Born in Zagreb (Croatia), Ivan Dikic was trained as a medical doctor in his hometown before joining the lab of Joseph Schlessinger in New York in 1992 to pursue a PhD thesis in molecular biology. He moved back to Europe in 1997 to start his own group at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Uppsala (Sweden). In 2002, Ivan accepted a professorship at Goethe University and was appointed as director of the Institute of Biochemistry II in 2009. He took over from Werner Müller-Esterl, who had been in the lead since 1999 and was now elected as president of Goethe University. In parallel, he was the founding director of the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS), where he until today sustains an outstation lab. He is speaker of two collaborative research networks on selective autophagy (SFB 1177) and ubiquitin networks (LOEWE Ub-Net).
Ivan explores molecular mechanisms of cellular signalling, which have a high relevance to human diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and inflammation. Early on, he started to focus on ubiquitin to understand how this modification controls multiple cellular functions, and managed to prove his concept of ubiquitin signal recognition by specialized domains serving as specific receptors. More recently, his team has revealed the functions of linear ubiquitin chains in pathogen defence and overall immune response. In his latest breakthrough he dissected the mechanism for a novel form of serine ubiquitination that is chemically and functionally distinct from the conventional enzyme cascade.
Recognizing the enormous impact of the LC3/GABARAP signalling network, which displays striking mechanistic similarities to ubiquitin, his laboratory also embarked on the field of selective autophagy. His team has provided important insight in the regulatory networks and the structures controlling mitophagy, xenophagy and ER-phagy, shaping host-pathogen interactions and impacting on the development of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS.
Ivan is wholeheartedly dedicated to fostering scientific exchange and education, and has contributed to the organization of many international conferences and workshops. In 1998, he initiated the series of Dubrovnik Cell Signalling Conferences, which has been sponsored by EMBO continuously since 2004. Very recently, he hosted the first Frankfurt Conference on Ubiquitin and Autophagy. He is an elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the Academia Europaea. Ivan’s ’s scientific achievements were honoured with numerous awards, amongst them the Ernst Jung Prize and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2013.