The School has welcomed three new group leaders in recent months. They are currently establishing their laboratories across three of our divisions. Leeanne McGurk has joined the Division of Cell and Developmental Biology, Megan Bergkessel has joined the Division of Molecular Microbiology while Gabriel Sollberger has joined the Division of Cell Signalling and Immunology.
Leeanne joins the School from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia where she was a postdoctoral research associate in the laboratory of Nancy Bonini.
Leeanne’s lab is focused on understanding how the posttranslational modification called PARylation impacts aging of the brain. An emerging hypothesis is that PARylation regulates the function and solubility of proteins that are known to cause neurodegenerative disease. Leeanne’s lab will elucidate the mechanisms that link neurodegenerative disease proteins to the PARylation enzymes and will endeavour to understand the resulting biological impact. This aims to work toward a broad understanding of how PARylation is involved in brain function and to determine whether pharmacological strategies that target this pathway could have therapeutic potential in neurological disease.
Megan has joined the School following a post-doctoral research position in Dianne Newman's laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA.
Megan’s lab will study regulatory mechanisms that operate in bacteria that are not actively growing. This is important because non-growing bacteria are often not efficiently killed by traditional antibiotics, which can lead to devastating chronic infections. In the past, most microbiology labs have studied regulatory mechanisms primarily in growing bacteria, so little is known about how regulation occurs in growth-arrested states. Megan’s work on these growth-arrested states so far has led to the identification of a new regulator, and she hopes that better understanding of the differences between growing and non-growing cells could provide ideas about how to tackle chronic infections and the emergence of antibiotic resistance.
Gabriel did his PhD at the ETH Zurich under the supervision of Hans-Dietmar Beer, where he studied the mechanisms of inflammasome activation, pyroptosis and apoptosis of human keratinocytes. For his postdoc he moved to the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, where he started to work on another cell death pathway, the formation of neutrophil extracellular traps, in the lab of Arturo Zychlinsky.
Gabriel’s lab wants to understand how and why crosstalk between different cell death pathways occurs and what implications this crosstalk has on the clearance of infections or the development of disease. He will focus on innate immune cells, particularly neutrophils, and investigate, how they use cell death as a defense mechanism against pathogens.