Leibniz Association funds olfactory and taste research with almost two million euros

The senses of smell and taste are crucial for the perception of food and thus for food selection, which in turn significantly influences our health. But how do odorants and flavors interact with our sense receptors to make food taste good? And what kind of molecular mechanisms ensure a good mouthfeel? In order to strengthen young talents in this field of research, the Leibniz Association is funding two female scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (LSB) for the next five years with a total of almost two million euros as part of the Leibniz Competition 2022.

Antonella Di Pizio heads the Molecular Modeling research group at the LSB since October 2018. Melanie Köhler is currently still conducting research as a Senior Scientist at the Belgian Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain). "Both scientists convinced the Senate Committee of the Leibniz Association with their innovative, promising research approach for a socially very relevant topic combining food and health research," says Veronika Somoza, Director of the LSB. "Likewise, our two young talents stand out for their high expertise in their respective fields. With their projects, they strengthen and complement the forward-looking research profile of the LSB," Somoza added. 

Closing knowledge gaps with bioinformatics

Antonella Di Pizio is one of a total of four female scientists with outstanding international credentials to receive funding under the Leibniz Professors Program. The funding of almost one million euros awarded to her is intended to establish a professorship for computer-aided pharmacology together with the Technical University of Munich in order to research the molecular functions of olfactory and gustatory receptors using the latest bioinformatics methods and to close gaps in our knowledge. The young Italian's research goal is to identify new ways to reduce the off-flavors of plant proteins and health-promoting additives in foods to increase their acceptability and thus promote a healthy diet. The research could also help to find new alternative plant protein sources or use them in a more sustainable way.

Personal information about Antonella Di Pizio

Antonella Di Pizio, born in 1984, studied Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology at the "University of Chieti", Italy. She also obtained her PhD "Doctor Europaeus" in the field of "Drug Design" from this university. After a short research stay at Philips University in Marburg, Germany, she worked as a postdoc at the "Hebrew University of Jerusalem" in Israel from 2013 to 2018. Since October 2018, she leads the research group "Molecular Modeling" at the Leibniz Institute.

Contact, short profile and interview of and with Antonella Di Pizio:



Innovatively combined: Biophysics and food science

With the help of the Leibniz Junior Research Group funding program, Melanie Köhler is given the opportunity to return to Germany after a five-year research stay at the Belgian UCLouvain and set up her own junior research group at the LSB. With a doctorate in engineering science, she uses various methods of biological atomic force microscopy to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the mouthfeel of a food product. Unique to the research project is the combination of biophysics and food science. The knowledge gained from the project should, for example, help to make health-promoting, low-fat dairy products more attractive to consumers in terms of taste.

Personal Information about Melanie Köhler

Melanie Köhler, born in 1988, grew up in the administrative district Rosenheim and received her "engineering diploma" ("Master of Science) at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Campus Linz, Austria in the field of "Medical Engineering". She obtained her PhD "Doctor of Engineering Sciences" with a thesis on "Single molecular binding studies of purine nucleotides to mitochondrial uncoupling proteins explored by recognition imaging and force spectroscopy" at the Johannes Kepler University, Institute of Biophysics, Linz, Austria. After that, at the end of 2016, she moved to the UCLouvain in Belgium, where she still works as senior researcher and explores the molecular mechanisms behind virus binding to cell surface receptors.

Contact and short profile of Melanie Köhler:

Dr. DI Melanie Köhler B. Eng.
Université Catholique de Louvain
Louvain Institute of Biomolecular Science and Technology (LIBST)
NanoBiophysics Lab (nBio
Email: melanie.kohler(at)uclouvain.be

Interview with Melanie Köhler:  www.leibniz-lsb.de/en/press-public-relations/translate-to-englisch-pressemitteilungen/interview-with-dr-melanie-koehler/

About the Leibniz Competition 2021

The Leibniz Competition is designed to accelerate the achievement of the Leibniz Association’s strategic objectives as part of the Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation. The measures are intended to fulfil the institutes’ duty to perform research and operate research infrastructures at the highest level, and to publicize the resulting successes. With its fixed-term funding programs, the Leibniz Competition provides incentives intended to stimulate the Leibniz Association’s continued profile development. In this regard, it is purposefully different to the measures of other funding organizations and institutional funding.


Press responsible for the LSB:

Dr. Gisela Olias
Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (LSB)
Knowledge Transfer, Press and Public Relations
Phone: +49 8161 71-2980
Email: g.olias.leibniz-lsb(at)tum.de

Information about the LSB

The Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (LSB) comprises a new, unique research profile at the interface of Food Chemistry & Biology, Chemosensors & Technology, and Bioinformatics & Machine Learning. As this profile has grown far beyond the previous core discipline of classical food chemistry, the institute spearheads the development of a food systems biology.  

Its primary research objective is to develop new approaches for the sustainable production of sufficient quantities of food whose biologically active effector molecule profiles are geared to health and nutritional needs, but also to the sensory preferences of consumers. To do so, the institute explores the complex networks of sensorically relevant effector molecules along the entire food production chain with a focus on making their effects systemically understandable and predictable in the long term.

The LSB is a member of the Leibniz Association, which connects 96 independent research institutions. Their orientation ranges from the natural sciences, engineering and environmental sciences through economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities. Leibniz Institutes devote themselves to social, economic and ecological issues. They conduct knowledge-oriented and application-oriented research, also in the overlapping Leibniz research networks, are or maintain scientific infrastructures and offer research-based services. The Leibniz Association focuses on knowledge transfer, especially with the Leibniz Research Museums. It advises and informs politics, science, business and the public. Leibniz institutions maintain close cooperation with universities - among others, in the form of the Leibniz Science Campuses, industry and other partners in Germany and abroad. They are subject to a transparent and independent review process. Due to their national significance, the federal government and the federal states jointly fund the institutes of the Leibniz Association. The Leibniz Institutes employ around 21,000 people, including almost 12,000 scientists. The entire budget of all the institutes is more than two billion euros.

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