Dubravca Grdic is a devoted and very talented young scientist. She trained with me for her PhD and I have had a close and rewarding collaboration with her for over 4 years. Her particular strength is her commitment to science and her persistence in pursuing her research tasks. Dubravka is well qualified to establish her own research group and she has shown excellent qualifications in organizing her and other peoples work. She is technically skilled and masters many techniques currently on demand in biomedical science, especially techniques used in cellular immunology. Her research has focused around the mucosal membranes and her main goal has been to dissect regulatory factors that control induction of mucosal immune responses.
She took an imaginative approach to resolve the mechanisms that control why some encounters with intestinal antigen result in tolerance, while others result in active IgA immunity: The principle was to use antigen conjugated to cholera toxin or its B subunit and administer these orally to IL-4 gene targeted mice. Since the only difference between these conjugates is the ADP-ribosylating ability of cholera toxin, missing in Ihe B.subunit, it was clear that cells targeted by conjugates carrying antigen, respond to ADP-ribosylation by enhancing immune responses. In the course of these studies it became evident that a major target population for cholera toxin at mucosal membranes is the dendritic cells. She undertook elegant experiments at the cellular and molecular level that described the interactions between cholera toxin and dendritic cells. Dubravka is now seeking financial support to continue her studies in the well renowned laboratory of Prof. Paola Ricciardi-Castagnoli in Milan. The decision to enter into a collaborative project with Prof. Castagnoli is very fortunate, because the development in research on dendritic cells has in many respects been pioneered by the laboratory in Milan.