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Overview of Dioscuri Centres of Scientific Excellence in Poland

25.05.2022 - Artykuł

Dioscuri Centre for Chromatin Biology and Epigenomics

(since 01.10.2019 located at the Nencki Institute for Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences)

At the Dioscuri Centre for Chromatin Biology and Epigenomics, Aleksandra Pękowska and her team combine high throughput genomic approaches, computational tools, genome engineering and stem cell models to provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms that underlie the evolution of the human brain. Likewise, they use these cutting-edge tools to establish the nature of the connection between the spatial arrangement of the genome in the cell and the control of the activity of genes in the developing mammalian nervous system. Through experimental and computational approaches, researchers at the Dioscuri Centre hope to provide new insights into how the human genome evolved to sustain the higher-order brain functions and which fundamental mechanisms allow the genome to orchestrate development. They are supported by their Dioscuri partner from Germany, Martin Vingron from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics.

Aleksandra graduated from the University of Lodz in 2006, with a MS in biology (lab of Grzegorz Bartosz, Dept. of Molecular Biophysics). For her PhD, she joined the lab of Pierre Ferrier at the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille Luminy, Aix-Marseilles University. In 2011, Pekowska obtained the EIPOD fellowship (EMBL/Marie Curie actions) and joined the groups of Wolfgang Huber, Lars Steinmetz, and Paul Bertone at EMBL/EBI for an interdisciplinary postdoc. In 2016, Aleksandra joined the team of Rafael Casellas at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIH) in Bethesda, US. Since 2019, Aleksandra leads the Dioscuri Centre for Chromatin Biology and Epigenomics, which she established at the Nencki Institute for Experimental Biology (Polish Academy of Sciences) in Warsaw. More information:

Dioscuri Centre for Metabolic Diseases

(since 01.01.2020 located at the Nencki Institute for Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences)

At the Dioscuri Centre for Metabolic Diseases, Grzegorz Sumara focuses on the elucidation of signaling pathways that play a role in metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes (T2D) or atherosclerosis and sarcopenia that affect healthy aging. For this purpose, Grzegorz and his team combine cell biology, biochemical, high-throughput screening and omics approaches with mouse genetics. Since perturbations in signaling cascades regulating basic metabolic processes of adipose tissue, liver and intestine (e.g. nutrients absorption) or energy utilization in muscles often result in metabolic imbalance, by determining essential signaling networks we aim to contribute to more targeted pharmacological strategies for treatment of metabolic diseases such as obesity, T2D, atherosclerosis or sarcopenia (muscle wasting).

Grzegorz started his research career with undergraduate student internships at the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Vienna, Austria, and at the University Hospital of Zürich, Switzerland. In 2008, he received his PhD from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. Afterwards, he spent four years as a postdoctoral HFSP fellow at Columbia University in New York and half a year at the IGBMC in Strasbourg. Since 2013, Grzegorz was a junior group leader at the Rudolf Virchow Centre in Würzburg, Germany. During his time in Würzburg, he acquired a prestigious Emmy Noether grant from the German Research Foundation for studying hormonally-induced signalling cascades in adipocytes and hepatocytes and an ERC Starting Grant, within which he established Protein kinase D (PKD) family members as a crucial regulators of energy metabolism. All of these studies and positions allowed Grzegorz to build the scientific program for the Dioscuri Centre of Scientific Excellence in Warsaw, where his research group focuses on unraveling the cross-talk of different signalling molecules in regulation of adipocytes function during metabolic diseases such as obesity or cancer-associated cachexia. He is supported by Martin Klingenspor from the Technical University of Munich as his partner from Germany. Recently, the DC were also awarded an EMBO Installation Grant from European Molecular Biology Organization, which further helped to start the lab in Poland. For more information:

Dioscuri Centre in Topological Data Analysis

(since 01.07.2020 located at the Institute of Mathematics, Polish Academy of Sciences)

As humans, we are trained to recognize various objects and phenomena by understanding their shape. We are successful in this task even if the objects of interest are subjected to large amount of noise of considerably deformed. While the concept of shape is deeply rooted in our perception, its mathematical foundations are far from satisfactory. At the Dioscuri Centre for Topological Data Analysis, Paweł and his team are seeking mathematically sound methods to understand and quantify the shape of data. That includes objects we may encounter in our everyday life, like new materials, medical images and more. Critically, the solutions they provide scale in time and dimension enriching the understanding dynamic and high dimensional phenomena. The mathematicians at the Dioscuri Centre work on the efficient implementation of the tools of topology and geometry, including many they develop themselves, to provide cutting edge solutions to multiple disciplines, including biology, medical and climate research, economics, finance, material science and many and more.

