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Researching immune defects

Marta Rizzi is awarded the Mathilde Wagner Prize for her habilitation investigating defects in the body’s defence cells

Freiburg, Nov 07, 2018

Researching immune defects

Marta Rizzi. Photo: Cornelius Struck

Associate professor Dr. Marta Rizzi, a researcher at the Freiburg Medical Center, receives the 2018 Mathilde Wagner Habilitation Prize 2018, which comes with 10,000 euros in prize money. Rizzi is head of a research group at the Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology. In her habilitation thesis she investigates the development of B-lymphocytes, the immune system’s first defences, and their role in immune processes in patients with inherent immune defects. Damage during the development of B-cells may lead to Primary Antibody Deficiency (PAD). One quarter of PAD patients have an early dysfunction in the development of B-lymphocytes; it is not known why. In her project, Rizzi’s next step is to investigate B-cell development using blood stem cells and bone marrow tissue. The medical researcher aims to find the gene linked to PAD and to understand the mechanism which is responsible for the disruption of B-lymphocyte development. Understanding the underlying defect would offer a foundation for research into new treatment options.

Following medical studies at the University of Genoa, Italy, Marta Rizzi completed her doctorate in Clinical and Experimental Immunology in Genoa and in San Diego, California. She completed her specialist training in immunology in 2007. She has been conducting research at the Freiburg Medical Center since 2006 - first as a postdoc, and since 2014, as a research group leader. Rizzi also holds a Margarete von Wrangell habilitation program for women scholarship, sponsored by the state of Baden-Württemberg. From 2012 to 2014 she participated in the EIRA Mentoring Program at the Faculty of Medicine.

The Gender Equality Office at the University of Freiburg Faculty of Medicine has awarded the Mathilde-Wagner-Habilitationspreis annually since 2014. The award pays tribute to outstanding habilitation theses by researchers at the Faculty of Medicine. The prize is awarded according to three criteria: Publication in respected journals, excellent scientific performance, and a habilitation focus on current scientific issues in basic research in pre-clinical, clinical, or applied research. The prize money may be spent on materials, staff, or investments. The prize is named after Mathilde Wagner, who in 1901 became the first woman to enroll in medical studies and to become a Doctor of Medicine in Freiburg. She was one of the first women doctors in Germany.


Website of Marta Rizzi’s research group

Associate professor Dr. Marta Rizzi
Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology
Freiburg Medical Center
Phone: 0761 / 270-62170