Marta Tiemblo Martín

My name is Marta, I am 24 years old and I am Spanish. I come from Madrid (Spain) and I studied the Degree in Chemical Sciences at the Complutense University of Madrid, where I also did the Master in Organic Chemistry. During these years I discovered the charm of Structural Organic Chemistry that I had the opportunity to study with exceptional professors.

While I was doing the Master, I found the position ESR1 at GLYTUNES: "Full characterization of bacterial sialylated envelope components" which not only gave me the opportunity to continue my learning in characterization but also offered a multidisciplinary and collaborative work with scientists from different countries. That is, not only a unique experience, but also a challenge.

Currently, carrying out my project under the direction of Prof. Alba Silipo at UNINA where I work side by side with professionals from different areas on a daily basis. The main objective of my project is to evaluate the structure and function of the sialylated glycan components of the bacterial envelope, for which I work on isolation, purification and characterization techniques. I am also encouraged to complement my training in every way possible, with the freedom to choose where I want to go.

My wish as a young EU researcher is to continue growing as a scientist, to contribute my grain of sand to science, to obtain new progress in the field of glycans and, together, to help improve people's lives.

“Play your role with passion, no matter if you find many stones along the way. You are important. Our time on this earth is not about our own glory. In short, we are here to help and accompany others. If we do it with passion, the rest of the people will do the same.” Vera Jones

Manasik Gumah Adam Ali

My name is Manasik Gumah Adam Ali, 26 years old, and I’m from Sudan in Northern Africa. My passion for science, however, has taken me across the globe.

I completed a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from the University of Khartoum, graduating in 2017 with a First honour degree. After graduation, I joined the University as a Teacher Assistant in the Pharmaceutical Microbiology Dept. and part-time intern at their Institute of Endemic Disease. In 2018, I was thrilled to be awarded a full scholarship by the Chinese Government CSC Chinese Scholarship Council to pursue a master’s degree in Microbiological and Biochemical Pharmacy (Cancer Immunotherapy) at China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing. In 2021 I graduated with a Distinction, and I’m now a GLYTUNES PhD student based in Professor Nathalie Juge’s group at QIB and the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK.

As I was about to finish my master’s study, the search for a PhD position and scholarship was on. Despite securing the highly regarded Young Talent ANSO PhD scholarship in China and a PhD position in Sweden, I was drawn to the GLYTUNES project at the QIB as GLYTUNES represents a novel, pioneering platform for understanding and exploiting the Siglecs-glycans cross-talk by harnessing the synergy of combining chemical to biological, biophysical, immunological research strategies and finally translating this knowledge into novel diagnostics and therapeutics. A PhD at the QIB presented the unique opportunity to study in an interdisciplinary environment, exploring human health and microbes. I was particularly inspired by Prof. Juge and her group; the Juge Group not only undertake innovative research, but they support and help their group members.

My PhD Project: Fusobacterium nucleatum is a bacterium involved in the development of colorectal cancer (CRC) through innate immune cell modulation. Previous work in the Juge Lab revealed that cancer-associated F. nucleatum ssp. interacts with Siglecs expressed by immune cells. Throughout my PhD project, I will be investigating the effects of Siglecs - F. nucleatum interaction on the host immune system, the molecular determinants involved in the interaction and the use of glycomimetics to disrupt the interaction through collaborations within the GLYTUNES consortium. I’ll be using a range of molecular microbiology, cell biology, advanced bioimaging techniques, data mining and experimental approaches. I am looking forward to enhance my training in immunology, structural biology and synthesis & drug design through placements at GIOTTO, RAD, and VUMC. By the end of my project, I expect to gain a unique combination of “hands-on” research training, non-academic placements, courses, and workshops on scientific and complementary skills necessary for my future thriving careers in academia, clinical research, or industry, and to become the new leader in the expanding research area of glycoscience.

