Meet the PI

Matjaž Barborič, Principle Investigator at University of Helsinki.

Dr. Barborič received his B.Sc. in Microbiology from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia in 1998. He then moved to the United States to perform research under the supervision of Dr. B. Matija Peterlin (University of California, San Francisco) and obtained his Ph.D. in Biomedicine and Molecular Biology from School of Medicine, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2003 with the mentorship of Dr. Ana Plemenitaš. He continued his training as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Peterlin at the Department of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco, during which time he was supported in part by a fellowship from The American Foundation for AIDS Research.

During his graduate studies, Dr. Barborič was one of the pioneering researchers challenging the predominantly held view that eukaryotic transcription is regulated primarily at the initiation stage. On the basis of the previous work on HIV-1 transactivator Tat, he demonstrated for the first time that transcriptional activators and repressors could regulate gene expression at the level of Pol II elongation through P-TEFb kinase. During his postdoctoral tenure, he expanded this influential work by shedding a light on the control of P-TEFb by the non-coding 7SK snRNA within 7SK snRNP. Moreover, he showed that HIV Tat subverts this regulation for unfettered viral propagation and that keeping P-TEFb repressed within 7SK snRNP is critical for proper vertebrate development and pre-mRNA maturation.

Following receipt of the Academy of Finland Research Fellow Award in 2010, Dr. Barborič began his independent research career at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Fascination with the control of Pol II elongation by P-TEFb and 7SK snRNP remains one of the major themes of his investigations. By using biochemistry, genetics and functional genomics approaches, his laboratory is elucidating how cellular RNA binding proteins fine-tune transition from Pol II pausing into elongation. Another research direction focuses on understanding how misregulation of gene expression underlies human diseases such as cancer. Here, current emphasis is on elucidating how the novel and essential transcription elongation kinase Cdk12/CycK controls target gene transcription, as well as how recurrent mutations in CDK12 provoke cancerogenesis. Finally, his laboratory is developing methods that shall provide new perspectives on the integration between Pol II transcription and co-transcriptional maturation of precursor mRNA. Dr. Barborič’s research program has been supported by grants from the Academy of Finland, Sigrid Juselius Foundation, University of Helsinki and Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research.

Positions and Employment
Positions and Employment
  • Sigrid Juselius Senior Investigator (2019-2022)
  • Principal Investigator, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland (2010-Present)
  • Academy of Finland Research Fellow, University of Helsinki, Finland (2010-2015)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland (2009-2010)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA (2004-2008)
  • Postgraduate Researcher, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA (1999-2003)
  • Graduate Student, School of Medicine, Programme in Biomedicine and Molecular Biology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (1999-2003)
Research Interests
  • Transcriptional regulation
  • Promoter-proximal pausing of RNA Pol II
  • DNA damage response
  • Transcription-associated CTD kinases
  • RNA-binding proteins
  • Misregulation of Transcription in Cancer
  • Genomic instability
Honors and Awards
Selected Publications

Full Publications List