Overview of Dioscuri Centres
Dioscuri Centres are innovative and internationally visible research groups led by outstanding scientists. Supported by partners from Germany, Dioscuri Centres are established at research institutions that offer an environment for cutting-edge research. Centres are funded for an initial five years with € 300,000 per annum and can be extended for a further five years after successful evaluation by external experts.
Dioscuri Centre for Chromatin Biology and Epigenomics (since 01.10.2019)
- Leader of the Dioscuri Centre: Dr. Aleksandra Pękowska
- Partner from Germany: Prof. Dr. Martin Vingron, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics
- Host Institution: Nencki Institute for Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences
- Website: https://pekowskalab.nencki.edu.pl
At the Dioscuri Centre for Chromatin Biology and Epigenomics, Aleksandra Pękowska and her team combine high throughput genomic approaches, computational tools, genome engineering and stem cell models to provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms that underlie the evolution of the human brain. Likewise, they use these cutting-edge tools to establish the nature of the connection between the spatial arrangement of the genome in the cell and the control of the activity of genes in the developing mammalian nervous system. Through experimental and computational approaches, researchers at the Dioscuri Centre hope to provide new insights into how the human genome evolved to sustain the higher-order brain functions and which fundamental mechanisms allow the genome to orchestrate development.
Aleksandra graduated from the University of Lodz in 2006, with a MS in biology (lab of Grzegorz Bartosz, Dept. of Molecular Biophysics). For her PhD, she joined the lab of Pierre Ferrier at the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille Luminy, Aix-Marseilles University. Combining a variety of high throughput genome analysis approaches (including ChIP-seq, RNA-seq, and microarray-based assays) and computational biology tools, they discovered a chromatin signature allowing to distinguish active from poised enhancers (Pękowska A. et al., 2011, EMBO Journal). In 2011, Pekowska obtained the EIPOD fellowship (EMBL/Marie Curie actions) and joined the groups of Wolfgang Huber, Lars Steinmetz, and Paul Bertone at EMBL/EBI for an interdisciplinary postdoc. Her goal was to define the relationship between cellular plasticity and chromatin topology. Using stem cell models and in-situ Hi-C, they revealed that differentiation of pluripotent stem cells to neuronal lineage coincides with a genome-wide buildup of chromatin loops and strengthening of chromatin boundaries (Pękowska A. et al., Cell Systems). In 2016, Aleksandra joined the team of Rafael Casellas at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIH) in Bethesda, US. In a joint paper, they described architectural stripes - specialized chromatin structures frequently involving super-enhancers (Vian L.#, Pękowska A.# et al. 2018 Cell, # equal contribution). Since 2019, Aleksandra leads the Dioscuri Centre for Chromatin Biology and Epigenomics, which she established at the Nencki Institute for Experimental Biology (Polish Academy of Sciences) in Warsaw.
Dioscuri Centre for Metabolic Diseases (since 01.01.2020)
- Leader of the Dioscuri Centre: Dr. hab. Grzegorz Sumara (PhD, DSc)
- Partner from Germany: Prof. Dr. Martin Klingenspor, Technical University of Munich
- Host Institution: Nencki Institute for Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences
- Website: https://grzegorzsumaralab.nencki.edu.pl/main-page
At the Dioscuri Centre for Metabolic Diseases, Grzegorz Sumara focuses on the elucidation of signaling pathways that play a role in metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes (T2D) or atherosclerosis and sarcopenia that affect healthy aging. For this purpose, Grzegorz and his team combine cell biology, biochemical, high-throughput screening and omics approaches with mouse genetics. Since perturbations in signaling cascades regulating basic metabolic processes of adipose tissue, liver and intestine (e.g. nutrients absorption) or energy utilization in muscles often result in metabolic imbalance, by determining essential signaling networks we aim to contribute to more targeted pharmacological strategies for treatment of metabolic diseases such as obesity, T2D, atherosclerosis or sarcopenia (muscle wasting).
