Giovanna Zinzalla

Giovanna Zinzalla

Affiliated to Research
Visiting address: Solnavägen 9, B7, 17165 Solna
Postal address: C1 Mikrobiologi, tumör- och cellbiologi, C1 Tumor Biology Wilhelm, 171 77 Stockholm

About me

  • Principal Investigator


    Chemical Biology, Organic and Medicinal Chemistry, Biochemistry, Structural 

  • Biology, Biochemical and Biophysical Assays, Protein-Protein Interactions,  
  • Transcription Factors, Drug Discovery



    Dr. Zinzalla obtained her first class honours Laurea in Chemistry (equivalent 

  • to MChem) from the University of Milan (Italy) and carried out her PhD 
  • studies with Prof. Stefano Maiorana and Dr Clara Baldoli also at the 
  • University of Milan. Her research focused on developing new metal complex 
  • conjugates of Peptide Nucleic Acids (PNAs) as biosensors, and she 
  • investigated novel trace-less linkers for solid-phase synthesis of drug-like 
  • small molecules in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline.


  • In 2004 she was awarded a Marie Curie EIF Individual Research Fellowship and appointed as postdoctoral research assistant at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Cambridge (UK) with Prof. Steven Ley. Within the Ley group she initiated a project focused on exploring the role of molecular diversity for drug discovery, with the design of natural product-like compounds as novel therapeutic agents.


  • In June 2006 she joined the School of Pharmacy, University College London 

  • (UK) as a senior research fellow funded by Cancer Research UK (CR UK), within 
  • the CR UK Drug Discovery unit headed by Prof. David E. Thurston. As a 
  • co-principal investigator of a CR UK Small Molecule Drug Discovery Initiative 
  • program she led the research aimed at discovering protein-protein 
  • interaction inhibitors of transcriptional factors such as Hypoxia Inducible 
  • Factor 1 (HIF-1) and Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 
  • (STAT3 ).


  • In January 2012 she took up the position at the Karolinska Institutet and 

  • started her own research group as an assistant professor in chemical biology 
  • and principal investigator at the MTC Department and within the Centre for 
  • Advanced Cancer Therapies (ACT).




    How the transcriptional machinery orchestrates gene expression programs 

  • during development, renewal and in response to environmental signals is one 
  • of the outstanding questions in biology.


  • I tackle this fundamental 

  • problem by focusing on determining at the molecular level the mechanisms regulating the interactions between transcription factors and their interactions with co-factors, especially with epigenetic regulators.


  • My research approaches encompass the use of chemistry, biochemistry,  

  • biophysics and structural biology. The ultimate goal is to develop
    therapeutic agents to treat human diseases, and new approaches for 
  • regenerative medicine.


  • Our work has been focusing on two key molecular machineries: (1) MYC and 

  • other members of its Basic-Helix-Loop-Helix-Zipper (bHLHZip) network of 
  • transcription factors
  • and (2) the SWI/SNF (BAF) chromatin remodelling complexes.
    We work on determining: how the MYC transcription factor cooperation leads to gene repression
  • and how the MYC extended network of bHLHLZ transcription factors, i.e., the c-MYC like MONDOA/ChREBP paralogs, regulate metabolism.
    Our projects on the SWI/SNF complexes are currently directed to 
  • understand: *how these chromatin remodelling complexes control MYC gene 
  • expression
  • and how the BAF60 and the BAF155/170 subunits, respectively,  
  • mediates interactions with diverse transcription factors* with roles in
    cellular processes, such as regeneration, cardiac development and 
  • metabolism. *We are also exploring ways to target the SWI/SNF complexes for
    the development of new therapies.

    RESEARCH COLLABORATIONS (alphabetical order)
    * Prof. Don Ayer, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, USA

  • * Dr Mark Bycroft, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

  • * Prof. Gerard Evan, Francis Crick Institute, London, UK

  • * Prof. Laura Itzhaki, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

  • * Prof. Lars-Gunnar Larsson, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

  • * Prof. Mark Rubin MD, Bern Center for Precision Medicine (BCPM),
    University of Bern, Switzerland

  • * Prof. Sophia Yaliraki, Imperial College London, UK.

    The structure of INI1/hSNF5 RPT1 and its interactions with the c-MYC:MAX 

  • heterodimer provide insights into the interplay between MYC and the SWI/SNF 
  • chromatin remodeling complex. [1] Sammak S, Allen MD, Hamdani N, Bycroft M,  
  • Zinzalla G. /FEBS J. 2018 11
  • 285(22):4165-4180. 

  • This publication is recommended in F1000Prime as being of special 
  • significance in its field by F1000 Faculty Member Wolfgang Jahnke (Novartis
    Institutes for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland). 
  • [1]


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