Meet the Fellows

Jonas Zaugg

I started my PhD studies in the research group of Prof. Christiane Albrecht at the University of Bern in October 2015. We investigated the function of placental transporters in the context of human gestational diseases. Since then I have been involved in the two TransCure projects SLC7 family amino acid transporters and Iron transporters DMT1 and FPN. In these projects, in collaboration with the groups of Karl-Heinz Altmann (ETH Z├╝rich), Jean-Louis Reymond (University of Bern) and the Screening, Profiling and Analytical Facility (University of Bern), we tested new compounds inhibiting leucine or iron transfer across the human placental barrier. The application of such tool compounds greatly extended our knowledge on the physiology of the human placenta. In the 3rd  phase of TransCure, we are focussing on the iron transporter project with the aim to develop trophoblast-based KO-models by CRISPR-mutagenesis and placenta-specific DMT1-KO mice.

Mey Boukenna

I am an MD-PhD student in the laboratory of Prof. Hugues Abriel at the University of Bern.  My current research focuses on TRPM4, a Ca2+ activated ion channel, permeable to monovalent cations. Its expression has been shown in the heart, more precisely in cardiomyocytes, as well as in a wide range of other organs. In the heart, TRPM4 seems to be involved in physiological endurance-induced cardiac hypertrophy, as well as cardiac remodelling. Numerous studies demonstrated that TRPM4 plays a functional role in the Ca2+ homeostasis of many immune cells such as dendritic cells, mast cells, monocytes and T lymphocytes, but also in endothelial cells and fibroblasts. Since most of these cells are crucial cell populations of the heart, my first goal is to determine whether these non-cardiomyocytes located in the heart express TRPM4 and what role TRPM4 might play there. It is a tremendous help and support to be a TransCure fellow, because TransCure brings together people with such varied expertise fields from an intellectual as well as methodological point of view. 

Florian Traversi

I joined the laboratory of Prof. Roch-Philippe Charles at the University of Bern in October 2015 as a PhD student. The laboratory has two main subjects: first focusing on in vivo-validation of the targets identified inside the TransCure organization and secondly, investigating the genetic drivers behind thyroid cancer, melanoma and more recently in glioblastoma progression using genetically engineered mouse models. During my PhD studies, I had the chance to participate in both of these subjects in the laboratory. Concerning the TransCure project, I had the opportunity, in collaboration with Novartis, to participate in establishing and performing a High Throughput Screening in order to find new modulators of LAT1. These modulators will allow us to investigate more deeply the effect of a LAT1 modulation in different cancer types and other pathologies.

Beatrice Bianchi (Alumni)

I joined the group of Prof. Hugues Abriel as a PhD student in June 2014. My work was mainly focused on the cation channel TRPM4 and its involvement in cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders. After I obtained my PhD, I joined the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research working as a clinical specialist in phase I/II oncology clinical trials. My daily work is a tight collaboration with colleagues from all over the world, and NCCR TransCure helped me integrate in an international, multicultural and multidisciplinary environment. Being part of NCCR TransCure enhanced my expertise in interacting with different experts with various scientific backgrounds, and this is now a fundamental part of my work.