Grzegorz started his research career with an undergraduate student internships at the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Vienna, Austria, and at the University Hospital of Zürich, Switzerland. In 2008, he received his PhD from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. Afterwards, he spent four years as a postdoctoral HFSP fellow at Columbia University in New York and half a year at the IGBMC in Strasbourg. Since 2013, Grzegorz was a junior group leader at the Rudolf Virchow Centre in Würzburg, Germany. During his time in Würzburg, he acquired a prestigious Emmy Noether grant from the German Research Foundation for studying hormonally-induced signalling cascades in adipocytes and hepatocytes and an ERC Starting Grant, within which he established Protein kinase D (PKD) family members as a crucial regulators of energy metabolism. All of these studies and positions allowed Grzegorz to build the scientific program for the Dioscuri Centre of Scientific Excellence in Warsaw, where his research group focuses on unraveling the cross-talk of different signalling molecules in regulation of adipocytes function during metabolic diseases such as obesity or cancer-associated cachexia. He is supported by Martin Klingenspor from the Technical University of Munich as his partner from Germany. Recently, the DC were also awarded an EMBO Installation Grant from European Molecular Biology Organization, which further helped to start the lab in Poland.
Dioscuri Centre in Topological Data Analysis (since 01.07.2020)
- Leader of the Dioscuri Centre: Dr. Paweł Dłotko
- Partner from Germany: Prof. Dr. Dmitry Feichtner-Kozlov, Institute of Algebra, Geometry, Topology and its Applications, University of Bremen
- Host Institution: Institute of Mathematics, Polish Academy of Sciences
- Website: https://dioscuri-tda.org/index.html
As humans, we are trained to recognize various objects and phenomena by understanding their shape. We are successful in this task even if the objects of interest are subjected to large amount of noise of considerably deformed. While the concept of shape is deeply rooted in our perception, its mathematical foundations are far from satisfactory. At the Dioscuri Centre for Topological Data Analysis, Paweł and his team are seeking mathematically sound methods to understand and quantify the shape of data. That includes objects we may encounter in our everyday life, like new materials, medical images and more. Critically, the solutions they provide scale in time and dimension enriching the understanding dynamic and high dimensional phenomena. The mathematicians at the Dioscuri Centre work on the efficient implementation of the tools of topology and geometry, including many they develop themselves, to provide cutting edge solutions to multiple disciplines, including biology, medical and climate research, economics, finance, material science and many and more.
Paweł received his MS and his PhD (in 2012) from the Institute of Computer Science at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. As a postdoctoral researchers, he spent time in Prof. Robert Ghrist's group at the Department of Mathematics, University of Pennsylvania and in the in Geometrica Group at Inria, Salcay (France) while also holding a partial appointment as assistant and associate professor at the Jagiellonian University. In 2017, Paweł became Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Swansea University (UK) before establishing his Dioscuri Centre at the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 2020. Together with his partner from Germany, Prof. Dr. Dmitry Feichtner-Kozlov from the Institute of Algebra, Geometry, Topology and its Applications at the University of Bremen, Paweł and his team at the Dioscuri Centre for Topological Data Analysis are working on interdisciplinary projects somewhere between mathematics, computer science and applied science to describe the shape of data. Find the Dioscuri Centre on Youtube, Facebook or Twitter.
Dioscuri Centre for the Physics and Chemistry of Bacteria (since 01.10.2020)
- Leader of the Dioscuri Centre: Dr. Bartłomiej Wacław
- Partner from Germany: Prof. Dr. Arne Traulsen, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön
- Host Institution: Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences
- Website: https://dioscuricentrebacteria.com/
The Dioscuri Centre for the Physics and Chemistry of Bacteria studies bacterial growth and evolution to better understand bacterial infections, in particular urinary infections. Bartłomiej and his team are interested in how bacteria attach and grow on surfaces such as medical catheters and implants, how bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, and how they invade and grow inside animal cells. Researchers at the Dioscuri Centre also study the evolution of cancer cells and their response to chemotherapy. In their work, they use a range of biological, physical, and chemical experimental methods as well as machine learning and computer simulations. Furthermore, they develop new optical-based methods to measure bacterial growth. The team hopes that their work at the Centre will help to develop novel approaches to antimicrobial and anti-cancer therapy.
