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NeuroTrans - Early Stage Researchers

Ana Sofia Alberto e Silva

Medical University of Vienna, AT

"I hold my first degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Integrated Master’s degree) from the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Coimbra (Coimbra, Portugal). During this academic period, I had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge in several scientific subjects, such as chemistry (organic, inorganic, analytical, and pharmaceutical), biochemistry, pharmacology, clinical pharmacy and pharmaceutical technology. At the final stage of this graduation, I wrote a monograph focused on the role of BACE-1 inhibition in the context of Alzheimer’s disease due to my growing interest in the Neuroscience field. After two years, I decided to start an advanced Master´s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology, with a specialization in Neurobiology, at the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra (Coimbra, Portugal). In this scope, my final Master thesis focused on the electrophysiological validation and characterization of pharmacological compounds, which were designed to target GluK2/GluK5 kainate receptors. This work was developed at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Neuroscience (Bordeaux, France)."

Nadal-Gratacós N, Alberto-Silva AS, Rodríguez-Soler M, Urquizu E, Espinosa-Velasco M, Jäntsch K, Holy M, Batllori X, Berzosa X, Pubill D, Camarasa J, Sitte HH, Escubedo E, López-Arnau R.
Structure-Activity Relationship of Novel Second-Generation Synthetic Cathinones: Mechanism of Action, Locomotion, Reward, and Immediate-Early Genes.
Front Pharmacol. 2021 Oct 26;12:749429. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.749429. PMID: 34764870; PMCID: PMC8576102.

Leticia Alves da Silva

Medical University of Vienna, AT

"I pursued Bachelor and Master in Chemistry at the Federal University of Uberlândia (Brazil), where I  started my scientific career. During my graduation, I became part of the Research Center on Natural Products, where I worked on metabolic compounds isolation from medicinal herbs using chromatography and spectroscopic techniques. From this work I wrote my monograph, and I started to be interested in studies of diseases treatment. Following my interests, I developed my research in the Laboratory of Crystallography and Computational Chemistry, investigating antigen-antibody complexes of proteins involved in Zika and Dengue diseases using molecular docking and semiempirical methods. Currently, my research interest is in membrane transporters, in particular, human dopamine transporter (hDAT). During my Ph.D., I aim to develop a comprehensive model of the transporter function of hDAT using advanced simulation techniques, such as metadynamics, calculation of the potential of mean force, and enforced rotation."

Zaid R. Anshari

University of Groningen, NL

"I studied Chemistry (biomedical chemistry) at the Institut Teknologi Bandung for my BSc. There, I developed an accurate and rapid diagnostic test for the Dengue Virus. I finished my Bachelor's thesis in the Protein and Enzyme group of Prof. Dessy Natalia to clone and express the Non-Structural (NS1) Gene of the Serotype 4 Dengue Virus in Escherichia coli.

After completing my BSc, I attended the University of Groningen and Institut Teknologi Bandung to obtain a Master's degree in Chemistry (Biochemistry). The Master's program enabled me to explore transport proteins through structural biology, biochemistry, and biophysical chemistry. For my Master's research project, I joined the Membrane Enzymology group at the University of Groningen supervised by Prof. Dirk Slotboom, where I studied the Biochemical and Biophysical Characterisation of Energy-Coupling Factor Transporter Complex with Nanobodies.

After completing my Master's I was determined to pursue my education further by taking an experimental PhD project where I could work on fundamental research in structure and function of membrane protein. My PhD project focuses on the structural and functional of neurotransmitter transporters. The project is established by Prof. Dirk Slootboom. My personal interests include cooking and baking, watching a variety of detective television series, listening to music, and exploring nature."

Colucci E, Anshari ZR, Patiño-Ruiz MF, Nemchinova M, Whittaker J, Slotboom DJ, Guskov A.
Mutation in glutamate transporter homologue GltTk provides insights into pathologic mechanism of episodic ataxia 6.
Nat Commun. 2023 Mar 31;14(1):1799. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-37503-y. PMID: 37002226; PMCID: PMC10066184.

