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Prof. Dr. Juliane Walz takes up W3 professorship for peptide-based immunotherapy

Congratulations to our iFIT member Juliane Walz on her appointment as W3 Professor for Peptide-based Immunotherapy at the Medical Faculty and on her new position as Medical Director of the Clinical Cooperation Unit Translational Immunology at the University Hospital, which she officially took up today.

Walz (born 1985) studied human medicine at the University of Tübingen from 2004 - 2010 and received her PhD at the Department of Immunology in 2011. Already in the following year she started to establish her research groups for "Peptide-based immunotherapy" in the Department of Immunology. In parallel, her residency in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology took place at the University Hospital of Tübingen from 2011 - 2017. After a Research Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NIH), in Bethesda USA in 2019, she has been leading the Immunotherapy Section at the Robert Bosch Center for Tumor Diseases (RBCT) in Stuttgart since 2020 and took over the leadership of the drug peptide laboratory, for the production of personalized vaccines at the University of Tübingen.

The W3 professorship for peptide-based immunotherapy and the position as medical director in the Clinical Cooperation Unit Translational Immunology created a unique opportunity for Walz to develop new, innovative immunotherapy concepts in the laboratory, which can then be produced in the company's own GMP unit and tested directly in clinical trials. This is intended to bridge the gap between laboratory and clinic with the aim of making new therapies available to patients more quickly.

The overall goal of Walz's research activities in the field of immunology is the development of new peptide-based immunotherapy concepts for tumor and infectious diseases. Peptides are short protein fragments that are presented to the immune system, in particular to T cells, via HLA molecules on the cell surface and thus enable tumor cells or virus-infected cells to be recognized as foreign. The identification, characterization and modification of such tumor- or infection-associated peptides by mass spectrometric immunopeptidome analysis is a major focus of Walz's work. Based on numerous high-ranking published preclinical studies, two self-developed personalized peptide vaccination concepts for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia as well as a T-cell activator to combat COVID-19, especially for tumor patients and other immunosuppressed patients, are currently being evaluated in clinical trials.

Her work has been recognized with numerous awards including the Württemberg Cancer Award from the Dres. Bayer Foundation, and she has published more than 50 original papers with a cumulative total impact factor of over 500.

In addition, Walz is a member of the Executive Board of our iFIT Cluster of Excellence as a representative for young researchers and equal opportunities. Here, she actively designs new teaching concepts with the aim of attracting young colleagues from medicine and the life sciences to translational research.

Away from the daily routine of research and clinical work, Ms. Walz prefers to spend time with her family. Sports activities such as cycling and swimming are on her agenda, as is exploring distant countries with her son.

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