Klaudia Sobczak

I’m Klaudia, ESR3 carrying out my PhD in Bilbao (Spain). I am from Poland, however I moved to Scotland as a child where I continued my education, obtaining a BSc in Biomedical Science and MSc in Analytical Science with Drug Analysis and Toxicology, both from the Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen). Both of these degrees equipped me with a good background in biochemistry and analytical techniques, allowing me to join a research group at the Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France in Lille (France). There, I worked for 10 months on the recombinant production of antimicrobial peptides for use on orthopaedic implants. Following this, I have joint (September 2021) the Chemical Glycobiology Lab at the CIC bioGUNE in Bilbao to work on my PhD project within the GLYTUNES Network.

My thesis project focuses on work package 2, which aims to define the structural details of Siglec-sialic acid ligand interactions. In addition, I will be in charge of the recombinant production of Siglec immunoreceptors for the consortium partners. To achieve this, I will i) use bacterial and mammalian expression systems for protein production, and ii) solve the three-dimensional structures of Siglecs alone and in complex with ligands using a combination of structural (X-ray crystallography and NMR) and biophysical techniques (ITC, BLI).

My future goal is to go into the biotechnology/pharmaceutical sector, which is highly competitive to get into. Therefore, I decided to follow my degrees with a PhD in order to make me a step closer to achieving my dream career and future. I believe that a prestigious PhD like GLYTUNES from Marie Skłodowska-Curie Network will give me a higher chance of getting to the end goal. Additionally, I trust that being part of this Network will give me the opportunity to travel and get to know different cultures and scientists within the field of glycobiology.

Fabio Balzarini

My name is Fabio Balzarini, I am 29 years old and I come from Italy. I have a Msc degree in Biotechnology obtained at Milano-Bicocca University. I consider myself lucky and pleased to have studied in a multidisciplinary field as biotechnologies, a topic that is a meeting point of most advance scientific disciplines. I feel passionate about following the latest developments in the scientific field and I am motivated to take part in this creative process.

In 2018, during my Master of Science, after I gave a presentation as part of advance immunology class, I noticed that it was spontaneously pleasant for me to explain new studies in this topic, this occasion was one of the core reasons why I was selected to train as an immunologist at Boston Children's Hospital (USA). The year I spent in Boston, helped me expand my knowledge in immunology and I understood the adaptability of the immunology research in most of the biomedical, cellular and molecular innovations. In my opinion immunology will be one main character in the future of molecular medicine and the scientific knowledge useful to improve life and our comprehension of human and microbiological world.

Now as a young EU researcher, I intend to become an active member of scientific community by complete a PhD with the GLYTUNES Consortium. My previous experiences are just a sample of what it means to be a scientist and I still have much to learn. In Yvette van Kooyk's group I will try to understand the outcome of Innate Immune response, at molecular level, during activation of Siglec receptors. By using different sialylated ligands, also in combination with PRR ligands, will be study human and murine Antigen Presenting Cells (APC) activation and how this can Influence T cell activation, skewing and adaptive Immune response. This will lead the basis for helping to direct or modulate the Immune response in different pathological context and the main outcome is to optimize vaccine antigen and adjuvant system to enhance vaccine immunogenicity while maintaining safety.

The value to be in a network like GLYTUNES is related to the purpose of the Scientific Research, that should be, following a popular concept, a vehicle to improve the knowledge useful to understand a natural phenomenon. Even nowadays this definition could be taken for granted or like a naive vision, which is not wrong, however it might be incomplete or too ideological, because it’s not able to explain the scientific world complexity. I am increasingly convinced that scientific community is an organized model, which society and governments should take more into consideration. Like every human creation, is far from perfection, nevertheless scientific knowledge allows us to orientate in our life and helps to take decisions. Taking as an example what is happening with SARS-CoV-2, I have noticed how dangerous it could become something we do not know. In this contest, the reaction of scientific community is having a historical bearing: there was a sharing wave of unreviewed scientific data useful to create discussion and spread information about this new virus. The establishment of a scientific network combined with shared information and current technologies allowed us to obtain a vaccine faster than we did in the past.

