People involved in the PAVax project
|Maria Rosaria Romano||supervisor/mentor|
|Gijs van der Marel||supervisor/mentor|
|Kitt Emilie Østerlid||ESR3|
Get to know the ESRs
I graduated from Uppsala University with a master’s degree in chemical engineering with a specialization in pharmaceutical science. After working a couple of months at the company where I did my master’s project as a research scientist, I got the opportunity to move abroad and explore the world of carbohydrate chemistry and synthetic vaccines within the scope of PAVax, for which I am very happy.
The purpose of my project is to gain information on composition and immunological properties of exopolysaccharides from PA. The polysaccharides will be isolated and characterized to produce conjugates that will be used to generate specific sera for investigating their recognition of biofilms from different PA strains and probing their functional activity.
Born and raised in Vienna, Austria, I began my studies in life sciences at the Claude Bernard University, Lyon, France. After an internship on biotechnological applications of liposomes and a year spent in Munich, Germany, under the Erasmus+ program, I was awarded a BSc in Biochemistry in 2018.
With a taste for adventure, I embarked on a MSc in Biochemistry at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and I graduated with a degree project focusing on SPR-based interaction studies of a fusion protein, the human carbonic anhydrase II to the enhanced green fluorescent protein, for the development of an in-cell interaction assay.
In December 2020, I started my PhD project within the PAVax training network at GSK Vaccines, Siena, Italy, working on the chemical conjugation of oligosaccharides to carrier proteins, combining antigens from both Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, with the hope of furthering the development of a polyvalent carbohydrate-based vaccine against resistant strains. My project is under the supervision of Dr. Roberto Adamo, and after 18 months at my initial placement in Siena, I will spend 18 months at the University of Leiden, Netherlands.
I’m also a keen cinephile, reader and general art lover, and other personal interests include cooking, travelling and playing saxophone.
In 2015 I decided to pursue a scientific career, as I have always been interested in nature and the mechanisms behind. I started studying chemistry at University of Copenhagen, Denmark, where I quite fast found an interest for organic chemistry. I did my Bachelor’s thesis at assoc. Prof. Christian Marcus Pedersen where I worked with glycosylation reactions using trichloroacetyl glucuronic acid donors. During my time in the group, my interest for carbohydrate chemistry spiked. After finishing my Bachelor degree, I continued at University of Copenhagen for my Master in Organic chemistry. In my Master’s thesis project, I worked with the synthesis of well-defined oncofetal chondroitin sulfate oligomers, again under the supervision of assoc. Prof. Christian Marcus Pedersen. This project opened my attention in how carbohydrates can be useful for a medical purpose and as I found this collaboration quite interesting, I wanted to continue my scientific career within this research topic.
As from November 2020 I became a fellow of the PAVax project joining the group of Prof. Dr. J.D.C. Codee at Leiden University. The aim of my work is to synthesize well-defined fragments of capsular polysaccharide of Gram-positive bacteria. These compounds give an insight for understanding interactions with the immune system why the hope is to use these for development of vaccines. This position offers me the possibility to obtain further knowledge on carbohydrate chemistry as well as the possibility to explore the biological field.
I hold a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry in 2016 and a master’s degree in Chemistry in 2018 from National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. During my academic years, I focused on the total synthesis of the oligosaccharide through the chemo-enzymatic approach. After graduating, I started to work on the biosynthesis of natural products at Academia Sinica, Taiwan. My previous studies involved organic synthesis, enzymatic synthesis, protein expression, gene cloning, heterologous expression, and compound characterization.
Now, as a fellow of the PAVax network at Leiden University under the supervision of Dr. Jeroen Codée, I am engaged in epitope mapping of PA surface polysaccharides. The aims of my project are synthesizing Pel antigens, conjugate vaccine modalities comprising synthetic Pel structures, and immunological evaluation of the new conjugates.