I finished my master degree in Biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen in 2016. I specialized in protein science, and through this I learned methodologies covering basic molecular biology techniques along with techniques for the expression, purification and analysis of protein structure, dynamics, functions and interactions. For my master thesis I investigated the binding mechanisms of various intrinsically disordered proteins, primarily through isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC). Most of my work revolved around utilizing ITC to “dissect” the entropic component of interactions between proteins, and apply this to determine the number of amino acids undergoing conformational changes during association between two proteins.
Later I worked briefly (6 months) at a biotech startup called Immunitrack. Due to the small size of the company, my work covered their entire production chain, from cloning to production and purification of their immunological proteins.
At present, I am participating in the Marie-Curie Industrial PhD Program “VADEMA”, focused on the development of structural mass spectrometry as a platform for vaccine design. The four PhD Projects of this program cover different technical challenges in the development and exploitation of the application in order to compare conformation and dynamics of antigens in their native states (membrane) with their recombinant soluble forms (vaccines) and to get a better understanding of the humoral response raised against the two forms. My specific project aims at up-regulating lowly abundant antigens, designing protein tags compatible with the HDX-MS technique and finally to use this, and other technical developments from the three other PhD students, to investigate conformation and dynamics of membrane antigens.
As a bachelor and master student of biochemistry at the Technische Universität München (TUM), Germany, I have always been interested in research projects that combine chemistry, biochemistry and physics with a high potential for medical implementation. For my bachelor thesis I had the chance to join the group of Prof. Hendrik Dietz (Chair of Experimental Biophysics, TUM) to combine biochemistry and biophysics. Thereafter, I spent one semester in India (IITM, Chennai) to work on a collaborative project in the Department of Biotechnology and the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering.
The following master´s studies in biochemistry at TUM comprised five obligatory internships and I decided to join the Institute for Radiation Biology at the Helmholtz Zentrum (Munich, Germany) for an internship, where I was introduced to mass spectrometry (MS) research applied to proteomics. The outcome of this work was published. As I was highly interested in experiments using MS and the according data analysis, I continued to focus on MS-based approaches and I had the opportunity to work for two months in the Department of Proteomics and Signal Transduction under Prof. Matthias Mann (Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Germany). I then continued to work in the same group for my master thesis project. The research aim was to investigate the role of LRRK2 in Parkinson's disease using a label-free mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics approach, applying MaxQuant and Perseus for data analysis.
I decided to continue as PhD in the field of applied mass spectrometry, and currently I am part of VADEMA (Doctoral Industrial School for Vaccine Design through Structural Mass Spectrometry) with a PhD project entitled “Structural Mass Spectrometry to investigate the humoral response to vaccination”. The project takes place at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark and Glaxo Smith Kline Vaccines (GSKVACSRL) based in Siena, Italy. The major objective is the development and application of a Structural Mass Spectrometry platform for vaccine design. Therefore tools need to be developed to perform epitope mapping with polyclonal antibodies (pAbs) and hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS) compatible reagents to identify immuno-dominant epitopes. Me and my three colleagues of the VADEMA project aim to support the design of efficient vaccines
The project is supervised by Kasper D. Rand (principal supervisor, UCPH), Nathalie Norais (primary co-supervisor, GSKVACSRL), Tam T.T. N. Nguyen (co-supervisor, UCPH) and Danilo Donnarumma (co-superviror, GSKVACSRL).
I obtained my bachelor and master degrees in biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2014 and 2016, respectively. I developed an interest in protein chemistry within the first years of my studies and in my bachelor project I worked on improving the stability of a charge-free protein through amino acid substitutions. In my master thesis project I investigated the influence of charged residues on protein thermodynamic stability. With a goal of minimizing the workload associated with denaturant-induced protein unfolding, I worked on the development of an automated system that could perform online monitoring of protein unfolding. Through the project I gained experience with various areas ranging from protein design and cloning to protein purification and analysis. After finishing my master degree I wanted to use my protein chemical knowledge to do experimental research. In September 2017 I became part of the VADEMA project which has an overall aim of developing a structural mass spectrometry platform for vaccine design. My part in the project will be to focus on investigating the humoral response to vaccination through mass spectrometry.
My research activity starts in 2014, when I graduates with Honors in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology, in Sapienza, University of Rome, after a five-year course focused on Analytical, Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. As master student, I had the opportunity to work in two different laboratories in Rome, at the accredited Anti-doping Laboratory FMSI, and at the National Center of Addiction and Doping, being involved in the development and validation of liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry methods for the screening of peptide hormones and drugs of abuse in complex matrices. These two research experiences bring me to contribute to four publications and to win, through a competitive national selection, one the fifty fellowships that every year allow Italian Master’s degree graduates in scientific disciplines to carry out a placement in a leading European research center. I then continue my activity in France, where I spends two years, first at the University of Paris XIII and later at the Institut Pasteur of Paris, gaining knowledge in mass spectrometry-based proteomic approaches. I thus become deeply fascinated by the study of those large and complex biomolecules called proteins, and by the investigation of their structure, conformation, and dynamics in solution and when they are embedded in lipid cell membranes.
Driven by these scientific interests, together with my concern for human health and pharmaceutical development, in 2017 I joined the VADEMA doctoral industrial school as a EU-founded PhD student, with the aim to set-up an hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX) mass spectrometry-based platform to study membrane antigens in their native state and to apply it to improve the design of meningococcal group B vaccine. In order to carry out the project, I am being hosted and trained at the Protein Analysis group of the University of Copenhagen and at GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines S.r.l. in Siena, two vibrant environments for acquiring expertise in the fields of HDX-MS and vaccine development, to be expanded in the next future across Europe.