Luis David Padilla Cortés

My name is Luis Padilla, I’m 26 years old and I grew up in Alajuela, Costa Rica. I obtained a B.Q. degree in Chemistry from the University of Costa Rica (UCR), a M.Sc. degree in Chemical Sciences from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and I’m currently an Early-Stage Researcher at the GLYTUNES ITN of the European Union and a Ph.D. student at UNIFI, where I work at the Magnetic Resonance Center (CERM).

My research interests are focused on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and its applications to Structural Biology and Organic Chemistry. My academic and professional experience is centered around NMR since my undergrad where I worked in the characterization of different metabolites from the Costa Rican flora using NMR and continued with my M.Sc. project in which I applied CEST-NMR for an indirect detection of proteins. Currently, my individual project among the GLYTUNES Network focuses on the ‘Biophysical Characterization of Siglecs and Siglec-Sialoglycan Complexes’ and will integrate different biophysical techniques such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM, as well as computational methodologies, with NMR as the main approach.

I applied to the position because it’s a project to which I can contribute with my NMR background, but at the same time, allows me to grow and develop a scientific career in the field of NMR while conducting my research in one of the most well-equipped NMR laboratories in the world such as CERM. Finally, as I young EU researcher writing during the COVID-19 pandemic, I expect science to keep playing a fundamental roll in modern-day society with more interdisciplinary projects or networks aiming to fill the needs in critical aspects of human health and quality of life of the people worldwide.

Jahnavi Jangala

I am a 23-year-old Indian who holds a Master's degree in Biotechnology from India's Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS Pilani).

For my Master’s thesis, I worked with an integral membrane protein at the Molecular BioPhysics unit of Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru (IISc) and as part of my Bachelor’s thesis, I was selected under the NTU India connect program to work in a structural biology lab where my interest in cryo-EM bloomed which is one of the powerful techniques in this field so as to understand the magical architecture of molecules and the latest recruiting effort centers around the same idea.

With this in mind, I applied for the GLYTUNES network at IBS, Grenoble. As a doctoral student here, I'll work to solve the high-resolution structures of siglecs, which are transmembrane receptors expressed on innate immune cells that modulate different host immune responses by binding to sialic acid, allowing for the rational design and development of new therapeutic and diagnostic strategies for a variety of diseases.

Venetia Psomiadou

My name is Venetia Psomiadou and I come from a small beautiful European country called Greece. I was born in Thessaloniki on 23/07/1994. I completed my bachelor studies in chemistry at University of Ioannina in 2017 and I obtained my MSc degree in Organic Chemistry with specialization in “Organic Synthesis - Natural Products and Applications” at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in 2020. During my studies, I gained useful experience in Organic Chemistry Laboratory, and I also became more familiar with retrosynthetic analysis and molecular docking. In 2016, I became immediately intrigued by carbohydrate chemistry during my bachelor internship, where I focused on glycosylated Quercetin derivatives with biological properties. Later, in 2019, I did my master internship in the Field of Organic Synthesis and Natural Products. As for my professional experience and skills, I worked as a chemist-cosmetologist in “Zelia” Cosmetics and Va.beuaty-Dido & Amy’s cosmetics, two companies located in Thessaloniki, Greece. I participated in research, development and production of new cosmetic products. The experience in Cosmetic Industry was valuable but given the fact that I was seeking the opportunity to return in the Organic chemistry field, I did a wide research on finding the best Universities that offered PhD fellowships in Organic Chemistry. The research project that Prof. Boltje created, hosted by RAD in the Netherlands, totally match my ambitions for scientific development. Moreover, the ITN GLYTUNES project led me to apply with enthusiasm for the PhD in ‘’Development and optimization of novel active glycomimetics’’.

