International renowned dissertation award for TUM Graduate School Alumni

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The TUM Graduate School (TUM-GS) congratulates Dr. rer. nat. Lukas Oesinghaus and Sarah Stenton, MD, PhD, for winning this year’s Dimitris N. Chorafas Award!

The Dimitris N. Chorafas foundation yearly awards outstanding young doctoral researchers from top ranking universities worldwide in selected fields in engineering, medicine and the natural sciences with the Dimitris N. Chorafas Prize. The prestigious prize rewards research characterized by its high potential for practical application and by the special significance attached to its aftermath. Each year, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) may nominate two exceptional doctoral graduates for the Prize. Each prize winner is awarded with 5,000 USD.

One of this year’s award winners is Dr. rer. nat. Lukas Oesinghaus with his thesis “Engineering conditional Cas12a guide RNAs".

Lukas Oesinghaus obtained his Bachelor’s degree in physics at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel followed by a Master’s degree in condensed matter physics at TUM. He then pursued his doctoral research in the area of biophysics at TUM under the supervision of Prof. Friedrich Simmel, Chair of Physics of Synthetic Biological Systems, where he graduated in 2022 with summa cum laude. In his doctoral thesis, “Engineering conditional Cas12a guide RNAs”, he applies one of the most widely used techniques for molecular computing, toehold-mediated strand displacement, to control CRISPR technology to alter the genome of living cells. Although CRISPR technology, which was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020, holds great promise for treating hitherto intractable diseases, side effects and off-target activity pose challenges to its medical application. The additional layer of control due to molecular computing is a pathway to smart CRISPR therapeutics that include safety features and can execute several therapeutic functions in parallel. In the future, Oesinghaus plans to continue to work on the design of smart therapeutic RNA devices.

Sarah Louise Stenton, MD, PhD, is awarded with the Dimitris N. Chorafas Prize for her thesis “Mitochondrial disease: elucidating genetic aetiology by variant discovery, validation, and integration with clinical phenotype”.

Sarah Louise Stenton is a trained medical doctor who received her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Birmingham, followed by a Master’s in Clinical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Last year, she finished her PhD program in Medical Life Science and Technology at the TUM School of Medicine, under the supervision of Prof. Thomas Meitinger and mentorship of Dr. Holger Prokisch, at the TUM Institute of Human Genetics with highest honors. In her outstanding dissertation “Mitochondrial disease: elucidating genetic aetiology by variant discovery, validation, and integration with clinical phenotype”, she focuses on the diagnosis of rare mitochondrial diseases. Her research not only comprises the discovery of a novel disease gene and novel pathogenic variants, but offers promising approaches to identify pathogenic variants underlying rare disease in more challenging to diagnose cases. Looking forward, her motivation is to close the diagnostic gap and end the “diagnostic odyssey” for individuals with rare genetic diseases and their families.