Anna-Maria Globig is a NOMIS Center Postdoctoral Fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, USA).
Globig was born and raised in Germany and obtained her medical degree from the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg im Breisgau. During her doctoral thesis, she investigated the immunological pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease. After receiving her license to practice medicine, she trained in internal medicine and worked as a clinician scientist in the Clinic for Internal Medicine at the University Medical Center Freiburg for several years before becoming a postdoctoral fellow in Susan Kaech’s lab at the Salk Institute. Throughout her medical and scientific education, she received numerous prestigious scholarships, fellowships and awards, including a scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation, a Berta-Ottenstein Fellowship for Clinician Scientists, a German Research Foundation Research Fellowship and the Salk Women & Science Research Award. During her postdoctoral work in Kaech’s lab, she identified a new pathway in which the body’s nervous system suppresses immune responses to viral infections or cancer. Specifically, the nerves promote a process called T cell exhaustion, wherein T cells, a specialized type of immune cell, become worn out and gradually lose their power in the fight against infections or tumors. Her research shows that this interaction between nerves and T cells can be targeted with clinically established drugs, called beta-blockers, and that the combination of beta-blockers and conventional immunotherapies is efficient in the treatment of various cancer types, such as melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
As a NOMIS Fellow, Globig will direct her expertise toward understanding how interactions between nerves and T cells instruct T cell exhaustion and the formation of memory T cells. Specifically, she will examine how exhausted T cells get recruited to surround nerves in tissues, and how this recruitment influences their interactions with other immune cell types. She has previously found that the combination of beta-blockers and immunotherapy causes T cells to develop into a specialized type of T cell, called a tissue-resident memory cell. The presence of this T cell type has previously been found to be associated with improved outcome in cancer patients. Globig seeks to elucidate the processes that underlie the emergence of this beneficial T cell type when the communication between nerves and immune cells is therapeutically inhibited.
Globig’s research will deepen our understanding of the communication between the body’s nervous system and immune system and will increase our ability to target this communication therapeutically to enable more effective anti-cancer therapies.