Maity S, Trinco G, Buzón P, Anshari ZR, Kodera N, Ngo KX, Ando T, Slotboom DJ, Roos WH.
High-speed atomic force microscopy reveals a three-state elevator mechanism in the citrate transporter CitS.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Feb 8;119(6):e2113927119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2113927119. PMID: 35101979; PMCID: PMC8833178.

Manan Bhatt

University of Insubria, IT

"I come from a small city in India, and have a polychromatic background. In 2012, I was awarded a bachelor's degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering, from Gujarat Technological University (GTU), India. My bachelor's thesis focused on measuring mental stress using modern electronic technologies. Thereafter, for few years I worked at different positions in academic research. I moved to Germany in 2018, and started my master's degree in Micro- and Nanotechnology at Munich University of Applied Sciences (MUAS). Here I was exposed to applications of Nanotechnology in the fields of Biology and Physics. During my master's I worked as an intern at Nanion GmbH, Munich, with the thesis investigating protein transporters using modern Electrophysiological approaches.

Apart from the academic achievements, I have also excelled in extra-curricular activities. As a student, I have been a mentor, a department representative, the founder of a university level research club, an advisor for intellectual property rights for university projects, and have also organized national level technical symposiums.

I am also multilingual, who speaks seven languages: English (C1), German (C1), Italian (A1), Hindi (native), Gujarati (mother tongue) and two more Indic languages (B1)."

Romanazzi T, Zanella D, Bhatt M, Di Iacovo A, Galli A, Bossi E.
Bile acid interactions with neurotransmitter transporters.
Front Cell Neurosci. 2023 Apr 26;17:1161930. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2023.1161930. PMID: 37180953; PMCID: PMC10169653.

Bhatt M, Gauthier-Manuel L, Lazzarin E, Zerlotti R, Ziegler C, Bazzone A, Stockner T, Bossi E.
A comparative review on the well-studied GAT1 and the understudied BGT-1 in the brain.
Front Physiol. 2023 Apr 13;14:1145973. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2023.1145973. PMID: 37123280; PMCID: PMC10137170.

Bhatt M, Di Iacovo A, Romanazzi T, Roseti C, Bossi E.
Betaine - The dark knight of the brain.
Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2023 Feb 3. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.13839. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36735640.

Bhatt M, Di Iacovo A, Romanazzi T, Roseti C, Cinquetti R, Bossi E.
The "www" of Xenopus laevis Oocytes: The Why, When, What of Xenopus laevis Oocytes in Membrane Transporters Research.
Membranes (Basel). 2022 Sep 25;12(10):927. doi: 10.3390/membranes12100927. PMID: 36295686; PMCID: PMC9610376.

Francesca Romana Brugnoli

Elvesys, FR

Bachelor degree in biomedical engineering in Rome, Master Degree in biomedical engineering in Milan. Bachelor thesis on biosensors for interleukin and cortisol, Master thesis on fluid dynamics of red blood cells.

Anna Campana

University of Copenhagen, DK

Anna Campana was trained as a cellular biologist at University of Bari (Italy).

After obtaining a Bachelor Degree in Biological Sciences, she spent six months at the University of Córdoba (Spain) - Faculty of Biochemistry, as part of an Erasmus+ program.

In 2019, she started an annual internship at University of Bari - Department of Biosciences, Biotechnology and Biopharmaceutics, where she acquired the basics of stem cells research, employing iPSCs-derived cortical neurons and motor neurons to test the effect of Vitamin B9 on neuronal differentiation.

In 2020, she obtained a Master Degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology at University of Bari with a thesis entitled “Development of an innovative early diagnostic approach for tauopathies by intracellular detection of tau protein in cortical neurons obtained from adult stem cells”. The thesis work aimed at setting up and validating a rapid and reliable early diagnostic solution for tauopathies by using patient-derived human adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells (hMSCs), obtained from an individual affected by Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, differentiated into neurons. This strategy allowed visualizing post-translational modified forms of the tau protein, which are thought to be involved in the neurodegenerative process.

