Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS) has this week announced the annual winners of its national Clinical Research Fellowship (CRF) program. An international panel of clinical researchers has awarded fellowships to Sara Gredmark Russ at the Karolinska Institute and Anne-Marie Fors Connolly at Umeå University to conduct research into how different viruses infect human cells and cause disease.
Sara Gredmark Russ is a specialist doctor in infectious diseases at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital. Following her medical degree and PhD in experimental medicine at the Karolinska Institute, she conducted research at the Whithead Institute at MIT (USA), before she established her own research group within the area of immunology, focusing on how viruses interact with the human immune system. Dr. Gredmark Russ studies tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), a serious viral infection of the central nervous system caused by tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). Her team will now answer how the virus causes disease. In her fellowship project, she will work with MIMS scientist Anna Överby Wernstedt to identify human host cell factors important for TBE virus infection and replication. Her ultimate aim is to discover novel therapeutic targets to treat TBE, which are urgently required.
Anne-Marie Fors Connolly is a clinician researcher at the Department of Clinical Microbiology and University Hospital of Umeå. Originally from Denmark, Anne-Marie Fors Connolly earned a PhD from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, before she completed her medical degree in Umeå. She will establish a translational research group to understand the disease caused by Puumala Orthohantavirus, hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), known in Sweden as “sorkfeber”. Compared to other hantavirus infections, HFRS is rarely lethal, but Dr. Fors Conolly has previously shown that it is a risk factor, for instance for heart attack and stroke. There are no drugs to eliminate the virus, and the aim now is to identify treatment strategies, which may also point the way for treating other viral hemorrhagic fevers.
“I am delighted to have won this prestigious fellowship! It will not only give me essential research time but also allow me to establish a new collaboration with Marta Bally’s lab in Umeå”, says Fors Connolly.
Fors Connolly will use the MIMS fellowship to team up with Marta Bally of the Wallenberg Center for Molecular Medicine to understand how a viral infection might change the inner surface of blood vessles to cause some of the complications of the disease.
MIMS Clinical Research Fellowships offer a total of one year of research time for the fellow and two year’s additional research support.
Oliver Billker, director of MIMS, says: “We are delighted to welcome two new clinical fellows and their exciting projects to the MIMS community! Bridging basic and clinical research is challenging but important. Through our fellowships we link two talented clinicians to basic researchers at MIMS and in our local network. Importantly, we also connect the new fellows to our European network of centres of research excellence in molecular medicine.”
This year’s fellows were selected by an international panel of clinical researchers chaired by Nicole Stoesser (University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Medicine) and including Amy Mathers (University of Virgina School of Medicine) and Anders Johansson (Umeå University, Norrland’s University Hospital).
MIMS is funded by the Swedish Research Council to foster the next generation of outstanding researchers in infection medicine. It is the Swedish node in a larger network created by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), to which it is connected through the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine.
Pictures: on the left Sara Gredmark Russ (by KI) and on the right Anne-Marie Fors Connolly (by Mattias Petterson)