2023 Speakers

2023 Speakers

Keynote speakers


Dr. Katharina Timper is a SNSF professor at the Department of Biomedicine in Basel and senior consultant at the Endocrinology Clinic of the University Hospital Basel where she is heading the obesity and eating disorder outpatient clinics and the nutrition team. Her research focuses on the central control of metabolism with a specific focus on astrocytes as well as on the role of the olfactory system and the nasal environment in the regulation of systemic energy homeostasis. From 2000-2007 she was trained as a medical doctor at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, and got her MD in 2008. From 2007-2014 she specialized in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology at the University Hospital Leipzig, Germany, and at the University Hospital Basel before she moved to Cologne, Germany, with an SNSF Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship to join the group of Prof. Jens C.Brüning at the Max-Planck Institute of Metabolism Research. In 2019 she established her lab at the Department of Biomedicine and her clinical research group at the University Hospital Basel. Since then, she and her group have been keen on translating basic science discoveries on how the brain controls systemic metabolism from bench to bedside and vice versa with the overall aim to develop novel therapeutic strategies to treat obesity and associated diseases in the future.


István enjoys thinking about complex biological systems and searching for patterns that generate mechanistic insight. As a medical student at the Semmelweis University in Budapest, he studied how bodily stress signals affect the brain and behaviour of the worm C. elegans, and built simple models aiming to connect behavioral states with activity patterns of the worm connectome. Both protein signalling pathways and nervous systems can be represented as graphs, a simple yet powerful abstraction. He continued to apply this framework in his PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge with Greg Jefferis, and combined connectomics with functional experiments to study spatial olfactory processing in the fruit fly, Drosophila. After a brief postdoc at the MPI for Psychiatry in Munich he joined Turbine, an AI-driven drug discovery company that uses mechanistic models of cancer cells to simulate pharmacological and genetic experiments. As a Project Manager in Turbine’s Screening team, he manages the work of a multidisciplinary group that uses Turbine’s in silico screening platform to generate and validate focused hypotheses for novel cancer therapies.


Started in the Pharma Industry in 2005 with Servier moving for a short while to LEO Pharma. Joined MSD in Ireland in 2014 holding a variety of roles in the commercial businesses in MSD Ireland, Switzerland and Austria. She spent some time in the UK as Chief of Staff before joining the Strategic Initiatives & Operations Team, based now in Switzerland. A scientist by training – BSc in Biochemistry, MSc in Clinical Medicine. Keen swimmer, competing at a Semi-professional level in Long Distance Open Water Swimming until 2016. The highlight of a successful career was a solo swim across the English Channel in August 2016. Still swims for enjoyment, but prefers time on her bike and in the gym.

Career talks


Catherine graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a BSc in general biology with an emphasis in neuroscience. She received her PhD from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria where she defended her dissertation on “synthetic neurotransmission”, a novel next-generation chemogenetic approach to genetically connect and manipulate synapses in vivo. She continued her academic career as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Neuroscience in Bordeaux, France where she developed next-generation optogenetics to alter synaptic protein levels at the synapse. In 2022, Catherine joined Roche in Basel, Switzerland as the Discovery Scientist for AAV Gene Therapy in Neuroscience and Rare Diseases.

“My passion lies in advancing the field of gene therapy as an accessible therapeutic modality for devastating diseases of the nervous system. I have a dynamic history of independent research in combinatorial genetic engineering, molecular biology, cellular biology, and neuroscience. I work in a collaborative, matrix-based team focused on innovative molecular approaches dedicated to life altering genetic therapeutics.”


David Penton Ribas was born in Havana, Cuba, and developed a passion for science from a young age. He pursued his studies in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Havana. In 2008, he embarked on his PhD journey at the University of Regensburg in Germany, where he conducted research on the role of potassium channels in regulating aldosterone production by the adrenal gland.
After completing his PhD in 2011, David worked as a Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis in France from 2012-2013. During his time there, he researched the role of mechanosensitive channels and potassium channels in kidney and respiratory regulation of blood pH. 
In 2014, David joined the University of Zurich as a postdoc, where he studied the renal regulation of sodium and potassium homeostasis. He later became an Oberassistent, where he continued his research in this field. David has published 25 studies in peer-reviewed journals, including seven as first author, and one study as last author currently under revision in JCI-insight (information as of March 2023).
David’s research achievements have been recognized with the Junior Grant Award from the National Center for Competence in Research (NCCR) Kidney.CH (2018-2022), and the 2018 Meritorious Research Award of the Epithelial Transport Group, American Physiological Society. In addition, he was selected as an Editorial Fellow of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (2020-2021). David has supervised one PhD student (2018-2022) and has served as an ad hoc reviewer for all major physiology and renal scientific journals.
In 2020, David founded and became the Managing Director of the Electrophysiology Core Facility at the University of Zurich.


