Sofia Kirke Forslund-Startceva

Sofia Kirke Forslund-Startceva

Sofia Kirke Forslund-Startceva is Professor for Applied Microbiology at the Experimental and Clinical Research Centre (ECRC), a joint venture between the Charité University Hospital and the Max Delbrück Centre in Berlin, as well as a German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) PI. Her team, the Host-Microbiome Systems Medicine lab, seeks to build and refine models for how human beings (as composites of both their own cells and those of their microbial residents and visitors) succeed or fail in maintaining health over a lifetime, seeking new and improved approaches for disease diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and prevention. To achieve this end, the lab works with high-throughput parallel (“multi-omics”) data from patient cohorts and biosamples, seeking to interlink signals in measured compartments and connect them to differential outcomes. To achieve this end, the lab further works to improve understanding of microbial ecosystems and evolutionary histories, as well as to bring forth new computational and statistical methods for molecular and microbial epidemiology.

Particularly exciting discoveries Sofia have reported on so far include for example:
1) the complex way disease and medication signatures in the microbiome and elsewhere are entangled, motivating caution in study design and the deployment of confounder-aware statistical tools;
2) the role of antibiotics as altering gut microbial ecosystems at individual and population timescales, leading to antimicrobial resistance propagation as well as increasing risk of metabolic diseases;
3) the potential for nutritional interventions such as fasting to restore damaged microbiota with consequences for immune system and metabolism, in a person-dependent manner, as well as offering new venues for drug repurposing and personalized treatment.

Ongoing work in the lab explores these themes further including in the context of cross-organ communication and multimorbidity, as well as how health and homeostasis responses may differ between men and women as well as across our lifetimes. To more fully address these complex systems, Sofia is eager to explore how emerging methods within AI may allow careful harmonization of datasets from across the world so far mainly studied in isolation, thus allowing greater statistical power and better reproducibility of findings. She sees transparency, inclusivity and recognition of (manifold, intersectional) bias as highly relevant as we build the infrastructure of a new world.

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