Berlin, 04 October 2023
Prof. Dr. Chiara Romagnani’s research on the innate immune system is considered groundbreaking. On 1 October, the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin appointed the renowned scientist to the professorship of Medical Immunology. The professorship is associated with the management of the Institute for Medical Immunology, which creates a bridge between basic research and clinical research.
Previously, Prof. Romagnani was Professor of Immunology with a focus on inflammation (Immunology of Inflammation) at the Medical Clinic for Gastroenterology, Infectiology and Rheumatology at Charité in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute German Rheumatism Research Centre Berlin (DRFZ). In this role, she led the Innate Immunity Research Group and the Leibniz ScienceCampus Chronic Inflammation.
Prof. Romagnani succeeds Prof. Dr. Hans-Dieter Volk, who headed the Institute of Medical Immunology until 2021. In parallel, Prof. Romagnani will receive a BUA Joint Professorship in cooperation with Freie Universität Berlin. “I am pleased to be able to further advance research on the innate immune system for the benefit of patients within the framework of my professorship,” says Prof. Romagnani. “With my work, I want to build a bridge between basic research and clinical research and ensure that the findings reach patients quickly.”
Research focus on innate lymphocytes and natural killer cells
Prof. Romagnani has been working on the innate immune system since the beginning of her research career, specifically on the so-called Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs). These cells promote wound healing and tissue regeneration, but also play a central role in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases. Her research group recently succeeded in identifying signals that control either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory programmes in ILCs. Now the immunologist and her team want to test whether chronic inflammation can be alleviated or even cured by specifically influencing the identified receptors.
Another focus of Prof. Romagnani’s work is research into natural killer cells (NK cells). Prof. Romagnani was able to show that NK cells have the ability to clone themselves in response to viral infections and survive for years in humans. Until then, it was assumed that these properties only applied to classic memory cells, the B and T lymphocytes.
In her current project, which is funded by an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), Prof. Romagnani is investigating the molecular mechanisms that control epigenetic restructuring, clonal selection and the maintenance of memory NK cells. Based on this knowledge, it should become possible to use cells specifically to fight viruses or tumour cells.
Short vita Prof. Romagnani
Chiara Romagnani specialised in oncology at the Italian National Cancer Institute after her medical studies. In 2006, she completed her doctorate at the University of Genoa (Italy) and came to Berlin as a postdoctoral researcher with a fellowship from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). From 2009 to 2017, she led a research group there at the DRFZ. From 2017 to 2020, she held a Heisenberg Professorship at the Charité. Prof. Romagnani is a member of the Advisory Board of the German Society for Immunology (DGfI) and Chief Editor of the European Journal of Immunology (EJI).