PRIDE OF BIH: Berina Muhović, a young geneticist worked in a company that developed a vaccine for COVID-19



Berina Muhović holds a master's degree from the Department of Genetics and Bioengineering at the International University of Sarajevo.

This 24-year-old girl from the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been cultivating an interest in natural sciences since childhood. She has always had a desire to help people in terms of improving their health, and that desire of hers was the primary and fundamental one for all that would come later.

“As a child, I had entire collections of books and magazines on chemistry, biology, and physics, and I used to glue the walls of the room with interesting clips from them. At that time, I began to look at the world around me through an interesting prism, and that is the world of natural sciences ", says Berina Muhović.

She opted for genetics and molecular biology and their relevant disciplines because she finds the answers to all her "why" questions in them most completely.

"Genomic and protein levels in the cell are the most interesting starting point and point to which I want to dive when it is necessary to construct questions and give relevant answers to the development of complex diseases and finding therapeutics to treat them," says our interlocutor.

In her work so far, she is proud of every research result that has contributed to the scientific community in any way.

“I would like to single out my recent engagement in scientific research at the Department of Translational Oncology of the Medical University of Mainz (TRON) in Germany. I worked on several projects, all of which involved working with tumor cells and applying advanced scientific methods such as CRISPR activation technology and viral vectors to complement the knowledge in the field of tumor cell immunology, "explains this young geneticist.

She adds that the main goal is to develop and discover various biological markers that can serve in finding personalized immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases and together with close cooperation with pharmaceutical companies such as BioNTech to help improve human health.

"What makes me especially happy and what I am proud of, in addition to personal success, is the fact that" BioNTech "is one of the world's leading companies in finding a vaccine for COVID-19. It was a pleasure to be a part of such a quality story, both scientific and social, where I had the opportunity to meet great mentors and colleagues from both mentioned companies ", said these ambitious Sarajevans.

She emphasizes the enormous importance of genetics and molecular biology in finding a vaccine for COVID-19.

"Basic knowledge in the field of genetics and molecular biology is certainly a prerequisite for further work and development of the vaccine. Without general knowledge about the SARS-Cov-2 pathogen, which scientists have worked on and continue to work on, such as genome sequencing, protein structure, signalling pathways, and corona virus immune responses, nothing would be possible. The arrival of the pandemic on the world stage is a golden age for the mentioned areas, which is not only visible in the domain of science, but certainly serves as proof of how important these branches are from a social point of view. COVID-19 is certainly just another stamp and a renewed call to raise awareness in society when it comes to the importance of experts in the field of genetics, "said Berina Muhovic.

The fact is that there is a much bigger amount of investment in scientific research abroad than in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to her, the key to success in the scientific environment is in a positive atmosphere and a healthy relationship among work colleagues.

“What I would single out as a positive work experience I did abroad is the inconsistency of segregation based on academic education. We are all a team: one day you listen to your mentors, the next day you are a mentor to your mentor and so we are constantly learning from each other. Colleagues and your mentors are very relaxed, ordinary people who allow you to develop through work much more properly. When I say more correctly, I mean that a lot is invested in those who need help in overcoming obstacles ", our interlocutor tells us and adds that with such an atmosphere, progress is guaranteed.

Although there are very high qualities, capable and ambitious young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, she points out that it is astonishing and sad that not much is invested in science and its development in our country.

"These are not people who just stay on their ideas and ambitions, but do everything in their power to get closer to achieving their goals. This process is very long and full of obstacles and in fact, an opportunity where the state should offer an answer or help such a process. Without financial investment in research and the creation of adequate conditions for the further development of scientific research, the necessary system and progress cannot be created in which what has been started becomes and is achieved. Unfortunately, because of that, young people are looking for a temporary or long-term answer in countries where huge investments in science and its development have been an everyday occurrence and practice for many years ", believes Berina Muhović.

She believes that there are a lot of young people who have the potential to engage in science, but that the local education system seems to drastically reduce their desire and intensity.

"The education system as it is today is a very narrow area for such a development. I think it is essential to have a good, dynamic, interesting, and slightly different way of interpreting all the more complex things in science that will serve as a trigger and introduction to the scientific world so that individuals feel attractiveness and closeness to matter rather than repulsion ", our interlocutor adds that teachers and professors should be the biggest bearers of this task.

It also underscores the fact that we live in a digital world where there are countless interesting ways when it comes to presenting science.

"Educational systems and ways of teaching have been reduced to minimal investments and efforts to arouse the desire and interest of young people. Usually, mathematics, physics, or chemistry are branches that initially have this negative connotation due to the complexity of such matters. So that students from the beginning create a kind of aversion to these subjects and opt for a branch that is not so represented ", says this young Sarajevan who participated in organizing various interesting workshops, seminars, and celebrations of important days in science to raise social awareness about science.

She tells young people to find their "why" question and that it, regardless of their professional orientation, be the main driver and motive for the future.

Always strive to go for “why,” whether you’re moving fast or slow, and never give up. You make mistakes along the way. You make a lot of mistakes and fall in love with your mistakes because they are by no means a step backward or a stalemate, but a step closer to finding the desired answer ", said our interlocutors.

This young geneticist plans to continue her scientific career in the future and improve her knowledge as much as possible.

"I want to expand my horizons and work with colleagues at the international level to have the fullest possible picture and experience in science. So finding an adequate doctoral study is certainly of interest to me as the next step. The quality, interest and positively evaluated applications have certainly been recognized by very well-known European institutes, such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Germany ", concludes Berina Muhović.