Björn Burmann

PhD University of Gothenburg Natural sciences Year of admission: 2016

Wants to understand how cells repair sun-damaged DNA
When our DNA is damaged by the rays of the sun, it is mended by a molecular repair machinery. Wallenberg Academy Fellow Björn Burmann will make detailed studies of how this machinery works. A better understanding of the process may contribute to the development of new antibiotics and chemotherapy for some forms of cancer.

Humans need to spend time in the sun in order for our bodies to produce enough vitamin D. At the same time, the sun’s rays cause harmful chemical changes to our DNA. To protect us from these, our cells have developed distinct machinery that can repair DNA.

Discoveries of the cellular repair mechanisms were rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2015. To better understand the process called transcription coupled repair (TCR), Dr. Björn Burmann from the University of Basel, Switzerland will study the mechanism in atomic detail. A complex of proteins attaches to the DNA strand, cuts away the damaged area and repairs the DNA. Researchers previously thought that a protein called MfD commanded this process, but bacteria that don’t have this protein display only mild sensitivity to UV radiation. Instead, Björn Burmann will investigate what roles two other proteins, NusA and UvrD, play in the complex.

As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Björn Burmann will transfer his activities to the University of Gothenburg.

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Photo: Markus Marcetic