Dr. Mariana Cerdeira is a Manager at Catenion, a business consulting firm from Berlin that focuses on R&D strategy for pharmaceutical and biotech companies. She holds a PhD in Medical Neurosciences from the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and a Master’s degree in Neurosciences with a double diploma from the Universities of Göttingen and Bordeaux. For years she has been involved in projects to improve career support for life science graduates and has given a TEDx talk on the need for a culture change in the academic world. In her talk, Mariana will share about her career path as a biopharma strategy consultant and how it is to work merging science and business.


Marc Zünd studied neuroscience and holds a master’s diploma in Biology and a Doctor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology from ETH Zurich. He did his PhD at the Center of Neuroscience Zurich at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. Marc experienced frustration as a neuroscientist when it came to animal monitoring during experiments. He wanted a safe environment for his laboratory animals without contact and high quality monitoring data for his research and publications. Marc realized that many of his fellow colleagues shared his frustration. Marc saw the opportunity to help researchers to simplify monitoring, boost scientific outcomes and foster a Culture of Care in animal research together with MARTA. Marc founded Vigilitech AG during his PhD in 2016.


Dr. Mathias Frederiksen, is a Principal at the Novartis Venture Fund in Basel, Switzerland. Prior to joining NVF, he was a Group Leader at the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research (NIBR), where he established a new group, Chromatin Chemical Biology (within the Chemical Biology and Therapeutics Department) focused on elucidating the role of epigenetic regulation in human disease to uncover novel paradigms for chromatin-focused drug discovery. During this time, he was also a member of the portfolio management and strategy team for the Chemical Biology and Therapeutics Group and had leadership roles on numerous open innovation projects. Before that, he was a Senior Investigator and Lab Head in the Chemical Genetics, Global Discovery Chemistry Group and, before that, a Lab Head for the Neuroscience, Global Discovery Chemistry Group at NIBR. Mathias received his B.Sc in Chemistry from Mount Allison University in Canada, his PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from Imperial College, UK and was a GSK Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University.

ALICE FRETON, Innovation Office University of Basel

Alice has a pharmaceutical background and holds a master of science in biotechnology. She began her career in translational research in Paris and Montreal, where she studied the therapeutic properties of stem cells. Passionate about exploring new paths of collaboration between academia, startups and industry, she has always been engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the life science and health-tech sectors.

Alice joined the Innovation Office in 2023. As manager of the Start-Up Programs of the University of Basel, she is managing different instruments helping researchers and entrepreneurs turn their discoveries or ideas into a start-up.

Although she comes from a little town facing the Atlantic Ocean, the closer to the mountains she can be, the happier she will be. Also, as she loves discovering new places and meeting new faces, Alice will always enjoy making new connections over a good cup of coffee!

Anna-Elina PEKONEN, Innovation Office University of Basel

Anna-Elina has a background in Entrepreneurship Education and startup ecosystem development. Her passion got her involved early on in the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Finland to empower both talents and innovation teams. She is also a co-founder of a few companies that focus on developing startup ecosystems. 

Anna-Elina joined the Innovation Office in 2023. She is passionate about future-proof innovation, sustainability, team learning and coaching. As manager of the entrepreneurial education program, she is shaping and expanding the entrepreneurial education programs at the University of Basel and support talents to receive the right tools and skills to thrive.

Anna-Elina loves exploring different cultural events in the new environment and you can find her exploring nature and different regions over the weekends or holidays. She will always enjoy making great connections and continuing to bring impact to the innovation ecosystem with her positive attitude towards life. Don’t hesitate to reach out!


Paulin Jirkof studied biology with a focus on Zoology in Germany. She obtained her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Zurich and a Master of Advanced Studies in Management, Technology, and Economics at ETH, Zurich. Her scientific field of interest is the reliable assessment and promotion of lab rodent welfare. Since 2018 she works as a 3R coordinator at the Office for Animal Welfare and 3R of the University of Zurich. She is chair of the executive board of the Swiss 3R Competence Center.