Alberto Daminato

NOVA University of Lisbon, School of Science and Technology, PT

"I graduated in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Technology in 2019 at Padova University after a nine months research project on synthesis and characterization of anticancer drugs against myeloid leukemia. After receiving my Master's Degree, I enrolled in the Erasmus+ Traineeship program and moved to Cardiff University in United Kingdom where I participated in a project aimed at produce and characterize new antitumoral molecules to target Notch receptor.

After this experience, I was hired at Cardiff University as research assistant. There I had the chance for the first time to lead my project, designing and synthesizing molecules against colorectal cancer. At the end of 2020, I enrolled as Marie Skłodowska-Curie Ph.D. student at FCT NOVA University of Lisbon, a position offered by the European consortium NeuroTrans. Now my research work is focused on the NMR based structural and dynamic investigation of the transport cycle of NSS

Judith Estengre Pérez

Hamburg University, DE

“My career in science began when I decided to study physics. In my eyes, the physics explains the rules of the world, why things happen, and how we can use them to our benefit. During the degree I learned an important lesson: multidisciplinary fields of science are the future, which is how I discovered the biophysics, my passion.  As a result of my finding, I conducted a fellowship in a Hospital as a radiophysicist. For my Bachelor’s Thesis, I worked on adjusting the parameters for a radiation beam of a linear accelerator of radiotherapy in a Monte Carlo simulator. Due to my personal situation, a few years passed before I started with the Master’s degree. During that period, I was working as a junior programmer and as clean room manager for the department of R&D and manufacturing. In both cases the experience was very valuable, but I really wanted to follow my dream with biophysics. When I had an opportunity and occasion, I decided to keep learning and I conducted the Master in Condensed Matter Physics and Biological Systems with specialization in Biophysics.   I discovered a number of fields that caught my interested, but I fell in love with neuroscience. Therefore, in my Master’s thesis, I studied how to redirect the cell fate of neural stem cells through electrical stimulation. After the master I keep on working on the same project in the same laboratory. For external reasons the project could not continue, but luckily, I found the NeuroTrans program, which would give me the opportunity to follow my dream of being a researcher. The first step to achieve that is to get a doctorate degree, hence continue learning.”

Laure Gauthier-Manuel

University of Regensburg, DE

"Ten years ago, I was still in middle school when I knew I wanted to wear a lab coat as a work uniform! My studies were like biking for the « Tour de France », not straightforward and always in a new place! From my small village close to Switzerland, I went to Marseille. I got my bachelor in biochemistry and biological chemistry where I have been fascinated by protein biochemistry and how we could understand their mechanism by biophysical methods. I returned to “the North”, in Lyon, for my master’s degree in structural and functional biochemistry. Finally, I moved to Bordeaux for my Master thesis about the in vitro study of the interaction Tau protein/biomimetic membrane by infra-red spectroscopy, in the Alzheimer’s disease context. Membrane, molecular pathways in the brain, biophysics, nothing was missing to apply for one of the fifteen positions offered by the Neurotrans ETN. In my project, I would like to understand the impact of the phospholipidic membrane composition on the structure and the function of two different mammalian GABA transporters hoping new molecular insights about those essential biological machines."

Bhatt M, Gauthier-Manuel L, Lazzarin E, Zerlotti R, Ziegler C, Bazzone A, Stockner T, Bossi E.
A comparative review on the well-studied GAT1 and the understudied BGT-1 in the brain.
Front Physiol. 2023 Apr 13;14:1145973. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2023.1145973. PMID: 37123280; PMCID: PMC10137170.

Iris Elpida Kalenderoglou

University of Copenhagen, DK

"I am a PhD researcher in the Løland group, at the Department of Neuroscience, University of Copenhagen. I am investigating the structure and function of human Neurotransmitter-Sodium Symporters (NSSs) in complex with CNS targeting drugs via cryo-EM (cryo electron microscopy) and pharmacological radioligand binding/competition assays.

