Principal Investigator Lara Urban
Planetary Health

As suggested by the Rockefeller Foundation and Lancet Commission on planetary health, human and planetary health are inextricably linked. Across the world, natural systems have been degraded to an extent unprecedented in human history, resulting in environmental, social and economic costs such as exacerbated water and food insecurity, fragile ecosystems and pandemic risk at an enormous scale. Lara Urban’s research group at Helmholtz AI and the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus focuses on the application of Molecular Biology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the context of planetary health. Research topics include, but are not limited to:

  • leveraging genomics and AI to study the diversity and distribution of bioaerosols and their impact on human health, also in the context of climate change;
  • pioneering portable genomic and data analysis approaches for in situ real-time detection and classification of pathogens;
  • monitoring the spread of zoonotic diseases, in the context of both, animal health/biodiversity conservation and global health.

Our aim:

We believe that genomic research, in particular in situ genomic sequencing, paired with AI-driven analysis of large-scale genomic data can revolutionise our understanding of planetary health, with additional important implications for, amongst others, human health, biosecurity and pandemic preparedness. Such approaches can further make genomic research increasingly accessible to public health organisations and communities around the world, ultimately democratising the opportunities and benefits of genomic research.

Dr. Lara Urban

Lara's research interest lies in the integration of genomic, statistical and computational approaches to drive the development of an accurate and efficient data-driven approach for the conservation of planetary health in general and of biodiversity in particular.  She obtained her PhD from EMBL-EBI and the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, in 2019, where she worked on statistical and quantitative approaches in cancer and single-cell genetics. As an independent Research Fellow in New Zealand funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Lara then combined this expertise with her background in ecology, and applied genomics and machine learning in the context of nature conservation. She further strongly believes in the Helmholtz Association's goals to promote the democratisation of science for a data-driven future, and to transform new scientific findings into actual societal benefits. She therefore actively pursues extra-scientific engagements, for example through her roles in the eLife Early-Career Advisory Group, European Reference Genome Atlas council, IUCN Conservation Genetics Specialist Group or Accessible Genomics initiative.

 

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Factsheet

Dr. Lara Urban

from 2022: Principal Investigator at Helmholtz Munich, Helmholtz AI and Helmholtz Pioneer Campus, and Fellow at Life Sciences School, Technical University of Munich

2020 – 2022: Independent Humboldt Research Fellow at the Departments of Mathematics & Statistics and Anatomy, University of Otago, New Zealand

2015 – 2019 International EMBL PhD Fellow at EMBL-EBI and University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

2013 – 2015 Master of Science in Biology at Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg (A+ with Distinction)

2010 – 2013 Bachelor of Science in Biology at Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg (A+ with Distinction)

Finalist in the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards (2022)

Recipient of Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2019)

Invitation to the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (2018)

Recipient of International EMBL PhD Fellowship (2015)

Awards for Distinction in Bachelor and Master, and Award for Outstanding Master's thesis (2013 & 215)

Recipient of Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation Scholarships for Bachelor and Master studies (2010 & 2013)

since 2021: Member of the international eLife Early-Career Advisory Group 

since 2021: Member of the IUCN Conservation Genetics Specialist Group 

since 2020: Council member of the European Reference Genome Atlas consortium 

since 2017: Co-founder and -organiser of the PuntSeq initiative 

PhD Students

Tim Reska

MSc.: Biochemistry at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
MSc. Thesis: Combining Second and Third Generation RNA-Sequencing Techniques
Research Interest: Genome and transcriptome assembly
Hobbies: Fitness, Reading, Cooking and Movies

Harika Ürel

MSc.: Molecular Bioengineering at Technische Universität Dresden
MSc. Thesis: Quantitative Analysis of Liquid-Liquid Phase Separation Related Proteins and Protein Databases
Research Interest: Genomic surveillance of airborne pathogens
Hobbies: Yoga, Reading, Movies, and Cooking

MSc Students

Anastasia Grekova

BSc.: Bioinformatics at Universität Tübingen
BSc. Thesis: “Reconstruction and Analysis of Staphylococcus epidermidis"
Research Interest: Microbiome studies using nanopore sequencing
Hobbies: Alpinism, Coding and Poetry

Daniel Gygax

BSc.: Biology at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala
BSc. Thesis: Skin microbiome changes in tropical frogs and salamanders in captivity
MSc.: Evolution, Ecology and Systematics at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (ongoing)
Research Interest: Evolutionary genomics, conservation genetics, eDNA monitoring
Hobbies: Fitness, Reading, Videogames, Nature exploration, (Degustation of Bavarian Beer)

Intern

Ferdinand Hölzl (shared with the Rieck lab)

BSc.: Physics at Universität Regensburg
BSc. Thesis: “Fabrication and characterization of patterned constrictions in few-layer NbSe2 crystals"
Research Interest: Modelling air pollution through machine learning
Hobbies: Hiking, Music, Reading, Cooking

Selected Publications

Robust Haplotype-resolved assembly of diploid genomes without parental data

Haoyu Cheng, Erich D. Jarvis, Olivier Fedrigo, Klaus-Peter Koepfli, Lara Urban, Neil J. Gemmell, Heng Li

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Freshwater monitoring by nanopore sequencing

Lara Urban, Andre Holzer, J Jotautas Baronas, Michael B Hall, Philipp Braeuninger-Weimer, Michael J Scherm, Daniel J Kunz, 

Surangi N Perera, Daniel E Martin-Herranz

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16S long-read nanopore sequencing is feasible and reliable for endometrial microbiome analysis.

 

Oberle, A.* & Urban, L.*, Falch, S., Nagai, Y., Ulm, P. A., Hengstschläger, M., Feichtinger, M

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Genomic basis for RNA alterations revealed by whole-genome analyses of 27 cancer types.

PCAWG Transcriptome Core Group (incl. Urban, L.*), (...), Zhang, Z.

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Pan-cancer analysis of whole genomes

The ICGC/TCGA PCAWG Consortium (incl. Urban, L.)

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Two deeply divergent co-existing mitochondrial genomes in the Tuatara

16S long-read nanopore sequencing is feasible and reliable for endometrial microbiome analysis.

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Sex differences in oncogenic mutational processes

Li, C. H., (…), Urban, L., (…), PCAWG Consortium

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covRNA: discovering covariate associations in large-scale gene expression data

Lara Urban , Christian W Remmele, Marcus Dittrich, Roland F Schwarz, Tobias Müller 

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Combined single-cell profiling of expression and DNA methylation reveals splicing regulation and heterogeneity

Stephanie M. Linker, Lara Urban, Stephen J. Clark, Mariya Chhatriwala, Shradha Amatya, Davis J. McCarthy, Ingo Ebersberger, 

Ludovic Vallier, Wolf Reik, Oliver Stegle, Marc Jan Bonder 

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Contact us

HPC contact Urban

Contact

 

Helmholtz Pioneer Campus
Helmholtz Zentrum München
Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH)

Ingolstädter Landstr. 1
85764 Neuherberg
Germany