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In 2019 Matt, Mel E and Mel G launched the iPSzürich network. They are motivated young scientists who bring together three different institutes (Institute of Medical Genetics, Division of Metabolism (Children’s Hospital) and Institute for Regenerative Medicine, IREM) of the UZH. Since 2022 Ambra Villani (Department of Molecular Life Science), Vannesa Budny (IREM) and Beata Vekeriotaite (ETH Zürich) have joined the network. They all aim to build cross-institutional collaborations and expand networks across junior scientist working with iPSC in Zurich.
Matthew Denley is a PhD student in the Baumgartner lab based at the Children’s Hospital in Zürich. He is on the biomedicine programme to complete his studies in 2022. His project centres on elucidating cerebral pathomechanisms in the inborn error of metabolism affecting the enzyme methylmalonyl-CoA mutase leading to methylmalonic aciduria.
Matthew holds degrees in both nutrition and neuroscience and previously focused on stem cell biology and neurodevelopment. In his PhD, Matthew will work with control and patient induced pluripotent stem cells to generate multiple types of neural progenitors in 2D and 3D culture to better understand how disease-state metabolism effects cell in defined cell lineages. Matthew will additionally be required to generate isogenic-to-control cell lines using CRISPR technologies. After his PhD, Matthew hopes to continue combining his interest in neurodevelopment, stem cells and metabolism.
Through the establishment of the iPSZürich lecture series and forum with Melanie Eschment and Melanie Generali, Matthew hopes to create a strong network of iPSC researchers across Zürich that will lead to stronger cross-facility relationships, better practices, more collaborations and ultimately a more fruitful research output.
Melanie Eschment is a Phd Student at the Institute of medical Genetics in Schlieren, Switzerland. She studied Biological Sciences at the University of Konstanz in Germany. During her Master in Disease Biology, she started to get interested in 3D cell culture techniques; especially brain related models. Her first experiences with human neuronal models was at the Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA), where she worked on a 3D human in vitro Parkinson model. In 2018, she finished her Master degree at Roche Pharmaceuticals in Basel, where she implemented and characterized a human iPSC-derived 3D microphysiological in vitro brain model for the use in pharmaceutical research. In 2019, Melanie started her PhD at the Bachmann-Gagescu Lab, where she works on establishing a human iPSC-derived 3D brain model for a rare genetic disorder called Joubert Syndrome. As seen in the example of Joubert syndrome, classification of genetic variants is one of the biggest challenges in medical genetics. Therefore, another part of her project aims to test individual patient sequence variants in Joubert Syndrome genes using human neural stem cells.
Apart from growing “Brains-on-a-Dish”, she is committed in building a community of young scientists in the field of iPSC-research and thereby fostering new ideas, strategies and collaborations.
Melanie Generali, PhD
In the early 1960s, the key properties of stem cells were defined by Ernest McCulloch and James Till and presented a breakthrough that provided a steppingstone for future science. Melanie has discovered her deep interest in stem cells 6 years ago and it still continues and grows.
She studied biology first in Germany and later on in Switzerland. In 2014, she started her PhD at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM) of the University of Zurich. Her project involved the reprogramming of blood cells into iPSCs, followed by the differentiation into smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells. The final goal was the manufacturing of tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVG). During her postdoc she generated and purified clinical-grade iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes to regenerate ischemic heart tissue in close collaboration with the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA, Kyoto, Japan). Since July 2021 she is Head of the iPSC Core Facility at IREM.
Being able to see how scientific innovations can be applied in the future is what really drives and motivates her
Vanessa Budny is a PhD student in the Tackenberg/Nitsch group at the institute for regenerative medicine (IREM) in Schlieren, Switzerland. Her project focusses on the role of apolipoprotein E in human astrocyte physiology in the context of Alzheimer’s disease.
Vanessa obtained her master’s degree in medical biology with specialization in neuroscience and in science, management and innovation at the Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. She first got introduced to iPSCs during her master internship in the Nadif Kasri lab at the RadboudUMC in Nijmegen where she established a dual-SMAD-based NPC differentiation protocol to investigate developmental abnormalities in Koolen-de Vries syndrome patient cell lines. In May 2021 she started her PhD at UZH where she will generate APOE isogenic iPSC-derived astrocytes and neurons to investigate differences in pathways known to be affected in Alzheimer’s disease especially regarding the energy metabolism. By joining the iPSZürich team Vanessa wants to contribute to the exchange of knowledge between researcher and supporting especially junior researcher creating a stronger network within the field of iPSC research.
Beata is a PhD Student working on a collaborative project between the von Meyenn group at ETH Zürich and Froese group at the Children’s Hospital Zürich (UZH). She studies the epigenetic changes associated with rare inborn disorders of defective folate and cobalamin metabolism, collectively referred to as remethylation disorders. She uses iPSC-derived cerebral organoids as the disease model and aims to elucidate the key mechanisms underlying the phenotype of impaired neurodevelopment.
Her bachelor’s and master’s studies were completed at The University of Edinburgh (UK) and Karolinska Institute (Sweden), respectively. Prior to commencing her PhD, Beata worked with iPSCs in the context of diabetes research by differentiating iPSCs to pancreatic β cells. In addition to her work with iPSC-derived models, her experience covers the fields of molecular genetics and epigenetics, adipose tissue biology and nutrition. She joined the iPSZürich Organising Committee after attending the iPSZürich Symposium 2022 and getting inspired by the fascinating work researchers in Zürich and abroad are undertaking. Beata hopes to contribute to the work of iPSZürich by further facilitating interinstitutional scientific communication and providing scientists with opportunities to share their work, exchange ideas, and establish new collaborations.
Ambra Villani, PhD
Ambra studied medical biotechnology at the University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy) and completed her Master’s theses at Yale University (USA), where she continued working as a Postgraduate Associate. At Yale, she investigated the molecular mechanisms of the pathogenesis of different genetic cholangiopathies by combining approaches utilizing primary cultures in vitro with in vivo pharmacology in mice. In 2015, Ambra started her PhD at EMBL Heidelberg (Germany). She specialized in molecular biology and in vivo microscopy, employing the transparent zebrafish embryo as her model system of choice. By studying the clearance of apoptotic neurons by microglia in the developing brain, she uncovered the existence of the gastrosome, a new compartment in the phagocytic pathway. In December 2018, she moved to the University of Zürich (Switzerland), where she keeps investigating microglial dynamics in contexts of development and disease. In 2020, as a senior scientist, Ambra started working on the setup of a new model system to investigate the role of the gastrosome in human iPSc-derived microglia.
She met Melanie Generali, Melanie Eschment and Matthew Denley at the iPSZürich 2022. Being new to the iPSC field, she truly appreciated their efforts in bringing this community together. Now, with great joy she partakes in the mission of building an active network for scientists to exchange strategies and establish collaborations.
The induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lecture series, brings together early-career researchers (Undergraduate Students, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows) and experts working on exciting new innovations in the field. The main goal is to provide a forum to disseminate state-of-the art iPSC research, trigger free-ranging discussions and help to inspire ideas of current research projects in the field of iPSC technologies.
The iPSZürich Forum tackles practical issue PhDs and Postdocs face when working with iPSCs. The aim of this forum is to discuss the practical aspects of designing and managing iPSC projects.