My career in immunology began in the early 1980s at the Department of Physiology and Immunology of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Rijeka (Croatia).
In 1992, I joined the Federal Research Centre for Virus Diseases of Animals in Tübingen as a PhD student as a part of the group of Prof. Ulrich Koszinowski, where I started my research of immunosurveillance of herpesvirus infections using mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) as a model. We were the first to demonstrate that CD8 T cells play a key role in protecting the host against lethal viral infections.
Upon returning home, I completed my PhD and continued my research as a postdoctoral researcher. In a short time, I established my own group and continued the research in viral immunology. Despite working in an environment with relatively low scientific standards, my group quickly gained international recognition in the field of viral immunology due to our ambition and hard work. We were the first to show that immune control of CMV is organized in a hierarchical and redundant manner by distinct elements of both innate and acquired immunity.
Meanwhile, I was appointed Chair of the Department of Histology and Embryology at the Faculty of Medicine in Rijeka, where I secured the necessary funding, established state-of-the-art life science laboratories, and recruited top students. In that respect, my lab was among the first in Croatia to establish and apply the methods of modern molecular biology.
In 2006, I established the Center for Proteomics with the aim to express viral proteins and produce monoclonal antibodies in a high-throughput manner. The Center than broadened its scope, initiating new research in molecular biology, virology and immunology. Additionally, with the support of my university, I established a modern animal facility in SPF conditions capable of housing up to 40,000 mice. Currently, we breed over 50 different conventional and transgenic mouse strains and are as a result a key institution for the development of biomedical science in Croatia.
In 2012, I became the first Croatian scientist which has been awarded an ERC Advanced grant. For my lifelong research achievements, I was elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.