Scientific leadership profile
My research career in immunology started in the early 1980s at the Department of Physiology and Immunology of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Rijeka (Croatia). In 1992 I joined the Federal Research Center for Virus Diseases in Tuebingen as a PhD student (group of Prof. Ulrich Koszinowski). There, I have commenced research in the immunosurveillance of herpesvirus infections using mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) as a model. Our group was the first to demonstrate that CD8+ T cells play a key role in the protection of the host against lethal viral infections. After returning home I have completed my PhD and continued working as a postdoctoral researcher. In a short time I have established my own group and continued my research in the field of viral immunology. Although I have worked in an environment with very low scientific standards, due to our ambition and hard work my group soon became internationally recognized in the field of immunology. We were the first to show that immune control of CMV was organized in a hierarchical and redundant manner by distinct elements of both innate and acquired immunity. Meanwhile, I was appointed Chair of the Department of Histology and Embryology at the Faculty of Medicine in Rijeka, where I managed to secure the necessary funding, establish state-of-the-art life science laboratories and recruit several top students.
My lab was among the first labs in Croatia that established modern molecular biology research. In 2006 I established the Center for Proteomics with the aim of expressing viral proteins and producing monoclonal antibodies in a high-throughput manner. Meanwhile, the Center broadened its scope and we initiated new research in molecular biology and immunology. In addition, with the support of my University, I have established a modern animal facility in SPF conditions with the capacity of up to 40.000 mice. Currently, we breed over 50 different conventional and transgenic mouse strains: this makes us a key institution for the development of biomedical science, not only nationally, but also in the region of SE Europe. I was the first Croatian scientist awarded ERC Advanced grant in 2012.
For my lifelong research achievements I was elected as a member of Leopoldina, German National Academy of science.