Dr Sabrina Sofia Burgener

SNF Research Fellow

Institute for Molecular Bioscience
+61 7 344 36168


Dr. Sabrina Sofia Burgener is Deputy Lab Head of the Disease Modelling Team of the Inflammasome Laboratory and Senior Research Fellow in Immunology at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland.

As Deputy Lab Head of the Inflammasome Group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), Dr. Burgener is an innate immunologist with over 12 years of cross-functional expertise in immunology, disease modelling and molecular biology. My research program focuses on a holistic understanding of inflammasome signalling in pre-clinical disease models to harness the development of new diagnostics and anti-inflammatory therapeutics.

After obtaining her professional training as a Veterinary Technician, they completed their PhD in Immunology under supervision of A/Prof. Benarafa at the University of Bern, Switzerland in 2017.

For their work on the cytoprotective role of Serpinb1 and Serpinb6 in neutrophils, they received several international awards such as the Society of Leukocyte Biology Presidential Award in 2016 and the Dr. Lutz Zwillenberg Prize in 2020. Before joining the Inflammasome Lab in 2019, Dr. Burgener had been a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute of Virology and Immunology at the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Bern. In the Schroder lab, Dr. Burgener leads a team of Honour and PhD students, interested in understanding how caspase-1 drives inflammatory diseases and if targeting caspase-1 in diseases such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and Alzheimer’s disease comes at the cost of increased susceptibility to infection. Their research is funded by SNSF Postdoc Mobility Fellowship (2020-2022) and the Novartis Foundation for Medical-Biological Research Fellowship (2022-2023).

Research Impacts

My research program focuses on the understanding how targeting an intracellular innate immune sensing complex, called the inflammasome, drives chronic inflammatory diseases such as chronic liver disease and Alzheimer's disease. Inflammasome inhibitors offer tremendous promise as new disease-modifying therapeutics. Inhibitors of one inflammasome (the NLRP3 inflammasome) are now entering Phase 2 clinical trials for the treatment of genetic auto-inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. Broader-spectrum inhibitors that block multiple inflammasomes (e.g. caspase-1 inhibitors) are currently under development for clinical use in diseases that involve pathological signalling by multiple inflammasomes (e.g. chronic liver disease). But such beneficial functions of these new therapeutics might come at a cost – a “trade-off” – as inflammasome signalling also prevents infections. My research program elucidates two major parts

1. Characterizing the disease-driving function of caspase-1 in chronic liver disease model

2. To define the therapeutic trade-offs of these inflammasome-modulatory agents by rendering individuals susceptible to infections

Since my appointment in 2019 as a Senior Research Fellow in Professor Kate Schroder's labratory, I have worked and collaborated in other projects that were designed to further understand how inflammasomes drive chronic inflammatory diseases. In addition, since I joined the lab, I have been promoted to Deputy Lab Head of the Disease modelling Team and secured a two Fellowship, Swiss National Science Foundation (2020-2022) and Novartis Foundation for Medical-Biological Research (2022-2023) and had been honored with international prize (2020), and together with Prof. Kate Schroder secured a 2021 UQ Australian Infectious Disease Research Excellence Award.

As a supervisor and mentor of HDR students, my vision is to support each student's individual goals and work together to achieve them. Even more important is to facilitate an effective, honest and healthy work environment that each student but also other team members feel capable of performing their best and that we work together to accomplish a common goal. In my role as supervisor, it is in my interest to facilitate a space for creativity and encourage studetns to bring in their own ideas and workflow. By passing on scientific knowledge, love and passion for science, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the younger generation of scientists developing their independence and success beyond the time we worked together.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Bern


  • Thygesen, Sara J, Burgener, Sabrina S, Mudai, Prerna, Monteleone, Mercedes, Boucher, Dave, Sagulenko, Vitaliya, Schroder, Kate and Stacey, Katryn J (2024). Fluorochrome‐labeled inhibitors of caspase‐1 require membrane permeabilization to efficiently access caspase‐1 in macrophages. European Journal of Immunology, 54 (5) 2350515, e2350515. doi: 10.1002/eji.202350515

  • Coombs, Jared R., Zamoshnikova, Alina, Holley, Caroline L., Maddugoda, Madhavi P., Teo, Daniel Eng Thiam, Chauvin, Camille, Poulin, Lionel F, Vitak, Nazarii, Ross, Connie M., Mellacheruvu, Manasa, Coll, Rebecca C., Heinz, Leonhard X., Burgener, Sabrina S., Emming, Stefan, Chamaillard, Mathias, Boucher, Dave and Schroder, Kate (2024). NLRP12 interacts with NLRP3 to block the activation of the human NLRP3 inflammasome. Science Signaling, 17 (820) abg8145, eabg8145. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.abg8145

  • Chan, Amy H., Burgener, Sabrina S., Vezyrgiannis, Kassandra, Wang, Xiaohui, Acklam, Jadie, Von Pein, Jessica B., Pizzuto, Malvina, Labzin, Larisa I., Boucher, Dave and Schroder, Kate (2023). Caspase-4 dimerisation and D289 auto-processing elicit an interleukin-1β-converting enzyme. Life Science Alliance, 6 (10) e202301908, 1-11. doi: 10.26508/lsa.202301908

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Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision