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Two new Wallenberg Academy Fellows at the University of Gothenburg

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Influenza vaccines and drugs for type 2 diabetes are in focus for two young researchers who have been appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellows. The researchers are Davide Angeletti and Linda Johansson.

Since 2012, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellows. The grants provide successful young researchers with long-term resources, allowing them to concentrate on their research. The program also contributes to an increased internationalization of the Swedish research environment. 2021 signifies two new fellows at the University of Gothenburg, namely Davide Ageletti and Linda Johansson, both at the Department of Biomedicine.

Will develop influenza vaccines that provide more lasting protection

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Davide Angeletti
Photo: Johan Wingborg

When we catch influenza, we usually develop antibodies against the parts of the virus that change most quickly, so our immunity only lasts a few years. Wallenberg Academy Fellow Davide Angeletti will develop a vaccine that generates antibodies against parts of the influenza virus that are more stable and can provide longer lasting protection.

There are two proteins on the surface of the influenza virus, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Hemagglutinin is shaped like a mushroom. When we catch influenza, or are vaccinated against it, we develop antibodies against the protein’s “hat”. Unfortunately, this is also the part of the influenza virus that mutates most quickly, which is why we fall sick repeatedly.

Davide Angeletti, at the University of Gothenburg, will now investigate why our immune system often reacts to the hatlike structure. He will also map the extent to which we develop antibodies against neuraminidase and how well they protect us against future infections. The objective is to develop a vaccine that provides antibodies against the more stable parts of the virus, and which can offer longer lasting protection. One hope is that this type of vaccine could also protect against more deadly forms of influenza, as researchers predict that more harmful variants of the virus will arise in the not-too-distant future.

Will study new targets for pharmaceuticals for type 2 diabetes

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Linda Johansson
Photo: Elin Lindström

The body’s sleep hormone, melatonin, appears to influence the development of type 2 diabetes. Wallenberg Academy Fellow Linda Johansson will study the melatonin receptors found on the surface of cells. Greater understanding of how they work may provide a basis for new pharmaceuticals for type 2 diabetes. 

When researchers searched for genetic variations that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, they made the surprising discovery that melatonin appears to be involved. People who have genetic mutations in the body’s receptors for melatonin are more likely to develop the disease.

These receptors are on the cells’ surface, and there are two variants. Linda Johansson, at the University of Gothenburg, has already produced images of each of these two variants individually. But in real life, on the cells’ surface, the receptors interact with each other, which impacts how they affect the cells.

Linda Johansson will now make detailed studies of the interaction between the two receptors using cryo-electron microscopy. The aim is to discover why mutations in these melatonin receptors increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and to produce knowledge that may be a starting point for new pharmaceuticals against the disease.

One announced researcher has declined

A third researcher nominated by the University of Gothenburg has been announced a Wallenberg Academy Fellow. Christina Williamson at the University of Colorado at Boulder studies uncertainties in climate predictions. However, she has decided to decline the grant.

Extended grant to Ana Maria Mora-Márquez

In addition to the new Wallenberg Academy Fellows, Ana Maria Mora-Marquez at the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science has been granted an extension of her grant for another five years. Ana Maria Mora-Marquez studies Aristotle's view of language.

Read more about Ana Maria Mora-Márquez