Firefly Frontiers Winner: Matthias Hackl, PhD

Dr. Matthias Hackl is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biotechnology at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria. Dr. Hackl completed his doctoral thesis in 2012 on microRNAs in CHO cell culture technology. According to Dr. Hackl, CHO cells are a critical cell line in the production of biological therapeutics, and microRNAs are promising targets for genetic improvement and characterization of this cell line.

Dr. Hackl’s Firefly Frontiers grant will fund research to identify microRNAs that can be used as control parameters in large-scale modern bioprocesses.

What fascinates you most about microRNAs?

What fascinates me most is the complexity that microRNAs add to our understanding of how gene expression is controlled in an organism and that there is so much left to learn about this class of regulatory molecules!

Where do you see the miRNA field headed in the next 5 years? What areas are most promising for breakthrough discoveries?

I believe that we will see a rapidly increasing number of microRNAs that enter the clinical stage as therapeutic targets or biomarkers with prognostic value for disease progression and predictive value for patient stratification, and the development of microRNA-based tools in biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

What is your biggest pain point when it comes to microRNA research?

The biggest pain, which also drives our research, is the black box we are staring at when we manipulate microRNA expression in a CHO cell line and try to predict or even understand the impact of microRNA deregulation on cellular phenotype.

What advantages does FirePlex® miRSelect bring to your research?

In contrast to other technologies, FirePlex® miRSelect holds the exciting promise of enabling us to rapidly profile microRNA expression in a large number of samples at high throughput and comparatively low cost.