Research and Philosophy

Fungi are a major source of human morbidity and mortality, causing over 1 billion infections annually. In fact, fungal infections are estimated to kill over 1.5 million people per year, a staggering tally. Yet, despite their obvious importance, diagnosis and treatment both remain challenging. New therapeutic and diagnostic options are urgently needed to combat the increased occurrence of antifungal resistance and the lengthy time to diagnosis. Learn more at Gaffi.

The Independent Junior Research Group RNA Biology of Fungal Infections (RBI) at the Leibniz-HKI and generously sponsered by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) aims to close the gap between basic and translational research through an interdisciplinary research program focused on understanding fungal pathogenesis through the lens of RNA biology. It has previously been shown that RNA molecules can influence the outcome of infections caused by fungi. We are particularly interested in the detection of RNA populations in host extracellular vesicles that are produced in response to an infection and that might serve as possible diagnostic markers. In addition, we are working to advance our understanding of fungal non-coding RNAs and RNA-binding proteins to facilitate the advancement of new targets for RNA-based therapeutics. Current projects in the group address:

  1. the RNAs produced by the host in response to infection
  2. the influence of extracellular RNA on invading fungi
  3. RNA regulatory mechanisms in fungal pathogens

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The recent development of RNA-based therapeutic agents for the treatment of genetic disorders, viral infections, and plant fungal infections all provide convincing examples of the potential of RNA-based therapeutic agents against human fungal infections. New approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of fungal infections will ultimately improve our understanding of fungal pathogenesis, open up new pathways of treatment and diagnosis, and benefit society directly.

More importantly, we are dedicated to providing a rigorous, inclusive, diverse training enviroment for the next generation of budding scientists. In order to facilitate training, we also hope to collaborate widely in the research community. Get in touch if you are interested in setting up a shared lab meeting or pitching a collaborative project!

Funding Sources

Meet the Team

As a rule, all new team member avatars are replaced with a cat photo until a photo is provided!

Principal Investigator

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Matthew G. Blango

Junior Research Group Leader

Laboratory Manager

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Pamela Baumann

Laboratory Manager

Researchers

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Abdulrahman Kelani

Doctoral Researcher

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Alexander Bruch

Postdoctoral Fellow

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Lukas Schrettenbrunner

Doctoral Researcher

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Neshima Mavani

Master’s Student

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Xiaoqing Pan

Doctoral Researcher

Projects

Some of the ideas keeping us busy

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Extracellular RNA

How does exRNA contribute to fungal infection?

Fungal Small RNA

Exploring the world of fungal noncoding RNA

RNA-based Therapeutics

Pushing towards a better future!

Breaking News!

New Publication!

Alex and Rahman teamed up on an Opinion piece in Trends in Microbiology discussing the potential for using RNA-based therapeutics against human fungal infections. Check it out using the free early online download link, here until November 27th, 2021. png

Lab Photo!

We decided it was time for a proper team photo. We quickly decided it was also time for a less serious team photo. png

New Addition to the Team!

The RBI has a new member! Xiaoqing joined the team as a doctoral researcher after completing her Maseter’s degree at the South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. We are excited to explore a bit of RNA structure during fungal pathogenesis!

New Publication!

The RBI teamed up with the EV crew of the Brakhage group on a review of antimicrobial extracellular vesicles. It was a lot of fun exploring some new-to-us examples of antimicrobial vesicles for this FEMS microLife short review. png

MiCom 2021 PhD Talk!

Rahman was selected to give a talk at the recent MiCom 2021 conference run by the students of the Jena School for Microbial Communication. He gave a great talk updating the community on our recent efforts to characterize the RNA interference machinery of Aspergillus fumigatus! png

MMTSS Seminar!

Matt recently gave a seminar as part of the Medical Mycology Trainee Seminar Series (MMTSS) on the potential for using RNA-based therapeutics to treat fungal infections. You can then stick around to hear Dr. Carolina Coehlo present awesome work from her lab as well in this double-header. You can check out the recording here! png

Group Established!

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Recent Publications

Find a paper fast by filtering publications.
(2021). RNA-based therapeutics to treat human fungal infections. Trends Microbiol, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tim.2021.09.007.

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(2021). PLB-985 neutrophil-like cells release antifungal extracellular vesicles against the human-pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. bioRxiv, https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.28.454178.

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(2021). Host-derived extracellular vesicles for antimicrobial defense. microLife, https://doi.org/10.1093/femsml/uqab003.

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(2021). Balanced Input from the tRNA Prenyltransferase MiaA Controls the Stress Resistance and Virulence Potential of Extraintestinal Pathogenic Escherichia coli. bioRxiv, https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.02.429414.

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Available Positions

We currently have no positions on offer. We are willing to consider supporting candidates for postdoc fellowships on a case-by-case basis. You can check for other positions available at the Leibniz-HKI here!

Contact

Think we can help with something? Get in touch!