Doctoral Candidate

Franka Witthauer


Following my Bachelor degree (B.Sc) in Biology, I joined the Master Programme Integrated Immunology at the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg which provided me with a deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms in cellular biology as well as clinical and translational immunology. Within that time, I spent several months at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal where I had the opportunity to gain more experience in practical laboratory work while investigating the differentiation of γδ T-cells in mice.  Subsequently, I conducted my Master’s thesis in the lab of Dr. Michaela Petter. Here, my research was focused on understanding the molecular function of the bromodomain protein PfBDP1 in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, both in asexual parasites and gametocytes. During my studies, I gained interest not only in the mechanisms of the immune system itself but also in finding new strategies to overcome the challenge of treating immunodeficiencies or autoimmune diseases. Hence, in June 2024, I joined the team at Alia Therapeutics to perform my PhD with the goal to develop a CRISPR/Cas based gene-editing strategy to correct mutations associated with primary immunodeficiencies.


I gained first laboratory experiences working on my Bachelor’s thesis while investigating the evolution of antibodies against the SARS-CoV2 Spikeprotein and testing their binding affinity to different variants of the Spikeprotein, mainly using a variety of ELISA assays. During my internship, I worked with primary cells from different KO-mouse strains to investigate regulatory factors in the differentiation of γδ T-cells, using mainly FACS based methods. My Master’s thesis allowed me to broaden my experience in the field of epigenetics. I worked in cell culture with human red blood cells infected with different cell lines of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Using an inducible DiCre based KO strategy, I investigated the effects of the KO of the bromodomain of PfBDP1 specifically via PCR, Western blots and immunofluorescence microscopy. Furthermore, I performed strand specific RNA sequencing analysis to explore effects on differential splicing. Additionally, I followed different cloning and transfection approaches to establish a new cell line that can later be used for easy selection of male gametocytes, as well as a cell line used for BioID protein-proximity analysis.