As a Branco Weiss Fellow, Dr. Irma Querques will study how organisms naturally acquire new genetic information and will apply these insights to the development of next-generation genome engineering tools. In particular, she will visualize natural DNA editing machines in 3D using state-of-the-art structural biology methods to understand how to turn them into biotechnologies that could redraw the frontiers of precision gene therapy.
- Assistant Professor and Group Leader, Max Perutz Labs, University of Vienna, Austria, 2023–present
- Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Zurich, Switzerland, 2019–2022
- PhD, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Heidelberg and Heidelberg University, Germany, 2014–2018
- Visiting scientist and Erasmus Placement Scholar, EMBL Heidelberg, Germany, 2013–2014
- MSc in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, University of Bologna, Italy, 2011–2013
- BSc in Biotechnology, University of Bologna, Italy, 2008–2011
- UZH Postdoc Grant, 2022
- EMBO Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2021–2022
- FEBS Long-term Fellowship, 2020–2021
- EMBL Predoctoral Fellowship, 2014–2018
- Fuchs Special Opportunities Fund, 2017
- Erasmus Placement Scholarship, 2013
- Best Talk Prize at EMBO workshop ‘The Mobile Genome’, 2021
- FEBS Letters Poster Prize at the FEBS LS2 Annual Meeting, 2020
Branco Weiss Fellow Since
Structural Biology, Biotechnology, Medicine
Max Perutz Labs, University of Vienna, Austria
Inserting new DNA into the string of genetic instructions that make us function as humans holds the potential for correcting the errors that are at the very basis of many diseases, including heritable disorders and cancer. Yet, present-day gene therapy treatments present many hurdles to overcome that relate to safety, immunity, and delivery. Even when remarkably effective, turning gene therapies into a standard of care poses the question of how to provide what are now expensive and difficult cures to people worldwide, especially within less developed health care systems.
As a Branco Weiss Fellow, Dr. Irma Querques will develop innovative molecular tools for site-specific and programmable DNA insertion to be used for low-cost, precise and personalized therapeutic interventions. With the advent of cutting-edge high resolution imaging methods, the possibility of seeing molecular machineries in 3D at unprecedented atomic details offers the chance to understand their biochemical activities in depth, and thus to reimagine them into bioinspired technologies for research, industry, and medicine. Following this idea, Dr. Querques will explore new avenues in the fields of structural biology, synthetic biology, and cancer immunotherapies to translate natural genome editing systems into transformative technologies for precision diagnostics and biomedicine. This research will pave the way not only for understanding how genetic information can be redesigned in nature and in applications, but also for redefining the frontiers of gene therapy in terms of safety, efficacy, and accessibility.