls – at the University of Toronto. She completed her PhD with P. Lynne Howell, using precision genetic engineering to investigate biofilm formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic human pathogen. Upon the publication of Tim Clausen’s proof-of-concept study on the BacPROTAC technology, Gheorghita contacted him to explore the possibility of expanding this technology to Gram-negative bacteria. So far, BacPROTACs have only been designed to target the proteins of Gram-positive bacteria and mycobacteria – bringing Gram-negative pathogens to the picture would broaden the potential of this technology as a future antimicrobial strategy. With her expertise in genetics and support from EMBO, Gheorghita aims to identify candidate systems in P. aeruginosa’s protein homeostasis that can be hijacked for developing antimicrobial therapies.