New at the LIMES-Institute: Prof. Eva Kiermaier, Immune and Tumor Biology

In the 2016 round of calls for proposals of the North Rhine-Westphalia Returning Experts Program three research talents were established – one of them is Prof. Dr. Eva Kiermaier. Thereby the NRW Ministry of Science brought back from abroad three outstanding junior researchers. They each receive up to 1.25 million euros over five years to set up their own research group at a university in North Rhine-Westphalia. Prerequisites for a successful application were PhD, research activities abroad and an outstanding scientific profile.

In her research project at the LIMES Institute of the University of Bonn, Eva Kiermaier will examine intracellular structures and their role in the immune response. It also deals with the question of how immune cells control their cell division. Based on this, she aims to develop new approaches for possible cancer therapies.

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In December 2017, the LIMES Institute has again expanded its portfolio with the area of Immune and Tumor Biology of the new working group of Prof. Dr. Eva Kiermaier. The funded project is entitled ‘Centrosome amplification in immune cells’ and aims to understand the nature, cause and consequences of having multinumerous centrosomes in a particular subset of immune cells - a process, which is generally associated with cell transformation and tumorigenesis. 

Eva Kiermaier studied Biochemistry at the Technical University in Munich and later joined the PhD program at the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna. During her PhD in the laboratory of Stefan Westermann she worked on chromosome segregation in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. After a short postdoc in Barcelona, she joined the laboratory of Michael Sixt at the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria in Klosterneuburg. The major focus of her work was to understand different aspects of immune cell migration and guidance, on a cellular as well as on a tissue level. Her current work combines different areas such as Molecular Immunology, Cell Biology and Tumorbiology. “I benefit a lot from having worked in different research disciplines using distinct model systems such as yeast, primary cells and mouse models”, Prof. Kiermaier states.

Centrosomes are small organelles, which play a crucial role in organizing the microtubule cytoskeleton during cell division, embryonic development, cell locomotion and immunological synapse formation. Similarly to DNA, centrosomes duplicate precisely once per cell cycle and are therefore present as a single copy within the cell. The fidelity of centrosome duplication is of critical importance as defects in either the assembly or number of centrosomes promote cancer development. Interestingly, the most potent antigen-presenting cells of the innate immune system, dendritic cells, contain multinumerous centrosomes. The group investigates the role of these extra centrosomes during innate and adaptive immune responses as well as their organization during immune cell effector functions. “Ultimately we try to understand how normal somatic cells prevent transformation into tumor cells. Having this knowledge, we can try to figure out what went wrong in cancerous cells”, she explains.

The LIMES Institute is an extremely attractive place to carry out interdisciplinary research and collaborate with people from distinct disciplines. “Being embedded in such an existing research infrastructure was key for me in choosing the place to conduct my future research and setting up my own lab”, says Prof. Kiermaier.

This junior researcher is a stroke of luck for the LIMES Institute, confirms Prof. Waldemar Kolanus, Managing Director of the LIMES Institute: “At just 36, she is already an outstanding and internationally renowned scientist and we are very pleased that we were able to win Eva Kiermaier for the LIMES Institute.”


Dr. Eva Kiermaier