New Chair of Pharmacology at the JKU Faculty of Medicine

Susanna Zierler became the new chair of pharmacology at the Faculty of Medicine (Johannes Kepler University Linz) in November 2020.

Susanna Zierler
Susanna Zierler

Originally from Bad Ischl, Prof. Zierler most recently worked at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. She plans to create a nationally and internationally acclaimed Institute of Pharmacology at the JKU.

Susanna Zierler remarked: "The challenge of rebuilding an institute for pharmacology in research and teaching is very attractive and there are many creative and organizational possibilities. My vision is to create an Institute of Pharmacology at the Johannes Kepler University Linz that enjoys a high level national and international visibility. There is a strong, optimistic and pioneering spirit at the faculty that I feel will provide great support as I rebuild the institute. I am looking forward to my area of responsibility in Linz."

As a special place between base-knowledge research and clinical medicine, pharmacology seeks to identify and provide information about mechanisms of action for new drug targets as well as field test and clinically apply the new, resulting molecular tools.

Research on New Switches for Immune Cells
Prof. Zierler added: "My research strategy starts with a base-knowledge approach and would ideally result in translational clinical applications in humans. This is where the proximity to the Kepler University Hospital and close collaboration is particularly valuable." Her research focuses on the mechanisms immune cells used to integrate, utilize and transmit signals at the smallest ionic level. Over the years, there have been great strides in the fight against autoimmune diseases. Immune cells are complex and in order to do their job, immune cells must precisely detect external signals and transmit them into the cell so that a certain and appropriate immune response occurs at both the right place and the right time. Zierler and her team are studying the effects of how (auto)immune diseases develop, allergies and tumor diseases once these immune cell signals fail to function as they should. Once we understand the underlying molecular mechanisms, it will lay the foundation to identify new drug targets designed to combat these diseases. "Artificial Intelligence, among other things, will aid us in trying to find new modulators for these special target structures. Controlling the immune cell’s channel proteins in a targeted, pharmacological way has enormous therapeutic potential to treat inflammatory diseases, allergies and leukemias."

Practice-Oriented Education
Pharmacology is particularly important as it is located at the crossroads of pre-clinical and clinical subject areas. Prof. Zierler adds, "When it comes to teaching and education, this is one of the reasons I also rely on strong collaboration with other department heads. I find a hybrid form of teaching that incorporates both in-person classroom instruction and remote learning is an important concept, especially against the backdrop of this pandemic and beyond. My goal is to provide students with high quality education and practice materials (also digitally) in order to ensure an educationally high degree of flexibility and quality."

JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas remarked: "On one hand, Prof. Susanna Zierler is known for her innovative research approach and integrating Artificial Intelligence into her research supports interdisciplinary exchange with other JKU institutes. On the other hand, Prof. Zierler relies on a modern, practice-oriented educational concept. Our students will benefit greatly.

Elgin Drda, JKU Vice-Rector for Medicine, added: "The pre-clinical subject of pharmacology plays a key role in educating our students as this is where we teach and conduct research on the fundamentals of drug therapy. Prof. Susanna Zierler is an asset to the JKU Faculty of Medicine as she is a highly qualified expert with extensive international experience. I am, of course, particularly pleased to add a female professor to our team of university professors, particularly one who has roots in Upper Austria."

About Prof. MMag. Dr. Susanna Zierler

Born in Bad Ischl on November 12, 1980, Prof. MMag. Dr. Susanna Zierler completed her Diploma degree in biology and genetics as well as Teacher Education Studies in biology/mathematics. She earned her doctorate degree at the University of Salzburg in 2007. After a research stay at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu (USA), Zierler began working at the Walther Straub Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich in 2011. The mother of two enjoys the great outdoors, particularly activities such as mountain hiking and climbing as well as cycling (no e-bike!). The Upper Austrian native is enjoying Linz and being “back home” after 14 years abroad.