Bartłomiej obtained a PhD in theoretical physics from Jagellonian University in Krakow in 2007 (supervisor: Zdzislaw Burda). After two years at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Leipzig University as a postdoc in Wolfhard Janke’s group, he moved to the Institute for Condensed Matter and Complex Systems at the University of Edinburgh. First, as a postdoc working with Martin Evans, then becoming an independent Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow in 2012. In 2013, Bartek awarded a Scottish Government Personal Research Fellowship co-funded by Marie Curie Actions. Around the same time, he was made a proleptic lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Edinburgh, where he was promoted to Reader in 2019. While his early research was in random matrix theory, complex networks, driven diffusive systems (zero-range process, TASEP, and related models), he then moved to biological physics and worked on various theoretical and experimental projects in microbial evolution and cancer. In particular, Bartek has published on how bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, how growth and migration affect genetic heterogeneity of tumors, and the growth of bacterial colonies. In 2020, he established the Dioscuri Centre for the Physics and Chemistry of Bacteria at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.
Dioscuri Centre for RNA-Protein Interactions in Human Health and Diseases (since 01.01.2021)
- Leader of the Dioscuri Centre: Prof. Dr. Gracjan Michlewski
- Partner from Germany: Prof. Dr. Juri Rappsilber, Institute of Biotechnology at the Technische Universität, Berlin
- Host Institution: International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
- Website: https://www.iimcb.gov.pl/en/research/laboratories/46-laboratory-of-rna-protein-interactions-michlewski-laboratory-dioscuri-centre
At the Dioscuri Centre for RNA-Protein Interactions in Human Health and Disease, Gracjan Michlewski will investigate the cellular roles and structural characteristics of novel RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and RNA-protein interactions. The major focus of his and his team’s investigations will be on the RNA-protein interactions in innate immune response to RNA viruses including influenza, commonly known as the flu. “RNA viruses have already caused several epidemics in the 21st century; the emergence of a new influenza pandemic or a viral bioterrorism attack could have catastrophic consequences on public health and the world economy. Thus, a detailed molecular understanding of host-virus interactions is imperative in order to know how best to inactivate the virus and prevent major disruptions”, says Michlewski, who is also a Honorary Lecturer in Infection Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. His partner from Germany is Juri Rappsilber from the Institute of Biotechnology at the Technische Universität Berlin.
RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) are key molecules that control gene expression signaling through RNA-protein interactions. Consequently, they contribute to cellular homeostasis, normal development and majority of human diseases. Importantly, new RBPs are being discovered by high-throughput proteomics, but we still have a limited understanding of their function. In the framework of this grant we are planning to investigate the cellular roles and structural characteristics of novel RBPs and RNA-protein interactions as well as their functional implications in innate immune response to influenza A virus (IAV) infection.
RNA viruses have caused several epidemics in the 21st century. Taking IAV infection as an exemplar, it kills 250,000 to 500,000 people annually and generates a significant global socioeconomic burden ($20 billion dollars in every year in the US alone). Importantly the emergence of a new influenza pandemic or a viral bioterrorism attack could have catastrophic consequences on public health and world economy. Thus, a detailed molecular understanding of host-virus interactions is imperative in order to know how best to inactivate the virus and prevent major disruptions. Finally, viruses have been used to uncover some of the most important cellular processes such as mRNA splicing, capping, polyadenylation or RNA interference and they continue providing insights into molecular phenomena that can aid in understanding basic biology of living organisms.
