Mojca Frank Bertoncelj
Mojca Frank Bertoncelj graduated valedictorian from Medical studies at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2005 and defended her PhD in Biomedicine summa cum laude in 2010 at the same university. In 2011, she moved to the Center of Experimental Rheumatology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland as a research fellow of the Articulum Fellowship in Arthritis and Pain, developing a keen interest in tissue fibroblast pathology in systemic autoimmune diseases. The recent research of Dr Frank Bertoncelj and PD Dr Caroline Ospelt in arthritis demonstrated that joint-specific phenotypes of synovial fibroblast could underlie the joint-specific tropism of arthritis with implications for arthritis therapy and genetic risk. This research led to evolving broader concepts of tissue tropism in rheumatic diseases and induced a significant shift in stromal cell pathology, putting fibroblast diversity on the international stage in arthritis research. For this research, Dr Frank-Bertoncelj was awarded the "Walter-Siegenthaler Medaille in Silber" Research Award 2018. Currently, Dr Frank Bertoncelj is a junior group leader at the Center of Experimental Rheumatology. Her research goals are to understand the stromal cell pathology and immunostromal cell interface in systemic autoimmune diseases and leverage the generated knowledge for designing ex vivo 3D organ platforms, uncovering novel drug targets and paving the way to precision medicine in these diseases. She nurtures internationally collaborative and multidisciplinary research that integrates technologies and ideas from data scientists, molecular biologists, engineers and clinicians to advance the knowledge about stromal cell pathology in human diseases. The group investigates different model diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis and giant cell arteritis, enabling studies of diverse stromal and immunostromal cell networks across a variety of human tissues and autoimmune pathologies. They utilise clinical patient samples, ex vivo tissue explants and cultured primary cells from autoimmune patients and apply diverse methodologies from molecular biology, functional genomics, epigenomics, single-cell omics and spatial transcriptomics. Additionally, Dr Frank Bertoncelj serves as an Editorial Board member of Rheumatology and a reviewer for national science foundations and scientific journals, including Nature Communication and Nature Reviews Rheumatology.