Prof. Dr. Ulrike Protzer

Together in the fight against deadly viruses

Understanding the enigmatic world of viruses requires the interaction of many scientists from different disciplines. Professor Ulrike Protzer is a key player in this interaction.

“A virus is not a living organism but rather tiny bundle of genetic material. When a virus infects a cell of the body, it hijacks the cell’s machinery and thus reproduces itself. The cell that is infected ‘lives’ for the virus.“ This is how Professor Ulrike Protzer describes the subject of her research. She has set herself the goal of undermining this deadly hijacking mechanism: Each year, more than a million people across the globe die of infections caused by the hepatitis B and C virus. As institute director of the Institute of Virology at Helmholtz Zentrum München, director of the  Institute of Virology of Technischen Universität München and member of a three-person executive board in the Mega network„German Centre for Infection Research“ she now stands at the center of a dense research collaboration network. 

Collaborative research finding: new treatment option for curing hepatitis B

Portrait von Prof. Dr. Ulrike Protzer
Prof. Dr. Ulrike Protzer

In 2011 Protzer published a study together with colleagues from TUM and the University of Bonn, which opened up a new treatment option to cure chronic hepatitis B infections (link to the study). By means of specifically modified RNA fragments (glossary), so-called siRNA (glossary), her team succeeded in inhibiting the proliferation of the hepatitis B virus in the body – and at the same time stimulated the immune system to take action against the virus. A big step in the right direction.

Resistance predictions – result of a research collaboration

In her own research activities, Protzer directly benefits from all kinds of feedback from other researchers. A good example here is the BMBF-funded network for resistance analysis HOPE, which makes predictions within the context of personalized antiviral therapy about the development of viruses.

Doctors can now download the results from the Internet free of charge, allowing them to make resistance predictions for their own patients Max Plank Insitut für Informatik. Due to the collaboration of many researchers, now the most important diagnostic procedures are described in the medical guidelines.

Munich as location: optimal for cooperative projects

Protzer has been working in Munich for four years, and she points out what an outstanding location it is. In the field of infection and immunology there are “many strong groups“, she has optimal interaction partners in the form of collaborative research centers and clinical cooperation groups, and now also in the „German Center for Infection Research“.

nd in the field of immunotherapy there are collaborations with companies, e.g. with Dynavax Europe to develop a therapeutic vaccine for chronic hepatitis B. Yet another ally in the struggle against these dangerous viruses.

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