The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation sponsors outstanding international researchers to conduct research in Germany for a period of 6-24 months. It is a prestigious and highly competitive fellowship with an acceptance rate of only 23%.
Dr. Alaa Bessadok, a Tunisian postdoc in the lab of Dr. Tingying Peng, received one of the prestigious ‘Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowships’ to conduct research at Helmholtz Munich with the joint hosts Dr. Tingying Peng’s lab at Helmholtz AI and Dr. Kamyar Hadian’s lab at the Molecular Targets and Therapeutics Center. Her main area of research is geometric deep learning with the aim of studying drug-induced cell death modalities (e.g., ferroptosis and apoptosis). Understanding how different compounds are causing cell death will potentially accelerate drug discovery in this field, contributing to advancements in the treatments of highly prevalent diseases like cancer..
“Identifying the presence of a particular cell death type in drugs is not an obvious task and it requires costly experimental setups to reveal such connections. I propose to employ computational techniques using artificial intelligence (AI) to understand how certain drugs may selectively induce a distinct form of cell death modality. This understanding will accelerate the use of such drugs in specific clinical settings”, stated Alaa.
During her stay at Helmholtz Munich, Alaa will develop AI tools to predict cell death types of distinct drugs using high-content-screening (HCS) assays conducted in the lab of her co-host Dr. Kamyar Hadian. She will use her current expertise in graph neural networks to design a framework for predicting the cell death types and further identify unique drug combinations that can be used to treat different diseases. Hence, Alaa’s project puts forward an interesting new path to further explore the critical synergy between biological science and geometric deep learning.
“This Humboldt-funded postdoctoral research experience will provide me with a cutting-edge scientific profile and key leadership skills.” Alaa said.
Congratulations on this great achievement!
PICTURE of Alaa (middle) with her two hosts (Tingying, left, Kamyar right) in front of high content imaging facilities.