Zuzanna Kozicka, a former PhD candidate in the Thomä lab at the FMI, is the grand prize winner in molecular medicine of the 2023 Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. Kozicka was recognized for her work on molecular glue degraders, small molecules that act as matchmakers between a target protein and the cell’s disposal machinery.
Molecular glues could target and destroy disease-causing proteins, thus enabling the treatment of incurable conditions, but until now few glue degraders have been discovered - mostly by chance. So, Kozicka and her colleagues embarked on an ambitious search for more glue degraders. The team first identified CR8 , a glue degrader of cyclin K, which is a potential drug target in several cancers. Further research revealed more than 40 different molecular glue degraders.
For this discovery, Kozicka - now a postdoctoral fellow at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts - was awarded the 2023 Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists , an international prize aimed at rewarding early-career scientists. Each year, a grand prize winner is selected from the applicants to receive 30,000 USD and the three other category winners are awarded 10,000 USD each for their accomplishments. The winning essays are published in Science.
Kozicka’s PhD advisor, Nicolas Thomä, recently took on a new role as Full Professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). While Thomä is setting up his lab at EPFL, several of his group members remain at the FMI.