11 JUN 2021
In personalized medicine it is key to understand an individual’s genetic and microbiomic profile to guide decisions made in regard to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Shira talks about her motivation and career path to becoming the Head of our Microbiome Genomics department.
How is this opportunity to learn and to grow understanding reflected in your special fields of expertise?
I specialized in molecular biology because it gives me the opportunity to really understand what is going on in the organism. I recall a conference in Vienna in my early career days which was all about genomics and innovative next generation sequencing. This triggered my interest in human genetics. I believe in the huge potential of personalized medicine and genetics are key to realizing this potential, as a result, I soon started working in this field.
You obviously decided to pursue your scientific career in the industry rather than working academia. Why is that?
I believe both are critical for scientific progress. Whilst academia typically focuses on basic research, the industry is working on tangible applications. I have always wanted to have an immediate impact and understand the bigger picture of my research, therefore, I chose to go into the industry. You mentioned your work in human genetics, but today you are into research of the human microbiome.
What did you make shifting your focus?
When I joined Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in December 2020 I had this “wow” moment. There are so many opportunities, so many great experts and such a strong internal network of scientists. So when starting to learn about the microbiome in my new role, I opened a completely new perspective. Personalized medicine requires both: understanding of the human genome on the one hand and understanding of the microbiome on the other. That said, focusing on the microbiome was just logical after my work in genetics. It seems you are really pursuing your original idea of understanding the bigger picture and the organism works. Absolutely! Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is the right place for scientists to grow their wings and fly.
You mentioned your teacher who inspired you for becoming a scientist. Are there any other people in your life who have been key for your career?
Many! But if I was to highlight only a few, I would mention my mother who always supported me in doing what I am really interested in and my supervisor at university who encouraged me to do my PhD. If you were asked to give an advice to young students or scientist, what would you say? First of all, I would advise everyone to take courses in biology! You can have such an impact on improving the life of human here. Then I would like to quote my mother: Go with your passion!