Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Synthetic biology and immunology

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.06.00  Biotechnical sciences  Biotechnology   
1.05.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biochemistry and molecular biology   

Code Science Field
3.04  Medical and Health Sciences  Medical biotechnology 
1.06  Natural Sciences  Biological sciences 
synthetic biology, innate immunity, cellular circuits, protein design, cancer immunotherapy
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on December 2, 2023; A3 for period 2017-2021
Data for ARIS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender , archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  415  14,640  13,076  31.51 
Scopus  408  16,976  15,357  37.64 
Researchers (44)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  14360  PhD Mojca Benčina  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  385 
2.  56959  Jure Bohinc  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
3.  55265  Elvira Boršić  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023  11 
4.  14136  MSc Maja Černilec  Microbiology and immunology  Technical associate  2022 - 2023  50 
5.  05236  PhD Vladka Čurin Šerbec  Microbiology and immunology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  258 
6.  35277  PhD Tina Fink  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  24 
7.  34529  PhD Vida Forstnerič  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  40 
8.  36426  PhD Anja Golob Urbanc  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  32 
9.  54624  Tea Govednik  Pharmacy  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
10.  17915  PhD Helena Gradišar  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  126 
11.  23563  PhD Iva Hafner Bratkovič  Neurobiology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  204 
12.  15978  PhD Katrina Hartman  Microbiology and immunology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  43 
13.  54676  Filip Ivanovski  Biotechnology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
14.  52001  Vid Jazbec  Biotechnology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023  12 
15.  06628  PhD Roman Jerala  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Head  2022 - 2023  1,166 
16.  36853  PhD Lucija Kadunc Polajnar  Neurobiology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  43 
17.  55727  Petra Kern  Biotechnology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
18.  35344  PhD Valerija Kovač  Medical sciences  Researcher  2022 - 2023  18 
19.  34069  PhD Duško Lainšček  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  141 
20.  39112  PhD Katja Leben  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022  11 
21.  31709  PhD Ajasja Ljubetič  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  89 
22.  21426  PhD Mateja Manček Keber  Pharmacy  Researcher  2022 - 2023  158 
23.  38257  PhD Maja Meško  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022  13 
24.  23939  PhD Martina Mohorčič  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  30 
25.  51485  Sandra Omejec  Microbiology and immunology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023  13 
26.  53437  Sara Orehek  Neurobiology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023  16 
27.  17280  Darija Oven    Technical associate  2022 - 2023 
28.  55818  Jelica Pantović Žalig  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
29.  38275  Anja Perčič    Technical associate  2022 
30.  39111  PhD Tjaša Plaper  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  26 
31.  56958  Ema Pleško  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
32.  56406  Klementina Podgoršek    Technical associate  2022 - 2023 
33.  55264  Eva Rajh  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Technical associate  2022 - 2023 
34.  53355  PhD Erik Rihtar  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
35.  54582  Tadej Satler  Biotechnology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
36.  29086  Boštjan Smrekar  Microbiology and immunology  Technical associate  2022 - 2023  17 
37.  51999  Jaka Snoj  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
38.  55061  Tina Strmljan    Technical associate  2022 - 2023 
39.  38337  PhD Žiga Strmšek  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2022  58 
40.  37644  PhD Petra Sušjan  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  47 
41.  39364  Anže Verbič  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Technical associate  2022 - 2023 
42.  52006  Sara Vidmar  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
43.  52872  PhD Weijun Zhou  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  12 
44.  39124  PhD Taja Železnik Ramuta  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  102 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0104  National Institute of Chemistry  Ljubljana  5051592000  21,277 
2.  0311  Blood Transfusion Centre of Slovenia  Ljubljana  5053960  1,744 