I strongly believe that the GLYTUNES programme itself is a great innovation of our scientific community, since it provides 14 researchers across five European countries the opportunity to work simultaneously on the same scientific project and fulfill its purpose, which targets the deeper understanding of our immune system. In the era of the pandemic that we are living, the development of new therapeutic methods and diagnosing strategies against infectious or immune diseases, is prerequisite in order to support public health and society in general. Furthermore, another reason that urged me to apply for this program is the privilege that it provides to the participating researchers, to receive training and learn alongside experts in all the fields that GLYTUNES programme covers. The chance to expose myself as a researcher in this research training, with all the courses and workshops included in the curriculum, along with the planned 3-month secondments at QIB, UNINA and CICbioGUNE harmonically complete my academic pursue to immerse in the scientific area of glycosciences and conduct further research in the future as a possible post-doc researcher, in this specialized field. Further skills that I wish to evolve and master, include gaining substantial and deeper knowledge into organic synthesis, MS spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy and chemical biology of SAMs. The synthesis of new SAMs, the thoroughgoing understanding of sialic acid/Siglec interactions by using bioorthogonal chemistry and the implementation of metabolic glycoengineering methodologies to modify natural sialic acids, truly excite me. This project is the most promising to me in accordance with my present and future professional goals, since I wish that GLYTUNES programme will be just the beginning of a unique scientific journey that will lead me not only to become one of the new leaders in the expanding research area of glycosciences, but also to contribute to the fight against any occurring disease and consequently the improvement of humanity's living standards.

Riccardo Scarin

I am Riccardo Scarin, 24 years old Italian Early-Stage Researcher in the ITN GLYTUNES.

I have a Bachelor in Pharmaceutical Science from University of Padua. Here, I graduate with an experimental thesis in cheminformatics in the laboratory of Prof. Stefano Moro. The thesis focused on the docking of natural compounds on GABA-A receptor model. Later I did an internship in foundation Edmund Mach (Trento, Italy) in the Metabolomics section (Supv. Dr. Stefan Martens). Here I worked on a project related to the medicinal plant Rhodiola Rosea by performing extraction of active principles and mass spectrometry analysis. I did then my Master Degree in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, at the University of Padua. In the program Erasmus+, I did my Master thesis at University of Vienna (Supv. Prof. Christoph Rademacher). The thesis project was aimed to perform NMR-based fragment screening and characterization of lectins as targets for adjuvant in vaccine.

Currently I am doing my Ph.D. ITN GLYTUNES in ATLAS (CICBiogune), Derio, Biscay, Spain.

I decided to apply to GLYTUNES project because I like the field of drug discovery and this network had exceptional partner to work with. I think this create the perfect environment to grow as a researcher and discover more about carbohydrate chemistry.

In my individual project, under the supervision of Dr. Oscar Millet, I am using biophysical techniques to characterize ligand-protein interactions with the aim of developing a molecular chaperon to treat tyrosinemia type 1. The tasks performed are mainly protein expression and purification, followed by characterization of ligand binding through 2D-NMR, X-ray crystallography and computational approaches.

As a young EU researcher, I expect to get in contact with different laboratories around Europe and get in touch with different way of working and culture. I think in science it is important to create Networks and to collaborate in order to develop new ideas.

Iakovia Ttoffi

I’m Iakovia Ttoffi, ESR9, and I come from Cyprus.

Scientific background: I hold a B.Sc. degree in Chemistry, with a major in Biological Chemistry, from the University of Cyprus. During my final year, I undertook a project regarding the synthesis of aminoquinazolines, investigating the late-stage derivatization of kinase inhibitors. Following my graduation in 2017, I moved to the Netherlands to pursue an M.Sc. degree in Chemistry (Chemical Biology specialization) at Leiden University, under the supervision of Prof. Van Der Stelt. Here, my research focused on the design and synthesis of tools to study the endocannabinoid system. After graduation in 2019, I worked as a researcher at Nireas studying micro and nanoplastics as carriers for the spread of chemicals and antimicrobial resistance in the aquatic environment.

GLYTUNES research: I applied to the GLYTUNES consortium in the hopes of doing research in a broad network, with exciting possibilities for collaboration. I am currently a PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Robert A. Field and Dr. Simone Dedola, at Iceni Glycoscience, Norwich, U.K. My work will focus on the development of a library of carbohydrate derivatives using chemical and chemoenzymatic approaches, for the detection or inhibition of Siglecs. The aim of this work will be to produce novel glycomimetics with increased affinity and selectivity and to analyze them for their interaction with target Siglecs.

