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GBR Spotlight – Monika

GBR Spotlight – Monika

For today’s Spotlight Interview we are speaking with Monika. She is the GBR Head of global development and leads the GBR Ambassador programme. Currently Monika lives in Israel, where she works as a postdoc studying mRNA modifications. Here she tells us about the difference between the Bioeconomy of Israel and her home country Germany and which book she would recommend us to read.


Hi Monika. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. In order for people to get to know you, can you describe yourself in a few sentences please?


I would describe myself as a tolerant and curious person, who is always up for new challenges. I deeply believe that when having an open mindset, we can learn a lot from each other’s expertise – overall the whole is better than the sum of its parts.


What did you study and where are you working now?


For my undergrad/grad degree I studied Molecular Biotechnology at Heidelberg University in Germany, with some time abroad at Cambridge and Tel Aviv university. After some time in industry, I joined the Helmholtz Centre in Munich to pursue my PhD in Structural Biology at the intersection of Drug Discovery and RNA biology. Currently, I am doing my postdoc at the Weizmann Institute in Israel where I work on RNA modifications and how we can exploit them to develop biotechnological or therapeutic tools.


And why did you choose this particular subject matter?


Especially since the Covid-19 pandemic RNA based therapeutics have proven to be a promising new therapeutic modality. Both academia and industry have shown huge interest in this field in the last years, so it is an exciting time to work in this field!


Since you moved from Germany to Israel for your new job, where do you see the difference in the countries you lived in regarding the Bioeconomy?


Israel is well-known for its thriving start-up scene with a large number of emerging biotech companies. The main difference to other countries I lived in including my home country Germany is the fact that people have a relative risk-tolerant and innovative mindset, which makes them successful entrepreneurs. Failure is almost never seen as something bad, but as an opportunity to grow. In addition, start-ups that use (big) data-driven computational approaches to solve biological questions are overrepresented.


Let’s move on to your work with GBR. What is your actual role?

As the Head of Global Development, I oversee the GBR Ambassador Programme, which recruits once in a year Ambassadors from all around the world and helps them to develop local biotech communities. I really enjoy connecting people that have similar aims, but different perspectives and point of views. Leveraging such synergies to create a new initiative, project or even community is very rewarding.


And why did you get involved with GBR in the first place?


I love the idea of a grass root movement that aims at connecting people in biotech worldwide to find solutions for tomorrow’s pressing problems. GBRs approach creates a unique, diverse, and inclusive community for young professionals and students. Besides, it is a great opportunity to have a real-life impact outside of the academic ivory tower.


And when you don’t work on RNA therapeutics or connecting the GBR community, what do you do in your free time?


The ocean is basically in my backyard, wherefore snorkelling at nearby beaches is something I enjoy doing on the weekends. If not diving deep, I am playing cello in an orchestra, which helps me to relax and take my mind off work. Some time ago during the last year of my PhD, I also did a course in beekeeping.


What is the last book you read, and would you recommend it?


A brief history of humankind by Yuval HarariI read this book already some time ago, but it changed how I see the world and us humans in it.


Thank you very much Monika for taking the time to answer our questions!