I studied for an MRes in Biochemistry at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford. My studies involved the investigation of intrinsically disordered transcription factors and their interactions with DNA, through NMR spectroscopy and fluorescence polarization equilibrium and kinetics techniques.

I hold an MPharm degree from the School of Pharmacy, University of Athens. In my diploma thesis, I investigated Influenza A M2 proton channel structure and dynamics in different membrane environments by atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. I also completed an Erasmus+ placement at the University of Oxford, where I further investigated membrane-dependent clustering patterns of M2 through coarse-grained MD simulations."

Plenge P, Yang D, Salomon K, Laursen L, Kalenderoglou IE, Newman AH, Gouaux E, Coleman JA, Loland CJ.
The antidepressant drug vilazodone is an allosteric inhibitor of the serotonin transporter.
Nat Commun. 2021 Aug 20;12(1):5063. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25363-3. PMID: 34417466; PMCID: PMC8379219.

Despoina Kapiki

Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich

"I am a Medicinal chemist by training and in 2018 I acquired my Chemistry diploma at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with a specialization chemical synthesis and biosynthesis of natural products of potential antineoplastic activity.

After I obtained my Chemistry diploma, I joined University of Copenhagen’s Masters program in Medicinal Chemistry to further deepen my knowledge into drug design and pharmacology. During my master’s education, I found myself deeply interested in the chemistry of neurotransmission and the use of fluorescent techniques for monitoring protein conformational dynamics. I completed my Master thesis under the supervision of Anders Skov Kristensen on structural studies of glutamate receptors and investigated the mechanisms underlying the pharmacology of antiepileptic drugs or drug candidates with the use of electrophysiology and fluorescence-based techniques.

Through my participation in project 11 in Neurotrans in Prof. Cordes lab I have the opportunity to expand my knowledge in membrane transport by performing single molecule microscopy studies for the elucidation of molecular mechanisms of secondary transporters such as betaine transporter BetP and GABA transporter GAT1.

My participation in Neurotrans is key for accomplishing my ultimate scientific goal; to gain expertise in membrane transport and combine it with my pharmacology and Medicinal Chemistry experience for the identification of CNS drug targets and pharmaceutical development."

Erika Lazzarin

Medical University of Vienna, AT

"I graduated with a master’s degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Techniques from the University of Padua, Italy. I completed my master’s thesis with the Swiss-European mobility program at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to work on the discovery of novel small molecule-based treatments for Alport syndrome, a rare disease that inevitably leads to kidney failure. We designed a small library of possible antagonists for serotonin receptor; from the computational analysis, we then selected the two most promising molecules to chemically synthesize. I quickly became very interested in computational techniques because of their dynamical and interdisciplinary role at the interface between the molecular and biological worlds. In order to gain further experience in molecular modeling, I attended a six-month graduate research fellowship in a biotech company, in collaboration with the University of Padua. The project focused on the computational study of voltage-gated potassium channels involved in epilepsy. The presence of underlying common patterns between different receptor systems triggered my interest in computational structural biology and inspired me to join NeuroTrans program in the study of neurotransmitter transporters for central nervous system disorders."

Bhatt M, Gauthier-Manuel L, Lazzarin E, Zerlotti R, Ziegler C, Bazzone A, Stockner T, Bossi E.
A comparative review on the well-studied GAT1 and the understudied BGT-1 in the brain.
Front Physiol. 2023 Apr 13;14:1145973. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2023.1145973. PMID: 37123280; PMCID: PMC10137170.

Khanppnavar B, Maier J, Herborg F, Gradisch R, Lazzarin E, Luethi D, Yang JW, Qi C, Holy M, Jäntsch K, Kudlacek O, Schicker K, Werge T, Gether U, Stockner T, Korkhov VM, Sitte HH.
Structural basis of organic cation transporter-3 inhibition.
Nat Commun. 2022 Nov 7;13(1):6714. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-34284-8. PMID: 36344565; PMCID: PMC9640557.