Paweł received his MS and his PhD (in 2012) from the Institute of Computer Science at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. As a postdoctoral researchers, he spent time in Prof. Robert Ghrist's group at the Department of Mathematics, University of Pennsylvania and in the in Geometrica Group at Inria, Salcay (France) while also holding a partial appointment as assistant and associate professor at the Jagiellonian University. In 2017, Paweł became Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Swansea University (UK) before establishing his Dioscuri Centre at the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 2020. Together with his partner from Germany, Prof. Dr. Dmitry Feichtner-Kozlov from the Institute of Algebra, Geometry, Topology and its Applications at the University of Bremen, Paweł and his team at the Dioscuri Centre for Topological Data Analysis are working on interdisciplinary projects somewhere between mathematics, computer science and applied science. For more, visit

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Dioscuri Centre for the Physics and Chemistry of Bacteria

(since 01.10.2020 located at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences)

The Dioscuri Centre for the Physics and Chemistry of Bacteria studies bacterial growth and evolution to better understand bacterial infections, in particular urinary infections. Bartłomiej and his team are interested in how bacteria attach and grow on surfaces such as medical catheters and implants, how bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, and how they invade and grow inside animal cells. Researchers at the Dioscuri Centre also study the evolution of cancer cells and their response to chemotherapy. In their work, they use a range of biological, physical, and chemical experimental methods as well as machine learning and computer simulations. Furthermore, they develop new optical-based methods to measure bacterial growth. The team hopes that their work at the Centre will help to develop novel approaches to antimicrobial and anti-cancer therapy.

Bartłomiej obtained a PhD in theoretical physics from Jagellonian University in Krakow in 2007 (supervisor: Zdzislaw Burda). After two years at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Leipzig University as a postdoc in Wolfhard Janke’s group, he moved to the Institute for Condensed Matter and Complex Systems at the University of Edinburgh. First, as a postdoc working with Martin Evans, then becoming an independent Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow in 2012. In 2013, Bartek awarded a Scottish Government Personal Research Fellowship co-funded by Marie Curie Actions. Around the same time, he was made a proleptic lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Edinburgh, where he was promoted to Reader in 2019. While his early research was in random matrix theory, complex networks, driven diffusive systems (zero-range process, TASEP, and related models), he then moved to biological physics and worked on various theoretical and experimental projects in microbial evolution and cancer. In particular, Bartek has published on how bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, how growth and migration affect genetic heterogeneity of tumors, and the growth of bacterial colonies. More information:

Dioscuri Centre for RNA-Protein Interactions in Human Health and Diseases

(since 01.01.2021 located at the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology)

At the Dioscuri Centre for RNA-Protein Interactions in Human Health and Disease, located at the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw, Prof. Gracjan Michlewski investigates RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), which are key molecules that control gene expression and protect the cells from RNA viruses. With his Dioscuri funding Gracjan’s laboratory is focusing on discovering the cellular roles and structural characteristics of novel RBPs and RNA-protein interactions as well as their functional implications in immune response to influenza A virus (flu) infection. His NAWA Polish Returns grant aims to uncover and leverage the knowledge about RNA-protein interactions in the aetiology and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. His partner from Germany, Prof. Juri Rappsilber from the Institute of Biotechnology at the Technische Universität Berlin, is an internationally renowned expert in protein analysis by advanced methods of mass spectrometry. A detailed molecular understanding of RNA-protein interactions will provide the path to towards novel therapies for yet incurable human diseases as well as emerging RNA viruses.

Gracjan received a MSc in Biotechnology from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (Poland), where he completed his PhD (2005), and later his habilitation (in 2012), in Biological Chemistry at the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences. He was named Professor of Biological Sciences by the President of the Republic of Poland in 2021. In 2005, he joined the Human Genetics Unit of the Medical Research Council, Edinburgh as a postdoc and later became a Medical Career Award Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh. Before establishing his Dioscuri Centre in Warsaw, Gracjan was an Associate Professor at the Zhejiang University-University of Edinburgh Institute in Haining (China) and Reader at Edinburgh Medical School for Infection Medicine, where he still serves as Honorary Lecturer. More information:

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