Alexander von Humboldt Professorship 2025

Dana Branzei

Molecular biologist Dana Branzei examines mechanisms of DNA repair. Her outstanding research results contribute to the fundamental understanding of cancer development and therapy.

  • Nominating University: University of Duisburg-Essen
Porträt von Dana Branzei
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Molecular biology

Damage to DNA often occurs during the replication process, the duplication of DNA. The cells react by activating mechanisms to repair or tolerate the DNA damage. These mechanisms are crucial for keeping the genetic material intact – if they do not work, an abnormal pattern of gene mutations and chromosome rearrangements may emerge, and diseases, such as cancer, can develop.

Dana Branzei investigates how cells are able to repair and tolerate DNA damage and how various DNA repair mechanisms are coupled with each other and with other cellular processes. In groundbreaking studies focused on understanding the inner workings of error-free branches of DNA damage tolerance, Dana Branzei discovered that these DNA repair mechanisms are integrated into the sensing of DNA lesions and chromatin assembly reactions taking place in the context of the replisome, the machinery responsible for genome duplication. She has shed light on a "black box" related to how processes co-evolved in cells to link genome duplication with DNA repair and chromosome establishment. Her research findings make a fundamental contribution to the understanding of genes predisposing to cancer and the etiology of genome alterations that often result from chemotherapy.

Dana Branzei is to become Humboldt Professor at the Center of Medical Biotechnology (ZMB) and the Faculty of Biology at the University of Duisburg-Essen. As an interdisciplinary scientific center, the ZMB connects medical research at the University Hospital and the natural sciences on campus.  The Humboldt Professorship will also be integrated into the Research Center One Health Ruhr in the University Alliance Ruhr - consisting of the University of Duisburg-Essen, the Ruhr University Bochum and TU Dortmund University. The University of Duisburg-Essen wants to become an international hub for mechanistic disease research within the University Alliance Ruhr, particularly in relation to disorders of cell division mechanisms.

Brief bio

Romanian-born Dana Branzei has been a Principal Investigator at IFOM, The AIRC Institute of  Molecular Oncology in Milan, Italy, since 2008, and a Director of Research at the Institute of Molecular Genetics associated with the Italian National Research Council (CNR) in Pavia, since 2020. After her studies in Japan, she held a postdoctoral position at the RIKEN Institute in Wako. She still continues international teaching and research collaborations with universities in Japan. She has been an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) since 2016 and was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant in the same year, after having successfully completed an ERC Starting Grant in Italy. Dana Branzei was decorated with the Order of Cultural Merit by her home country of Romania for her scientific achievements.

Dana Branzei has been selected for a Humboldt Professorship and is currently conducting appointment negotiations with the German university that nominated her for the award. If the negotiations end successfully, the award will be granted in 2025.