Vassilis Roukos joins Institute of Molecular Biology in Mainz to study cellular mechanisms maintaining genome integrity

Expert will use novel high-throughput imaging tools to explore the roles of chromatin organization in genome stability and maintenance


The Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Mainz welcomes Dr. Vassilis Roukos as a new Group Leader. Roukos has recently developed novel high-throughput imaging tools, which he will use at IMB to explore the roles of chromatin organization in genome stability and maintenance. Roukos' group at IMB will be investigating different aspects of cells' responses to double-strand DNA breaks and genome maintenance. This will include unraveling the epigenetic pathways involved in recognizing and repairing breaks, and exploring how illegitimate repair leads to the formation of oncogenic chromosome translocations.

Cells employ a battery of defences to protect themselves in case their DNA becomes damaged. Usually, these mechanisms recognize the damage and either repair it or trigger cell death. However, if they repair the DNA incorrectly, dangerous mutations and genome rearrangements can arise. This can particularly be the case if both strands of the DNA are cut through, a so-called double-strand break. The resulting DNA ends can be unfaithfully repaired within the same chromosome, generating dangerous mutations, or can be illegitimately joined with another end of a different chromosome, resulting in the formation of chromosome translocations. Depending on the location of the breaks, translocations can lead to the formation of chimeric fusion genes or alter gene expression. Either case could result in changes to normal gene function, which could mark a significant step towards the cell becoming cancerous.

Prior to joining IMB, Dr. Vassilis Roukos was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. There he developed novel high-throughput microscopy tools that enabled him to visualize for the first time how chromosome translocations form within the mammalian cell nucleus in living cells. At the Institute of Molecular Biology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Dr. Vassilis Roukos will use advanced high-throughput imaging approaches, in combination with novel genomic tools, to help uncover the roles of chromatin organization in genome stability and maintenance.

About the Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH

The Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH (IMB) is a center of excellence in the life sciences that was established in 2011 on the campus of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). Research at IMB concentrates on three cutting-edge areas: epigenetics, developmental biology, and genome stability. The institute is a prime example of a successful collaboration between public authorities and a private foundation. The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation has dedicated EUR 100 million for a period of ten years to cover the operating costs for research at IMB, while the state of Rhineland-Palatinate provided approximately EUR 50 million for the construction of a state-of-the-art building.

About the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization committed to the promotion of the medical, biological, chemical, and pharmaceutical sciences. It was established in 1977 by Hubertus Liebrecht (1931-1991), a member of the shareholder family of the company Boehringer Ingelheim. With the PLUS 3 Perspectives Program and the Exploration Grants, the foundation supports independent group leaders. It also endows the internationally renowned Heinrich Wieland Prize as well as awards for up-and-coming scientists. In addition, the foundation pledged to donate EUR 100 million to finance the scientific running of the IMB at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz for ten years. In 2013, the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation donated a further EUR 50 million to Mainz University.