Bio

Sara Pompe was born on the 4th of July in 1986 in Neubrandenburg, former East Germany. After her achievement of the general qualification of the university entrance level (A-levels) in June 2006, she went to the USA (CT) to work as an Au-Pair for one year. Thereby, she got to know the American way of life as well as made experience in life itself. In September 2007 she came back to Germany to start her academic studies in biology (Bachelor) at the Georg-August University of Goettingen, which is part of the excellence initiative and has an outstanding scientific environment. During that time she developed a high interest in Neurobiology. For her Bachelor thesis she characterized the neuroanatomy of ring neurons in the ellipsoid body, a part of the central complex in the brain of Drosophila melanogaster. She continued at the same University with her Master studies specializing on developmental, neural, and behavioral biology. During her Master thesis she investigated the erythropoietin-mediated neuroprotective effect on insect neurons.

After her studies Sara worked for 2 years as a research assistant at the Targos Molecular Pathology GmbH – Clinical Biomarker Services in Kassel, Germany. In the department of Histopathology Assay Development, she was part of a team responsible for the analytical establishment and validation of in situ immunohistochemistry assays detecting biomarkers involved in tumorigenesis. This was done according to the College of American Pathologists and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments guidelines for the application of the assays as companion diagnostics for therapeutics in clinical trials. In this context Sara developed her interest in sophisticated mechanisms of therapeutics and became very curious about research in drug development.

Additionally, she was seeking for further career and personal progress. Hence, she started in July 2016 with her PhD in the field of molecular oncology in the research group of Paul MP van Bergen en Henegouwen (PhD), who is part of the Cell Biology division at the Utrecht University, Netherlands.

Project

Sara’s current project is about the development of a nanobody that has a facilitated transport across brain endothelial cells via its activation of receptor- mediated transcytosis. Thereby, it is aimed to develop a bispecific nanobody that functions on one side as an efficient adaptor overcoming the blood-brain barrier and on the other side as a therapeutic against brain tumours e.g. by inhibiting target specific a mutated form of the endothelial growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is constitutively active and solely present in glioblastoma.

The blood–brain barrier (BBB) is a complex multicellular structure forming a protective layer of tightly joined, polarized cells that separate the central nervous system (CNS) from the systemic circulation. The BBB is a highly selective regulator of the transport of essential small molecules such as glucose, oxygen into the brain.

Unfortunately, the BBB also prevents the uptake of larger molecules such as most of the pharmaceuticals. To break down this barrier a variety of approaches for drug delivery into the brain exist, but they are mostly cause severe side effects such as structural or functional damage of the BBB. Hence, the overall goal is to find an appropriate way of a non-invasive and highly efficient targeted drug delivery into the brain.

In this context, it is very important to fully understand the mechanism of drug-uptake and its trafficking to predict its final localization. We are currently investigating a new harmless approach of nanobody (NB)-mediated receptor internalization and subsequent directed transcytosis within polarized brain endothelial cells (BECs).

We use the method of phage display for the selection of NBs targeting the ectodomain of the heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) receptor, which is known to be highly expressed on the cell surface of the abluminal side of BECs and transcytosed to the luminal side of the BECs upon its activation.