Mar Cabeza-Cabrerizo, postdoctoral research assistant at the Francis Crick Institute, has been awarded a prestigious Schmidt Science Fellowship to develop a new non-invasive method to image the human immune system in real-time.
The year-long fellowships are awarded to researchers tackling long-term societal challenges, including infectious disease, climate change and biodiversity loss. Only a handful of promising early career scientists from across the world are chosen each year.
As part of the programme, Mar will be working on new techniques to map how immune cells help the body defend itself from diseases like influenza and cancer, using samples from patients.
“The idea of being able to look at the immune system of individual patients in real-time is very exciting. It should help us study human diseases better and move towards personalised therapies,” says Mar Cabeza-Cabrerizo, 2020 Schmidt Science Fellow and postdoctoral research assistant in the Immunobiology Laboratory at the Crick.
“The timing of this award, amidst the pandemic of COVID-19, really strikes home the importance of research into health and disease.”
Mar’s current work focuses on studying the development of dendritic cells. These cells play a key role supporting our health as they stimulate the adaptive immune system, initiating a specialised response to different diseases.
In particular, she studies the development of these cells in the context of influenza virus infection. She has developed new techniques for judging the size of clusters of these cells in 3D, allowing scientists to visualise how they interact with disease.
The 2020 Schmidt Science Fellows will each receive a $100,000 stipend and are paired with an internationally accomplished and experienced senior scientist as a mentor. They will attend meetings at international science and innovation clusters to learn about new concepts outside of their discipline and to engage with thought-leaders from science, business, policy and society.
Caetano Reis e Sousa, group leader of the Immunobiology Laboratory at the Crick, says: “I am absolutely delighted that Mar was awarded a Schmidt Science Fellowship. She is a visionary scientist who has made major contributions to my laboratory - imaging dendritic cells and deciphering their spatial organisation in tissues.”
She has a strong interest in Medicine and the possible applications of basic science to the clinic. This Fellowship will allow her to develop her interest, moving into the imaging of human immune cells in tissues in real time, with in physiology and during disease.”