The collaborative nature of the consortium will provide me a unique opportunity to study the ever-expanding field of Siglecs from multiple angles and interact with scientists in a multidisciplinary manner. This opportunity is the stepping stone in achieving my aspirations to develop chemical tools to answer biological questions.

Yan-Ting Kuo

I come from Taiwan and was born in 1996.

In my junior year at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), I joined Prof. Chun-Cheng Lin’s group. The project focused on synthesizing the inner cores of bi- and tri-antennary N-glycan. Receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, I further pursued a master’s degree in NTHU. Supervised by Prof. Lin, my master’s research still emphasized on development of synthetic strategies for challenging oligosaccharides. I aimed to design a chemical method to synthesize a disialo-trisaccharide in SJG-2 ganglioside.

After graduating, I worked in Dr. Todd L. Lowary’s lab at Academia Sinica for a half year. I tried to establish a synthetic route for Enterobacterial Common Antigen. With the rapid development of glycoscience, the importance of the synthesis of bioactive glycans has increased due to the potential to be used in diagnostics and therapeutics.

That’s why I decided to apply PhD fellowships in GLYTUNES. This innovative training network and collaborations will shape me into an excellent glycoscientist. In my project hosted by GlycoUniverse, we want to develop a new sialic acid building block for automated glycan assembly. With a fast and reliable automated approach, we could build advanced sialylated glycan libraries and investigate glycan-Siglecs interaction by our glycan libraries.

Giulia Roxana Gheorghita

Salut! My name is Giulia and I am from Romania. I started my academic formation at the University of Bucharest, Faculty of Chemistry, earning my Bachelor of Science degree in Tehnological Biochemistry in 2019. During these years, I studied one semester at the University of Le Havre – Normandy (France) through Erasmus+ scholarship network.

I completed my Master’s degree in Chemistry of Advanced Materials in 2021 at the University of Bucharest with a perpetual collaboration with NTNU University (Norway). For my research theses, I was comitted to develop synthetic biocatalytic pathways and materials, to produce precursors for the pharma sector. Moreover, I worked on the expression and purification of extremophilic enzymes and their kinetic activity at the Institute of Biology Bucharest, part of the Romanian Academy. In addition to science, I enjoy exploring nature and spreading good vibes.

GLYTUNES offers a fresh perspective on glycoscience and aims to have important implications in the knowledge of Siglec – Sialic acid complicated relation. A doctoral study from a program of such magnitude is an undeniable accomplishment of any researcher at the beginning of the road.

In my project, I am going to focus on the study of Siglec proteins, from their expression in various cellular systems to pure, final proteins, suitable for characterization and interaction studies with glycosidic ligands through NMR, X-Ray, and Cryo-EM techniques.

In addition to the upcoming research results, this exchange experience program embrances new horizons of knowledge, culture, lifestyle.

Tania Gerpe Amor

My name is Tania Gerpe Amor, and I’m a Spanish girl from a little city in the north called Santiago de Compostela.

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry and a Master’s Degree in Organic Chemist, being specialized in Medicinal Chemistry. Both degrees have been provided by the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela.

During my studies, I had the chance to gain knowledge in the rational and synthetic design of new inhibitors with new mechanism of action against resistant bacteria. I studied how to understand the recognition of natural substrate from enzymes I wanted to inhibit with Molecular Dynamic Simulation, Docking and Homollogy Modelling. For the design and synthesis of new compounds, I used wet chemistry, based on C-C couplings, substitutions and new heterocycle synthesis. When I knew about GLYTUNES, it reminded me what I really like in science, and it’s: trying to contribute to make a better world. We do it in Health, currently the most spoken topic since all these illnesses that are surrounding us, and I thought it could be great to apply to such an important project. Nowadays, I have been lucky and I got to be a PhD student granted with a Marie Curie Early-Stage Researcher from ITN-GLYTUNES, under the supervision of Prof. Alba Silipo in the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II.