Gradisch R, Szöllősi D, Niello M, Lazzarin E, Sitte HH, Stockner T.
Occlusion of the human serotonin transporter is mediated by serotonin-induced conformational changes in the bundle domain.
J Biol Chem. 2022 Mar;298(3):101613. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2022.101613. Epub 2022 Jan 21. PMID: 35065961; PMCID: PMC8867121.

Petros Tsalagradas

University of East Anglia, UK

"I’m a Molecular Biologist and Geneticist by training with a Master's in Biotechnology. I completed my first Bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics in 2015 at the Democritus University of Thrace, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics in Alexandroupolis, Greece. My Bachelor thesis project, titled “Purification and biological activities’ study of C-phycocyanin from Spirulina platensis”, was under the supervision of Professor Raphael M. Sandaltzopoulos. Afterwards, I continued with my Master's studies within the Interdepartmental Programme of Postgraduate Studies “Biotechnology” at the University of Ioannina, Greece, from where I acquired my degree in Biotechnology in 2018 as a Bodossaki Foundation Scholarship recipient. My Master thesis project, titled “Study of the interaction between cytosolic acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase (ACAT2) and Rab5”, was under the supervision of Professor Savvas Christoforidis. Since December 2020, I’ve been a Ph.D. student and Marie Curie Fellow at the University of East Anglia (UEA) within the MSCA-ITN-ETN “NeuroTrans”. My project titled “Resolving coarse-grained dynamic distance constraints of the transport cycle of NSS transporters using EPR spectroscopy” is under the supervision of Professor Dr. rer. nat. Fraser MacMillan (FRSC)."

Anton Turaev

Nanotemper Technologies, DE

"My Education/My background: I graduated from the Department of Biological and Medical Physics, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technologies with a Master degree in Applied Mathematics and Physics.

My background lies in the fields of biophysics and biochemistry. During my Master project, I used spectroscopic techniques to study small molecules that served as fluorescent light-up probes and stabilizing agents for G-quadruplex DNA structures. Also, my side projects focused on the practical application of non-canonical DNA structures. Specifically, I participated in the design of i-motif DNA-based pH-sensors and fluorescent small-molecule-aptamer complexes. After finishing the work on the previous projects, I applied for the position in the NeuroTrans MSCA program and started working in NanoTemper Technologies as a PhD student."

Rocco Zerlotti

Nanion Technologies, DE

"I have a Bachelor´s Degree in Biotechnology (University of Parma, Italy) and my Bachelor´s Thesis is about expression and purification of human CRBP (cellular retinol-binding protein), using PCR, SDS-Page and fluorometric assay of retinol binding. It has been carried out under the supervision of Prof. Rodolfo Berni inside the Biochemistry Department. I have a Master´s Degree in Biomolecular Chemistry (University of Parma, Italy) and my Master´s Thesis is about Molecular Dynamics on Mr4511 (bacterial LOV protein), carried out under the supervision of Prof. Eugenia Polverini and Prof. Aba Losi inside the Physics Department. This work revolves around the building of a stable model of Mr4511 (never structurally characterized before) and the simulation of oxygen diffusion in the binding site of the variant C71S. During the work other two variants have been proposed and studied in silico, showing an increment in oxygen diffusion and persistence in the binding site. During my studies I acquired technical and theoretical skills in bio-engineering, advanced organic chemistry, computational chemistry and analytical tools."

Bazzone A, Zerlotti R, Barthmes M, Fertig N.
Functional characterization of SGLT1 using SSM-based electrophysiology: Kinetics of sugar binding and translocation.
Front Physiol. 2023 Feb 7;14:1058583. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2023.1058583. PMID: 36824475; PMCID: PMC9941201.

Bhatt M, Gauthier-Manuel L, Lazzarin E, Zerlotti R, Ziegler C, Bazzone A, Stockner T, Bossi E.
A comparative review on the well-studied GAT1 and the understudied BGT-1 in the brain.
Front Physiol. 2023 Apr 13;14:1145973. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2023.1145973. PMID: 37123280; PMCID: PMC10137170.