University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Sana Ma

BSc Chemical Engineering/BMus Piano, MSc Biotechnology

Center for Biopharmaceuticals, Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology

Sana completed her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Bachelor of Music in Piano degrees from Northwestern University. She then worked in chemical process and development engineering, before entering and completing her Masters in Biotechnology also from Northwestern University. Her Master’s thesis was on rational design and synthesis of dimerization inhibitors of neuronal nitric oxide synthase as potential treatment for neurodegeneration. She also did her internship at Eli Lilly working on various projects in cell line generation to develop recombinant protein expressing cell lines and strains. In the PDZnet Network, she will research how phosphorylation regulates protein-protein interactions of syntenin and how this affects the progression of cancer.

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Christin Kossmann

BSc, MSc Biochemistry

Center for Biopharmaceuticals, Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology

Christin received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany. She conducted her Master’s thesis at Merck, Darmstadt in the department of Biomolecular Analytics, where she established a mass spectrometric-based technique for kinome profile comparison. The application of this technique was focused on small molecule inhibitor characterization to identify potential side effects of cancer drugs. In PDZnet, she will be working on development of D-peptide inhibitors for PSD-95 using mirror image phage display.

Systasy Bioscience GmbH, Germany

Lukša Popović

BSc Biology & Chemistry, Mres Biological Sciences

Lukša obtained his Bachelor’s in Biology and Chemistry from University of Split followed by his Master’s in Biological Sciences from University of Manchester. At the University of Manchester, his main research focuses were to examine the effect of extracellular pH on Cinacalcet-induced calcium-sensing receptor activation and the role of the Lowe syndrome protein, inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase OCRL-1, in endocytic membrane trafficking. In PDZnet, he will be working on (i) testing if the split TEV technique can be modified to study PDZ-domain mediated interactions in living mammalian cells, and (ii) developing a multiplexed tool allowing to generate binding profiles of all human PDZ-domains to selected targets.

Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm), France

Marta Montserrat Gómez

BSc Biology, MSc Biomedicine

Marseille Cancer Research Center (CRCM)

Marta obtained her Bachelor’s in Biology from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona followed by her Master’s in Biomedicine from University of Barcelona. She worked at the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, where her main research focus was on HIV. Here, she worked on an EU project testing different drugs to inhibit the HIV nucleocapsid protein. Subseqeuntly, she studied the HIV reservoir. In PDZnet, she will be working on the role of the Vangl1/2 oligomerization and Scribble PDZ-mediated interaction in Vangl2 trafficking to better understand how these interactions are involved in cell migration and breast cancer when Vangl2 and Scribble are deregulated.

Uppsala University, Sweden

Louise Laursen

MSc Medicinal Chemistry

Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology – BMC

Louise completed her Master’s in Medicinal Chemistry from Aarhus University in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen and University of Oregon. She worked in the field of structural biology exploring the structural framework and function of SERT, TlpA and pnGFP by using radio-labelled binding assays, site directed mutagenesis and crystallography. In PDZnet, she will use the PSD-95 scaffold protein as a model system to explore the significance of the backbone for allosteric network propagation. PSD-95 from different species and predicted ancestors are compared to explore the potential of an evolutionary mechanism for fine-tune of protein-protein interactions through the allosteric network.

Uppsala University, Sweden

Susanne Gyrita Lüchow

MSc Biochemistry

Department of Chemistry – BMC

Susanne obtained both her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Biochemistry from University of Copenhagen. During her bachelor’s, she worked on characterizing the interaction between a hub protein and an intrinsically disordered region of a plant transcription factor using isothermal titration calorimetry. In her master’s, she focused on the biological functions of a neural cell adhesion molecule and its ability to induce neurite outgrowth in primary neurons using mammalian cell cultures, co-culture assays, and phosphorylation assays. In PDZnet, she will investigate the plasticity of PDZ domain interactions by using proteomic peptide-phage display to screen for internal binding sites in intrinsically disordered regions of the human proteome.

Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

Candice Gautier

BSc Biochemistry, MSc Chemical Biology

Department of Biochemical Sciences

Candice obtained her Bachelor’s in Biochemistry from University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, followed by her Master’s in Chemical Biology from Uppsala University. Her Master’s thesis focused on the engineering of aldolases in the Biotransformation and Bioactive Molecules (BBM) research team, iQAC, CSIC, Barcelona, Spain. She was then a research assistant at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where her main research focus was on the development of alternative techniques to animal testing. In PDZnet, she will be working on the mechanistic aspects of folding and stability of multidomain PDZ proteins using site-directed mutagenesis and biophysical approaches.

Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany

Mishal Mariam McAuley

BSc, MSc, Chemistry

Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Department of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Pharmacy

Mishal took her Bachelors in Chemistry from Forman Christian College University Lahore, Pakistan followed by her Masters in Research Chemistry from University of Eastern Finland. Her Master's thesis was focused on crystallization of two proteins, Galactarolactone Cycloisomerase (At Gci) and 2-Deoxyribose-5-Phosphate Aldolase (DERA). Her research was mainly focused on crystallization, of the two proteins and testing the 3-dimensional structures using X-Ray crystallography. In PDZnet, she will be studying the structure and function of modular proteins that organize multiple PDZ domains into supramodules. She will be studying the structure and substrate specificity of these multi-domain assemblies with the goal to elucidate their function in cellular signaling and to exploit the possibility of the development of protein interaction inhibitors targeting PDZ supramodules.

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Germany

Jelena Čalyševa

BSc Biochemistry, MSc Bioinformatics

Structural and Computational Biology Research Unit

Jelena Čalyševa obtained her Bachelor’s of Biochemistry from Vilnius University and her Master’s in Bioinformatics degree from Lund University. She did various research projects including her Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis projects in fields of protein science (Vilnius University, Lithuania), DNA and protein sequence analysis and structural bioinformatics (Lund University, Sweden). In PDZnet, she will be developing a bioinformatics method for prediction of internal PDZ-binding sites in proteins.

Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC-CERBM), France

Pau Jané

BSc Human Biology, MSc Bioengineering

Department of Integrated Structural Biology

Pau obtained his bachelor in Human Biology from University Pompeu Fabra and his master in Bioengineering from University Ramon Llull, both in Barcelona. His Master Thesis focused in the behaviour of PimA, a glycosyltransferase protein associated to the membrane in mycobacterium smegmatis, using Molecular Dynamics (MD) approaches. He learned in the process amazing methods related to the exploring of energetic maps of protein folding, between them the Metadynamics. In PDZnet, he will study by large-scale interaction assays the hijacking of PDZ-mediated interaction networks by viral proteins, using bioinformatics to plan and analyse the data.

Institut Pasteur, France

Yanlei Zhu

BSc Food Science, MRes Structural Molecular Biology

Department of Structural Biology & Chemistry; Nuclear Magnetic Resonance of Biomolecules

Yanlei gained his Bachelor’s degrees in Food Science & Engineering and Food Science at Jiangsu University and University of Leeds, respectively, in 2015. Then he pursued his Master’s degree in Structural Molecular Biology at Imperial College London in 2016. Here, he gained experience in the basics of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Molecular Dynamic (MD) simulations and wet lab experimental experience. In PDZnet, he will continue developing his NMR skills by solving the structure of the scaffolding protein, Whirlin, at Institut Pasteur.

Systasy Bioscience GmbH, Germany

Vivek Kumar Sahoo

Int. M.Sc. Biology

Vivek Kumar Sahoo received his Integrated M.Sc. (Int. M.Sc.) degree in Biology from National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER), Bhubaneswar, India. In his Master’s project, he worked on elucidating the functional interactions between eIF2β and eIF2γ, where his main research tool was “Molecular Genetics”. He screened eIF2γ suppressors against a known hyper-GTPase mutant eIF2βS264Ywhich would shed more light in understanding the role GTP hydrolysis in Eukaryotic translation initiation. In PDZnet, he will be studying the impact of PDZ domain containing proteins and PDZ binders on synaptic/neuronal activity using pathSCREENER and cisPROFILLER assays.

Novo Nordisk A/S, Denmark

Dominik Johann Essig

B.Sc., M.Sc. Chemistry

Department of Peptide and Protein Chemistry

Dominik obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemistry from the University of Stuttgart and the Technical University of Munich, respectively. His Master´s thesis studies were focused on the light-dependent conformational switching of the Caseinolytic protease P (ClpP) through incorporation of unnatural amino acids by a genetic code expansion approach. Subsequently, he joined the Innovations department of Insilico Biotechnology AG for an internship in the field of bioinformatics. In PDZ, he will elucidate the dynamic regulation of PSD-95 by phosphorylation and thereof, identify novel potential therapeutic targets.

Novo Nordisk A/S, Denmark

Javier Rodríguez Balboa

BSc Chemistry, MSc Drug Research & Development

Department of Peptide and Protein Chemistry

Javier obtained his Bachelor’s in Chemistry and Master’s in Drug Research and Development from Barcelona University. He was a Junior Researcher at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, where his main research focus was on therapeutical applications of peptides and microarray technology. He developed a peptide microarray system to identify human biomarkers for the GBV-C. In PDZnet, he will apply the peptide SPOT array technology to examine the underexplored PDZ internal interactome.

The Network

The PDZnet network includes 11 academic research groups and 3 industrial partners distributed across 6 European countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Sweden). The network provides an international and multidisciplinary PhD training platform for 14 next-generation researchers (PhD students).


In four interdisciplinary and complementary research work packages the PDZnet network will advance the understanding of PDZ domain proteins as molecular hubs for cell signaling and as therapeutic targets for treating cancer and neurological diseases.

Meet the Partners

The 14 PDZnet partners are committed to create an outstanding training program for PhD fellows to elucidate the mechanisms of PDZ-mediated protein signaling pathways and provide background for the development of new therapeutic candidates for cancer and neurological diseases.