From Data to the Clinic

Catherine Jutzeler was awarded in 2020 both an SNSF Spark Grant and an SNSF Ambizione Grant to set up her own research group. Only one year later, she has been appointed as a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor of Biomedical Data Science in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at ETH Zurich. Her research involves data-based methods in precision medicine and she applies population-based statistical models and machine learning to investigate and evaluate new biomarkers for neurological diseases. ZNZ News talked to Catherine Jutzeler about the importance of bringing data and clinical application closer together.

Prof. Catherine Jutzeler, congratulations on your Assistant Professorship. Your research will focus on the intersection of data science, medicine, and biology. What do you think, convinced the ETH Board the most about your application?
Thank you very much. My interdisciplinary background combines pharmacology, clinical neuroscience and data science and I am used to communicate and mediate between different disciplines. That has certainly convinced the ETH board. In addition to that, I have vast experience in preclinical animal and clinical human research. That gives me a profound understanding of translational medicine and its challenges, which is important to advance biomedical research along the translational spectrum.

Can you tell us a little more about the upcoming research projects, what will they focus on specifically? 
My group’s research aims to identify causes, risk factors, and biomarkers of neurological disease progression, including Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury. In addition, we will expand our research portfolio to orthopedic surgery and immunology. At the core of our work is a series of prospective and retrospective investigations that integrate genetic, biochemical, and clinical assessments, and medication history with both traditional epidemiological approaches and machine-learning algorithms.

How do you manage to cover all the areas of expertise?
The short answer is national and international collaborations. Our research is very interdisciplinary and requires close collaboration and exchange with experts from various fields. We collaborate with clinicians and scientists from various disciplines, e.g. neurology, orthopedic surgery, machine learning and genetics, as well as patients, from whom we can learn so much. 

What do you hope to achieve within the scope of your Assistant Professorship?
The ultimate goal of our research is to improve healthcare for patients. To reach this goal, we exploit large amounts of data that is generated in biomedical settings. An important aspect of our research is that we aim to translate our research findings into clinically useful knowledge. My vision is that our research will refine clinical decision-making that will directly benefit patients. 

Catherine Jutzeler’s lab will soon be hiring PhD students and postdocs. She is also looking for Master students to join her biomedical datascience lab.