The Institute of Cancer Research- ICR- United Kingdom
Dr. Vladimir Kirkin
1.How did you get into the autophagy field and why is the field important to you?
I entered the field in 2006 when doing work on ubiquitin-like proteins in the group of Ivan Dikic in Frankfurt. Back then, I performed yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) screens using Atg8/LC3/GABARAP, ATG12 and ATG5 proteins as baits. The results of the interaction screens paved the way to identification of selective autophagy receptors and helped explain the specificity in the autophagy pathway. Ever since, I am fascinated by the field as it spans multiple disciplines and is important for a range of human diseases. My current objective is to develop drugs modulating selective autophagy.
2. What is a key question in the autophagy field now? Where do you think the field is heading?
There are many unanswered questions in the field, including the origin of the autophagic membranes, the role of ubiquitin-like proteins in autophagosome genesis, and the sequence of events leading to autophagic cargo elimination. Providing the answers will enable therapeutic approaches to presently intractable diseases, such as ALS and Alzheimer Disease, but also some cancers. The advent of high-throughput genomics and proteomics is helping decipher genes and protein complexes that govern the autophagic pathway but will also help identify points of therapeutic intervention. Another important area of development is work on more robust methodologies to study the process of autophagy, beyond the LC3 and p62 assays. Translational modelling of autophagy in disease will only be possible with validated in vivo autophagy assays.
3. Should you meet any scientist, currently living or deceased, who would it be and why?
I am regularly meeting with great scientists who inspire me to stay in science and also do my share of teaching to raise the next generation of researchers. Of the deceased great ones, I would have chosen a conversation with Albert Einstein who is a bright example of an out-of-the-box thinker with incredible resilience and outreach
4. What advice do you have for early career scientists that want to enter the autophagy field?
Invest time in the right tools early on! Be building your own very solid foundation but also look around from time to time not to miss the right opportunity! Be brave and inspired!