Program aims to advance the synthetic biology with focus on the regulation of mammalian cells and design of modular proteins by the construction of new types of biological systems that will endow them new interesting properties. Additionally we will continue researching the molecular mechanisms of immune response with emphasis on signaling and plan to integrate those discoveries with the developed tools of synthetic biology towards therapeutic applications, predominantly cancer immunotherapy and gene therapy. In the next funding period the program will focus on three main themes: 1. Development of tools of synthetic biology for mammalian cells, 2. Molecular immunology with therapeutic translation and 3. Design and application of new modular protein assemblies, primarily based on the designed coiled-coil modules. The program combines concepts and tools across all three themes, in the areas where we have a proven track record such as in innate immunity (Hafner-Bratkovič, Nat.Commun. 2019; Manček-Keber et al., Blood 2019; Ha et al., PNAS 2019), designed modular proteins (Ljubetič et al., Nat.Biotechnol. 2017; Lapenta et al., Nat.Commun. 2021; Aupič et al., Nat. Commun. 2021) and design of information processing in mammalian cells (Fink et al., Nat.Chem.Biol. 2020; Lebar et al., Nat.Chem.Biol. 2019, 2020). Specifically our goals are to design a new type of allosteric regulation of protein function that could be applicable to a wide range of proteins, design new type of regulators based on human proteins that can be regulated by the approved drugs and endogenous compounds and therefore better suited to therapeutic applications, introduce improvements of the CRISPR-based genome editing tools for gene therapy, further elucidate the molecular mechanisms of innate immune signaling via MyD88 and NLRP3 and their role in disease, design reversible regulation of cancer immunotherapy via chimeric antigen receptors, explore additional potentials of modular protein design beyond the current ERC Advanced grant run by the leader of the program, such as the ability to internalize into mammalian cells, design of artificial protein assemblies based on domain swapping and design of proteins with defined shapes aimed to be used as labels for the cryoelectron microscopy. This ambitious plan will be performed by a group of dedicated researchers using a wide range of techniques and instrumentation available in house, from structural biology using cryoelectron microscopy to therapeutic cells tested in the animal models and in collaboration with researchers and clinicians from Slovenia and abroad. We expect that the proposed innovative concepts will enrich our understanding of biological and biomimetic systems, and expand the methodology applicable to research as well as for translation into therapy.
Significance for science
The proposed research program will respond to important issues in the field of life sciences, with focus on medically important processes, designed biological and biomimetic systems. In addition, we aim to prepare new synthetic biology tools for bionanomaterials and cell engineering. This type of tools will be very useful to a wide range of researchers in the field of synthetic biology, as well as to the broader biotechnology and life sciences in general. Our results on modular protein folds, design of cellular logic in mammalian cells using modular DNA-binding proteins as well as in innate immunity have attracted significant attention in the last years with publications in prestigious journals and invitations to international conferences, which contribute to high impact. We expect that the results will be important for the advancement of science and for translation into primarily therapeutic and biotechnological applications. The proposed directions of research will contribute to shaping the cutting edge of synthetic biology as one of the propulsive directions in life sciences. Understanding of the activation mechanism of innate immunity receptors is one of the fundamental problems of immunology. The implementation of this knowledge in therapeutic applications is very important. Due to the wide-spread role of TLRs in sterile inflammatory processes the relevance of these studies ranges from the fields of autoimmunity, cancer, and neuropathic pain to many other diseases. Increased focus on translation and collaboration with clinicians in the proposed program is aimed to develop therapeutic improvements. The innovative combination of synthetic biology and immunology has in our opinion a great potential to become a showcase of the relevance of synthetic biology for health.
Significance for the country
Based on the high international recognition of the scientific achievements and by providing training to highly qualified personnel, the research program Synthetic biology and immunology holds a substantial potential impact for the society. Synthetic biology is one of the technologies where the beneficial principles of biological systems, such as precise structuring at nanoscale, evolution, self-repair, self-assembly, self-replication, high energy efficiency and efficiency of recycling. Our program is an important player in human resource development. Pharmaceutical and biotech industry have been continuously expressing a strong interest for employing our researchers, with more than 15 researchers recruited just to one pharmaceutical company, and several employed by the high tech companies abroad. Tens of students that obtained their training through iGEM project continue their research career in other program groups as well as at top universities abroad. These students represent a bridge between the Slovenian and foreign science and can translate their experience to Slovenia after completion of their training abroad. Members of our program group contributed significantly to the promotion of science to the wider audience through their engagement in science communication. Through those activities we will continue to inspire young people to study science and technology and try to increase the public support for the investments in science. Program is expected to generate intellectual property rights that will be protected by patent applications and could be used to commercially exploit these results, either through licensing or through the formation of a spinout company.
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