Elite Program of the Baden-Württemberg foundation awards Dr. Mirja Harms
The Baden-Württemberg foundation recently selected young scientists for their coveted elite program for postdoctoral researchers. The program, which includes 150,000€ funding over a three-year period, aims to increase the independence of the awarded scientists and prepare them for professorship. After multiple rounds of selection, including a personal interview in Stuttgart, Dr. Harms became one of fourteen researchers in Baden-Württemberg to receive this prestigious award.
In collaboration with Dr. Nadia Roan of the University of California and Dr. Jean-Philippe Herbeuval of the University of Paris, Dr. Harms plans to investigate why the chemokine receptor CXCR4 and its natural ligands are upregulated in severe COVID-19. She will focus on CXCR4-dependent effects on T-cell activation in response to SARS-CoV-2 derived peptides to elucidate the mechanisms behind T cell dysfunction and aberrant cytokine release in COVID-19. In addition, she will use synthetic CXCR4 antagonists, such as EPI-X4 derived derivatives, to counteract these effects. Her long-term interests are the development of advanced treatment strategies not only for COVID-19 but also other inflammatory diseases.
Based on this award Mirja, who recently finished her PhD at the Institute of Molecular Virology in the group of Prof. Jan Münch, is now well on her way of becoming an independent scientific group leader.