February 27, 2019
Simone Brixius-Anderko
Ultimately, Dr. Brixius-Anderko hopes the award will support her search for a new way to treat hypertension and associated cardiac disease. She would also like to serve as a role model to young people, particularly those with non-academic background with a first career, that is it possible to have a family and a scientific career.

Simone Brixius-Anderko, Ph.D., U-M Pharmacy Medicinal Chemistry Research Fellow, has been awarded an American Heart Association (AHA) Postdoctoral Fellowship. The award supports her proposed project, "Understanding of Aldosterone Biosynthesis for Enhanced Treatment of Hypertension."  According to the AHA, the purpose of this award is to fund talented young scientists to pursue their personal direction in heart related research that supports the AHA mission: building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Ultimately, Dr. Brixius-Anderko hopes the award will support her search for a new way to treat hypertension and associated cardiac disease.

“Aldosterone is the main steroid hormone regulating blood pressure and is produced by the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP11B2,” explains Dr. Brixius-Anderko. “Excessive production of aldosterone by CYP11B2 leads to hypertension, which is often associated with cardiac disease. CYP11B2 cannot produce aldosterone without binding the small electron transfer protein adrenodoxin. There is evidence that adrenodoxin binding changes the shape and the function of CYP11B2, but little is known how this occurs on a molecular level.”

“I hope to identify the structural basis for their mode of interaction which will be complemented with functional studies,” continues Dr. Brixius-Anderko. “With the AHA award, we will be able to provide a better understanding of how these enzymes interact in the human body as the molecular basis for aldosterone biosynthesis. This knowledge could be exploited to identify ways to interrupt the CYP11B2 interaction with adrenodoxin, thus impeding aldosterone production and providing a new way to treat hypertension and associated cardiac disease.”  

“My long-term career goal is an academic tenure track professor position at a research-intensive institution. I see my research career continuing in the area of human cytochrome P450 enzymes and their relationships to human disease.”

“I also hope to continue to train and mentor future scientists and spark enthusiasm for science in individuals from diverse circumstances,” notes Dr. Brixius-Anderko. “I want to serve as a role model, particularly for those with non-academic background with a first career, as I did. I attended an evening school in preparation to attend university, and earned my Ph.D. while raising two children. I want to show younger people that it is possible to have both – a scientific career and a family.”  

Dr. Brixius-Anderko received a diploma in Human and Molecular Biology in 2012 from Saarland University in Saarbruecken (Germany).  She went on to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 2016.  Her Ph.D. research in the laboratory of Prof. Rita Bernhardt at Saarland University focused on the biotechnological application of steroidogenic cytochromes P450 for the production of pharmaceutical steroids. During a short postdoctoral position in the Bernhardt lab, her research interest shifted from biotechnology to the role of P450 enzymes in human health and disease. To learn more about the structure/function relationship of human cytochrome P450 enzymes and to receive training in X-ray crystallography, Dr. Brixius-Anderko joined Prof. Emily Scott's lab at The University of Michigan College of Pharmacy in April 2017.

Dr. Brixius-Anderko was a mentor for an Association for Women in Science (AWIS) circle and was engaged in science outreach and support of young people from non-academic background in Germany, particularly focused on women/girls in science. She was a STEM ambassador at Saarland University in 2013 for receiving the For Women in Science Award.