Meet the site director

Hanna Tegel

Today we meet Hanna Tegel, site director at the AlbaNova site of the Human Protein Atlas, and group leader of the Antigen and Antibody Factory group. She has been with the Human Protein Atlas from the very beginning, and her career has evolved alongside the project.

– I took my M.Sc. in biotechnology at KTH – the Royal Institute of Technology here in Stockholm, and in the end of my education I complemented it with some physiology at the Karolinska Institute. As a part of this course I did a project at KTH, and when it was time for me to do my masters thesis I turned to the same professor. Now he was involved in the start-up of the Human Protein Atlas project. That was how I got in contact with this project.

After her degree Hanna Tegel was offered to stay, as a research engineer in the "Protein Factory".

– I worked with protein expression in E. coli, and purification and analysis of the proteins. During my masters thesis project everything was still in a small scale, but during the next years we scaled it up. So I have really been in the project from the beginning, from producing just a few proteins a week up to 300 proteins per week.

In 2007 the group had expanded quite a bit and Hanna was asked to become lab manager, and in 2009 she became group manager for the Protein Factory. Eventually, in 2015 Hanna was appointed site manager.

– I´ve been at this place since 2003, and sometimes people ask me if I don´t want to change jobs, but I have. The place is the same, but the project has evolved and I have had many different positions, from research engineer to site manager, so it is never tedious. Also, in my position as group leader and site manager it is a great advantage to know all about what has happened here during all these years. I know what is already done, what we have tried and so on.

In parallel with her appointments in the Human Protein Atlas Hanna completed a PhD.

– My projects were tightly connected to the protein production here, and even though it was hard work and sometimes difficult to be both PhD student and group leader, I really appreciated having these two paths. I like to mix research problems with more soft values such as group dynamics and personnel questions.

In 2013 Hanna completed her PhD and today she is trying to squeeze in some research between managing tasks. The Protein Factory has reached and passed it´s maximum production and now the focus is to purify the remaining antibodies towards all the proteins they have produced. The antibodies are used to finalize the Human Protein Atlas project to study the localization of proteins in human tissues and cells.

– Recently our group has also started to produce QPrESTs in a large production scale that can be used in mass spectroscopy, Hanna explains. We choose constructs from our enormous plasmid library and transform them into another type of E. coli. Earlier, we did almost 1200 PrESTs a months, but this is done in a much smaller scale in another setup.

In addition, the group is just starting to produce, purify, and characterize the majority of all 3000 secreted proteins and selected parts of the single membrane spanning membrane proteins in humans. They use high-throughput bioproduction in mammalian cells to build up a resource of reagents for drug discovery and development.

– It is something completely new to go into working with mammalian cells! But we have the knowledge of how to do things in a large scale, so this is an interesting and fun challenge for me and the group, Hanna concludes.

Frida Henningson Johnson