We’re happy to announce that Dr. Ivo Rimann is among the top three scorers and is the highest scorer of our recent digital PCR quiz. Ivo is currently a Staff Scientist at the Scripps Research Institute, California, USA. A special congratulations to Ivo.
Tell us about your background and how you became interested in immunology and microbial science.
I graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich with majors in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. During my Ph.D. years in the lab of Dr. Hajnal at the University of Zurich, I studied the regulation of cell invasion in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. This process, where cells acquire the ability to overcome mechanical barriers and to migrate into new environments, is essential during normal animal development as well as during diseases such as cancer. I continued my studies in the lab of Dr. Quigley at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California, using vertebrate models for cancer metastasis. During this time, I became fascinated by the important role that immune cells play during cancer and other diseases. I decided to shift focus towards the field of Immunology and joined the laboratories of Dr. Argyrios Theofilopoulos and Dr. Dwight Kono in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at TSRI. Here, I have been studying Toll-like receptor signaling during the autoimmune disease lupus.
Can you provide a summary of the project you are currently doing?
Signaling by endosomal nucleic acid-sensing receptors and the production of type I interferons are central events in the pathogenesis of lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), which are part of the innate immune system, are the major producers of these cytokines and thus thought to have a central role in lupus disease. Interestingly, a mutation in the proton/histidine transporter SLC15A4 is known to impair endosomal TLR signaling in pDCs. In my project, I am studying how this molecule affects nucleic acid recognition and lupus disease. Insights from these studies will help to understand better how innate sensors and cells promote lupus pathogenesis and allow the discovery of novel targets for therapeutic intervention.
Please describe your typical day in the lab.
I usually start my day in the office where I, while enjoying a strong cup of coffee, chat with my lab colleagues about the latest news. I go through my inbox, check my calendar for planned experiments on a given day, upcoming seminars, and meetings. Afterward, I head over to the lab space to coordinate with our laboratory technician today’s experiments and finally to get my assays running. Usually, bench work takes up half or more of my day, and when the protocol allows, I like to spend some time outside under the bright California sun to eat lunch. Once the practical work is finished, I analyze my data and discuss the results with my supervisor. If the result provides insight into my immediate scientific question, I prepare the next steps by writing protocols, ordering materials, and defining the experimental plan for the upcoming days.
What do you find most interesting and also most challenging about your project?
I find fascinating the fact that pDCs are such potent producers of type I interferons. While several explanations have been presented in the literature, the understanding of why they have this exceptional capability is still incomplete. Unfortunately, these cells are also a very rare population, and thus studies using primary cells are challenging. It often requires growing large numbers of this cell type by in vitro differentiation, which is a time and labor-intensive procedure.
How would your research plan benefit from digital PCR?
Digital PCR would allow me to complete my previous qPCR experiments with a method that measures absolute gene expression levels without the need for a standard curve. Besides, dPCR is a highly sensitive assay, which should be beneficial since I am working with a very rare cell type.
Which QIAGEN products do you use, and what do you like about the products?
I am regularly using the RNeasy Mini Kit. I like that it offers an easy and fast protocol to isolate high-quality RNA free of genomic DNA consistently.
Outside of science, what are your hobbies?
A couple of years ago, I participated in my first Triathlon here in San Diego, and I immediately got hooked on this sport. I like that it is a very healthy multisport where I can be in nature. My other hobby is photography. When I am traveling, I always bring my camera with me. I especially enjoy taking pictures of the night sky as, for example, when I recently have been camping in the backcountry of nearby Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Why are you excited to come to QIAGEN?
I am very excited to meet the people that bring the values of this innovative and highly trusted company to life.
We’re excited to meet Ivo at the QIAGEN HQ in Hilden, Germany, later this year.