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Roland Knorr receives DFG funding to establish Interfacial Cell Biology group

New Emmy Noether research group at IRI Life Sciences will study principles of intracellular organization

Understanding the mechanisms of how short-lived compartments arise in cells will be the focus of the new “Interfacial Cell Biology” group. “Compartmentalization is essential for eukaryotic cell function. While transient compartments play critical roles in cell function, their development is not well understood. The resources from the Emmy Noether programme will enable us to gain an in-depth understanding of how liquid compartments (also known as membrane-less condensates or droplets) mediate formation of membrane-bound organelles,” says Roland. The DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) will fund Roland’s research at IRI Life Sciences for six years.

Recently, his team discovered that fundamental cellular processes rely on the physical process of wetting between membranes and liquid compartments: the formation of both autophagosomes during autophagy and protein storage vacuoles in plant seeds. Autophagy is an intracellular recycling process important for healthy development, and its dysfunction implicates a multitude of diseases including cancer. Storage proteins in seeds constitute the backbone of human and animal nutrition with significant impact on both the biotechnology and food industry.

Roland’s career started in biotech companies that provide todays key technologies against Covid-19: vaccine manufacturing and liposomal RNA delivery. He obtained his PhD in biochemistry at the University Potsdam and deepened his research on intracellular phase phenomena, dynamics of biological membranes, and autophagy as Assistant Professor at The University of Tokyo, as fellow at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and at the University Warwick, and at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam.

We are very happy that Roland joined IRI Life Sciences, welcome his group at the Campus Nord of the Humboldt-Universität and wish him every success for his research!