I'm in charge of the ESR12 project and I’m interested in structural and chemical biology. I will try to understand how sialoglycans work with host-immune systems. Working on WP2 and moving around all of WP1, WP3 and WP4. I will get a detailed molecular picture of the Siglecs-glycans complexes:

  • Describe both protein and glycans key portions critical in the recognition and binding events
  • Analyse the energetics and thermodynamics of the molecular interactions
  • Fast screen possible binders with respect to a specific target receptor

To achieve this, I will take advantage of NMR (STD-NMR) and biological techniques as well as computational tools such as MD simulation on key proteins.

My expectations are the gain of experience and knowledge that will lead me to complete my project, as well as help and co-work with other colleagues on GLYTUNES Team. This definitively will lead me a strong background on immunological science, as well as biological and computational chemistry, which will make me a multidisciplinary scientist.

Magali Coccimiglio

My name is Magali Coccimiglio and I am the ESR13 of the GLYTUNES network. I am 26 years old and I am from Argentina, where I completed my university degree in Biochemistry at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata (UNMdP).

During my studies, I was awarded three fellowships to take part in research projects within the Parasitic Zoonosis Laboratory at the UNMdP, which enhanced my interest in science, and particularly in immunology. From the beginning of my studies, I have found the human immune system fascinating and I have developed a strong interest in immune evasion strategies, so I decided to pursue a PhD in immunology with a focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms of immunomodulation.

For this reason, I found the GLYTUNES network really interesting, as all its members have the aim to better understand the interaction between sialic acids and their receptors (Siglecs), as well as the role of this interaction in immune evasion by pathogens and tumours.

Particularly, I find the ESR13 position extremely fascinating, as my project is focused on the study of the crosstalk between cancer cells and immune cells based on sialic acids, trying to explain how these interactions occur and their consequences in immune evasion by tumors and therapy responsiveness. To do so, I am going to study lung cancer and melanoma, with both in vitro and in vivo models, taking advantage of different strategies to reduce sialylation in cancer cells. I will focus on potential effects of desialylation on the immune response against cancer cells, trying to find new strategies to improve this response in order to stop tumour development and counteract therapy resistance.

Being part of the GLYTUNES network will allow me to study such an amazing scientific topic, in contact with excellent scientists and PhD students from all over Europe, which I see as a unique opportunity for me to develop both professionally and personally. I expect that my work during this project will expand knowledge both in glycoscience and cancer immunology, contributing to finding better treatment options for cancer patients. As part of this network and as a young EU researcher, I hope to achieve both the goals of my project and those of the network, becoming a committed researcher, both scientifically and socially.

Matteo Calzari

My name is Matteo and I am 24 years old.

I was born in Lodi, Italy and I obtained both my BSc (July 2019) and my MSc (July 2021) Degrees in Chemistry from the University of Milano-Bicocca in Milan, Italy.

Since I was a child, I have always fantasised to leave a mark on this world by working to find cures for diseases. This drove me to choose Chemistry after High School.

During my BSc internship, I worked under the supervision of Prof. Roberto Simonutti on the synthesis of novel nanoparticles with a titania core grafted with polyethylene glycol chains for biomedical purposes. Then, for my MSc internship, I joined Prof. Barbara La Ferla’s lab and I worked on the synthesis of glycomimetic iminosugars to use as molecular chaperones. Thanks to these two experiences, I understood that I wanted to continue my path in research.

During my Master’s studies, I grew interested in the field of glycoscience for the critical role that sugars play in our body. As a chemist, I find it challenging to look at how sugars are synthesised and processed in living matter.

Upon finding the GLYTUNES ITN, I realised that its innovative way of working and its multidisciplinary nature were ideal for my development as a young researcher. I look forward to working with other researchers with different backgrounds. In addition, this is the right time to unravel the importance of the Siglec-Sialoglycan axis for a deeper understanding of the immune responses in our body.

Since September 2021, I've been working as a PhD Candidate in Prof. Thomas Boltje's laboratory at the Institute for Molecules and Materials of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. I will focus my research on the synthesis and biological evaluation of new inhibitors of the sialoglycan biosynthesis pathway, as ESR14 of the GLYTUNES network.