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Tomas Fiala

As a Branco Weiss Fellow, Dr. Tomas Fiala will develop chemical tools to study the interface between the nervous system and the immune system. His research aims to uncover how protein post-translational modifications direct the immune response in the brain, affecting brain homeostasis and the development of neurodegenerative disorders.


Czech Republic

Academic Career

  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zürich, Switzerland, 2020-present
  • PhD, Department of Chemistry, Columbia University, New York, USA, 2015-2020
  • MSc and BSc in Chemistry, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic, 2010-2015

Major Awards

  • ETH Career Seed Award, 2023
  • Marie Curie Individual Fellowship, 2020-2022
  • George Pegram Award for Meritorious Achievement in Chemical Research, 2020
  • Jack Miller Teaching Award for excellence in teaching by graduate students, 2017
  • Alfred Bader Fellowship in Organic Chemistry, 2015-2020
  • Dean’s Award for excellent results of independent research, 2014
  • Department of Chemistry Award for exceptional academic performance and undergraduate research, 2013
  • South Moravian Centre for International Mobility’s Scholarship for Talented Students, 2010-2013
  • STEM Monster Scholarship from the National Society of High School Scholars Foundation, 2010-2011


Branco Weiss Fellow Since

Research Category
Organic Chemistry, Neuroscience, Immunology

Research Location
Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zürich, Switzerland


Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, affect over 50 million people globally and this number is only expected to grow in the coming years. Unfortunately, current treatment options for patients only achieve symptom alleviation or mildly slow disease progression without addressing the fundamental cause of the disease. While the exact causes of neurodegeneration remain largely unknown, an increasing body of evidence suggests that the overactivation of the brain’s immune system is a major contributor. Understanding the molecular details of the processes that activate and regulate cerebral immunity could enable us to tackle neurodegeneration at its root.

Details of Research

Upon infection or stress, neural cells release chemokine signals that are detected by immune cells via cell-surface chemokine receptors, triggering the immune response. The activation of chemokine receptors is a tightly regulated process. One mechanism how nature accomplishes this regulation is through post translational modification (PTM). In his research, Dr. Tomas Fiala will study how chemokine receptor PTMs regulate receptor sensitivity towards chemokine signals in the context of brain inflammation. He will develop chemical tools that allow for the installation and removal of receptor PTMs on demand. With his tools, Dr. Fiala will dissect the role of individual chemokine receptor PTMs in the cerebral immune response and characterize the border between a healthy immune response and a pathological state that leads to neurodegeneration. Ultimately, these results could help identify novel targets and strategies for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.