Dioscuri Centre for Structural Dynamics of Receptors (since 01.07.2022)
- Leader of the Dioscuri Centre: Dr. Przemysław Nogły
- Partner from Germany: Prof. Dr. Joachim Heberle, Freie Universität Berlin
- Host Institution: Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Biotechnology Jagiellonian University Krakow
- Website: https://noglylab.eu/
While many receptors are extensively studied due to their omnipresent and critical function ranging from light energy harvesting to unleashing the healing potential of medicines, the Dioscuri Centre will involve a recently developed methodology at X-ray Free Electron Lasers that allows unprecedented insights into structural dynamics and molecular mechanisms of proteins. Time-resolved crystallography will provide a series of structural snapshots at a high spatiotemporal resolution that can be assembled into a molecular movie of the protein in action.
Przemysław Nogły was a research group leader and Ambizione Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation at ETH Zurich before establishing the Dioscuri Centre for Structural Dynamics of Receptors at the Jagiellonian University in July 2022. After studying Chemistry at the University of Opole (Poland), the structural biologist went to the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal), where he received his PhD in structural biochemistry within the Marie Curie Initial Training Network in 2013. He then conducted research as a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Scherrer Institute (Switzerland) before moving to the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics at ETH Zurich in 2017. Together with Joachim Heberle from Freie Universität Berlin, Nogły will use new experimental methods to investigate molecular mechanisms of proteins at his Dioscuri Centre.
Dioscuri Centre for Modelling of Posttranslational Modifications (since 01.05.2023)
- Leader of the Dioscuri Centre: Dr. Mateusz Sikora
- Partner from Germany: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Hummer, MPI for Biophysics
- Host Institution: Małopolska Centre of Biotechnology, Jagiellonian University Krakow
The anti-pandemic efforts made it clear that computer simulations became indispensable in integrating and interpreting results of experiments and resolving molecular mechanisms and structures. Building on his previous experiences in simulating membrane protein complexes, Sikora and his team will set up a simulation platform tailored to resolve the role of post-translational modifications (PTMs) in protein-protein interactions. The Centre’s biocomputational approach will help illuminate the molecular mechanisms of PTMs, which remain largely unknown due to experimental difficulties and the characteristics of PTMs. Since PTMs are potent cancer biomarkers, play a role in metastasis and are crucial in development of anti-cancer and anti-viral vaccines, their findings might have a broader impact.
Mateusz Sikora, previously a Postdoctoral Fellow at the MPI for Biophysics (Frankfurt) also affiliated with the University of Vienna, first studied at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow (Poland) and then earned his PhD at the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. In 2012, he went to Austria as a postdoc at the Institute of Science and Technology (IST Austria). Since 2017, Sikora had been working at the MPI for Biophysics in Gerhard Hummer's group for theoretical biophysics within the framework of an Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship abroad funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF. From May 2023, Hummer will support Sikora as his German partner in the establishment of the Dioscuri Centre for Modelling of Posttranslational Modifications at the Małopolska Centre of Biotechnology (at Jagiellonian University).
Dioscuri Centre in Random Walks in Geometry and Topology (since 01.09.2023)
- Leader of the Dioscuri Centre: Dr. Mikołaj Frączyk
- Partner from Germany: Prof. Dr. Roman Sauer, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
- Host Institution: Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Sciences Jagiellonian University Krakow
The main objective of the Centre is to develop probabilistic and dynamical methods to attack several outstanding open problems concerning locally symmetric spaces, arithmetic lattices, mapping class groups and interval exchange transformation groups. The locally symmetric spaces, on which most of my research focused so far, are geometric objects with incredibly rich structure. Thanks to the attractive interdisciplinary nature of the research, the Dioscuri Centre will grow collaborations with local research groups in this active and competitive research field that is not yet strongly represented in Poland.
Mikołaj Frączyk, previously a Dickson Instructor at the University of Chicago, first studied Pure Mathematics at Jagiellonian University in Krakow before moving to the Université Paris-Sud in France. After completing his award-winning doctoral thesis in 2017 in France, he stayed as a post-doc at the Renyi Institute in Budapest and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In fall 2023, Frączyk establishes a Dioscuri Centre in Random Walks in Geometry and Topology at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Sciences at the Jagiellonian University. He will be supported by his partner from Germany, Roman Sauer from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).